Couples and Marriage Counseling (Part 2 – for Men)

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at couples counseling or marriage counseling from the male point of view. It seems that with a lot of the couples we see, the man is usually being asked to come to marriage counseling while the woman is the one who sets up the appointment. (Not always, but that’s usually how it goes.) It got me to thinking, “Why is that? Do guys not want a healthy relationship as much as women? Is there fear?” Something’s up so here’s a post to hopefully get more guys into couples counseling.

Couples counseling, when done right, is not about finding blame for problems in the relationship – it’s about finding solutions to the problems that exist. And all relationships have problems at one time or another. We’re not in the business of blaming or shaming as counselors. Instead, we want to understand the dynamics of your relationship and help you learn to navigate those dynamics easier and with less anger, frustration, isolating, silent treatments, yelling and whatever else goes on in your relationship that continues to perpetuate the same cycle.

For guys, couples counseling usually means some discomfort. For most men (and I know that’s an unfair generalization) it’s not comfortable to discuss our feelings. For most men it seems that talking about things is a waste of time and what we really need to do is fix the problem.

But here’s the challenge – if your spouse is upset about something the issue isn’t to fix the “something,” it’s to address the fact that she’s upset. When she’s upset that IS the problem. Showing understanding, compassion for her struggle, empathy – these help lighten her load and lessen her immediate problem. Then, when you’ve addressed the fact that she’s upset, you can (usually) calmly work on the underlying issue, the “something” that you thought was originally the problem.

Learning to start with understanding and empathy is a skill. For most men, when we were young we learn to run and jump and kick and throw and were punished or mocked when we showed emotion. So, we learned to stuff the emotion. But here’s the thing: Stuffing emotion is good on the field of play (except of course aggression) but stuffing emotion kills relationships and connection.

One of our main jobs – mine an yours in couples counseling – is to learn to understand what you’re experiencing and how to share that with your spouse in a way that can be heard and understood. In doing so, you begin to understand her experiences better (developing empathy) and that leads to better relationships and more closeness.

I realize this post is fairly general and I’m making most guys out to look like emotionless turds – but that’s not the case, of course. We men just don’t seem to have as much relational intelligence as most women do (because of our upbringings and their’s) so “catching up,” if you will, is a part of counseling.

Couples counseling is fairly painless and the payoff of a better, closer, more intimate relationship is well worth the time and energy.

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About the Author:

Dan Gabbert holds a Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology from Avila University in Kansas City, MO. Dan is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Certified Sex Addictions Therapist (CSAT), a rigorous certification issued by The International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Dan is also trained in EMDR, a therapeutic technique used for treating trauma and PTSD, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) a very effective approach to therapy and treating trauma and addictions.