What do I do next? Things are not going well in my marriage and I’m not sure which way I should go with all of this. Over my 25 years of practicing clinical psychology, I learned a lot about what people are going through.
I found there are a lot of women who think their husbands are abusive.
I always take this seriously. Very seriously.
There certainly have been people where the men are abusive, and when that is the case, then couples counseling or working together as a couple is not the direction you wanna. For sure you wanna have individual work because the whole idea behind working together as a couple is to learn to be vulnerable, learn to be open with one another. And if you’ve got an abuser in the relationship, he’s just gonna take advantage of that.
And I’ve gotta say the same is true if the abuser is the woman.
Because men are abused far more than they will ever admit. I steer them in different directions to work on some individual issues, and I talk to the person who’s being abused about being safe, being first of all, physically safe and then emotionally safe.
Most of the Time …
Most of the time the woman is misunderstanding her husband’s intentions, her husband’s direction, what he’s trying to do, and he’s kind of stumbling all over himself, trying to to be the man in the family and he doesn’t really know how to do it.
When I talk to those men, they’re really not abusive. They’re actually really good guys, but they’re trying really hard to figure out how to take leadership of the family and their wives are resisting and they’re not sure.
- Do I push forward?
- How do I do this?
- How do I make her feel safe?
- How do I take charge?
- How do I lead my family?
And the wife interprets it as abuse.
I’ve had men say that their wives are abusive.
I’ve also heard men say that they think their wives are crazy. Like mentally ill. One man actually stopped as he and his wife were leaving my office and said,
“Can I talk to you for just a second?”
I looked at his wife who was closer to the exit and said,
“Do you mind?”
And she replied,
“No, go ahead.”
So she went on out of the building, and he stayed behind for a minute. He goes,
“I need to tell you, I think my wife has a mental illness.”
And I said,
“She doesn’t have a mental illness. She’s a girl, and you’re not hearing her. So she’s getting louder, and that’s making you think that she is mentally ill. Trying to be heard and understood does not automatically mean a woman is mentally ill. She’s not.”
I have worked with people who are mentally ill, both male and female. And when that’s the case, you can’t really get anywhere working together as a couple. There are individual issues that need to be addressed.
Mental illnesses that come to mind most often are borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. I can’t tell you how many couples have told me that they think their partner is either borderline or narcissist. So we talk about that.
But generally speaking, when you straighten out the way that you behave in the relationship, your partner will, too.
They’ll respond Well. It’s a reciprocal process. You respond to your partner, your partner responds to you, and you drive this constant cycle.
Should you work together as a couple?
So whether or not you wanna be working together with your partner is a huge issue that you need to assess upfront. And I do offer a free assessment and a free session because I am helping people make this decision about where should they go, how they can best move forward.
I don’t think I’m the answer for everyone.
Certainly I’m not, but you don’t really know unless somebody can help you figure that out. And I do a lot of that.
- You fill out the assessment.
- I spend an hour either with you alone or with you and your spouse.
- And we talk about your options. What are your possibilities?
I firmly believe, even among the people who have come to me for counseling, that at least 75% of those people are perfectly capable of having a healthy marriage, a healthy romance. Yes, 75%
But if you’ve got addiction, abuse, abandonment, or adultery going on, then you’re gonna need extra help. And coaching probably isn’t the best place for you to begin.
Then it’s all about, “How do I make a decision about a counselor?”
And we can talk about that too. But once you decide that you want help, either as an individual or as a couple, then you need to do some self-assessment. If you think that your partner is the one with a problem, that’s probably a pretty sure sign that you’re the one that needs.
Did I actually say that?
I can say that realistically because even if your partner does need help, you have to recognize your role in the cycle, too. What do you do that continues the cycle, that keeps it going?