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How to Convince Your Husband to Go to Marriage Counseling

Simple steps to convince your husband to go to marriage counseling and what to do if he still won’t.

hard to convince husband to go to counseling
Your husband may not want to hear your ideas until you hear his first

While I typically steer people away from marriage counseling, there are a couple of good uses for it.

One of the best uses for marriage counseling is when a couple primarily needs to learn to talk to each other. That is, when there problems are caused my misunderstanding and communication problems. The other is when two people both want the same thing, but need help with problems solving or making a plan.

Be sure marriage counseling is the best choice before getting your husband to go

As a reconciliation coach, my clients’ problems are not caused by communication problems. They are caused by real differences between the couple. For example, one wants a romantic relationship and the other wants more of a business partner relationship. They often try to fix those differences with communication, which does not work and end up concluding that they have a communication problem.

An example where communication is not the issue

For example, a woman may have fallen out of love with her husband because of a combination of her husband prioritizing his job and the both of them neglecting to maintain the relationship with weekly dating and daily time together. If she attempts to solve this problem by talking with him, it will lead to his becoming defensive and an even more distant relationship.

She may continue to try talking with him about it, each time feeling more frustrated and hopeless. Eventually her feelings of love for him are gone and she wants to end the relationship. Their problems were not a result of poor communication. They were a result of different priorities.

Attempting to fix the problem with talking just created a bigger problem. Going to marriage counseling would have had the same result. At best, her husband would temporarily comply with his wife’s desires for more time together, making it seem like the counseling was helpful. Within a matter of a few months, however, all of their gains would be lost.

The coaching approach would be to work with only the wife to help her behave in a way that would motivate her husband to spend more time with her, while she also made him feel better about his job. This would create a win-win situation in which their relationship became closer.

Marriage counseling, when used for non-communication issues, has the same result as criticizing or complaining–the other person complies for a while, the relationship becomes more distant, and the marriage is worse off than before.

An example where communication is the primary issue

Sometimes people are really poor at expressing needs, desires, love, boundaries, and even humor. They evoke a negative response in their partner that becomes worse the harder they try. This is a communication problem that can lead to emotional distancing, conflict, loss of love, and practical problems with parenting, finances, and other things. In situations like this where the method of communication is the source of the problems, counselors can help a couple to talk together in a better way. Then they no longer create the distance and can solve practical problems without fighting.

I wrote a book on this subject, called Connecting through Yes! in which I teach people how to agree and come to positive resolutions to their problems. Doing this prevents a downward spiral in the relationship.

Sometimes people are really bad at listening without interrupting, getting the point of what the other person is saying, being able to focus on the message, or they twist the meaning of what the other person says.

And sometimes, a couple has both problems. It is even possible that both husband and wife have listening and expressing problems, resulting in a high amount of conflict even though they both want the same thing. If you have completed my free download course on helping your husband to enjoy talking with you, you will note this is illustrated in the first lesson.

In these cases where communication issues are causing the problems, marriage counseling is a better choice than coaching because the marriage counselor can work with you as a couple and take control of the way you both are communicating and teach you a new way to communicate with each other. If communication is not the primary cause of the problems however, no amount of clear expression and good listening will solve the problems. You will feel heard, you may feel better for being better able to express yourself, but the problem will remain.

Let me give you another analogy. If you were driving and got lost, you might pull over to ask someone for directions. If that person did not speak the same language as you, you would continue to be lost until someone helped to translate the communication for you. That is similar to what a marriage counselor does.

However, if your problem was a flat tire, no amount of communication would fix it. Either you or the other person would have to take practical steps in order for you to be able to continue on your journey. In this analogy, a marriage counselor is like a translator; a coach is like someone who teaches auto repair.

Motivating your husband to go to marriage counseling

If you have decided that communication problems are the main cause of your relationship problems, you can either work on your own communication abilities with either a counselor or coach, or go together with your husband to see a marriage counselor. If you find out that fixing communication does not fix the problem, then drop out of marriage counseling and get coaching instead.

The same is true for coaching. If you find out that the main problem is being able to communicate well, then your best choice will be to go to marriage counseling with your husband, if you can motivate him to go. The coach may be able to help you do that. I have some advice for you on how you may be able to motivate your husband to go to marriage counseling with you.

Use questions rather than statements

People believe more in their own conclusions than they do in the conclusions of others. Therefore, if you can lead them to conclude what you want, you are much more likely to get it. Telling your husband that you both need to go to marriage counseling will get more resistance than if he concludes you both need to go to marriage counseling.

When you ask your husband questions, do not focus on getting answers right away. Often men will need to process things for a while before answering.

Here are four possible questions to get him started on this path. You only need to ask one of them:

Do you like the way that our marriage has become? Or,

Do you think our marriage will ever be better than it is now? Or,

Do you really want to have this kind of marriage for the rest of your life? Or,

Do you ever wish our relationship was better?

If you do get an answer indicating that he thinks your marriage is fine, then you don’t have a communication problem–you have a difference in values or desires. You will need to learn how to motivate your husband rather than talking to him about your dissatisfaction.

If he answers in a way that matches how you think or feel, you can simply agree or empathize. That will help to create connection since we always connect on similarity.

Please notice that there are no questions about counseling.

Assuming you get a response that is in line with your thinking that you both need to work on your relationship, ask him for his ideas of how to improve your relationship.

If your husband has an idea that is not obviously bad, then be willing to try his idea for a month on the condition that you two will go to marriage counseling if his idea does not work. He is much more likely to agree to counseling as a back up plan to an idea that he believes in than he is to agree to counseling as a primary intervention.

If he has no idea, then suggest marriage counseling. If he refuses, then tell him you are willing to try another idea if he has one, but you are not willing to just continue in a marriage that neither of you are satisfied with. If he then says he is satisfied, stop talking about it and switch to a coaching or motivational approach.

Choose the right time to ask

The best time to ask such questions is when things are going relatively well. If you say them in the heat of battle, they will tend to be discounted as you are just slinging mud because your emotions are getting out of control. When you ask them at a time when things are relatively calm, they take on a whole new meaning. You will be taken more seriously.

Although people try to get others to take them more seriously by shouting, that effect quickly wears off. It’s what you say when you are calm that will have the most impact. The better you are getting along at the time you say serious things, the more your husband will be able to listen to you.

Don’t expect results the first time you say this

After your husband has had some time to consider these questions (perhaps after a week), it will be time to ask the same questions again. Why is that? Especially with men, it is very helpful to say things twice. More than that turns it into nagging, but less than that and things are often forgotten. If you don’t say it again, he will just attribute it to your having been in a weird mood. If you have been married for a while, doubtless you have seen that demonstrated a number of times.

You are never stuck when it comes to improving your marriage, no matter what your husband does:

  • If he has an idea, try it for a month,
  • If his idea doesn’t work, go to counseling with him if you both want the same thing. Alternatively, if he has another idea, be willing to try that, too.
  • If he is satisfied with your marriage or doesn’t want the same thing, then get individual coaching to learn how to connect with and motivate your husband.

Following these principles, you will have a way to deal with every situation–you don’t need to be stuck.

Understanding why this works

One reason that this way works is that it puts off the counseling or coaching for a month, while also giving him more motivation to work on the relationship in the meantime. Not wanting to go to counseling can help him to work harder on Plan A and make more of an effort with your relationship. 

This works with kids, too

I often teach people that the same relationship skills work for all relationships. Treating your spouse the way you treat your friends will help you to be better friends with your spouse, which is the foundation of a good marriage.

If you want your child to have a counselor, or a tutor, helping your child to agree there is a problem is a good first step. Then, give your child an opportunity to suggest a solution. Agree to try it if your child will agree to counseling or a tutor if his or her plan does not work. As long as your relationship is otherwise good, this is a much better approach than coercing your child to get help.

People are always more willing to try your idea if you will agree to try theirs first. But, you need to make your idea a contingency for trying their idea.

When you try your husband’s idea, you need to make the same kind of sincere effort that you would want your husband to make when trying your idea.

Some free help

You can get started today, helping your husband to enjoy talking with you, even if you can’t afford coaching or counseling. Here are five free lessons to get you started improving your relationship with your husband.

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