Reaching Out For Help can be difficult
It is not unusual to get a call from someone (usually a woman) who says, “Our marriage is in trouble but (my partner) won’t go to counseling with me. What can I do?”
Let’s pause to consider the situation…
When one partner suggests bringing a counselor into their marriage problems the other partner either hears an alarm while envisioning being attacked by their partner and the counselor or imagines the stories that their partner and the counselor will release to the world. Confidentiality be damned! Anxiety, panic, and other fear-based emotions fill their mind and affect their mental and physical health – hence the old saying about becoming sick and tired of thinking about unpleasant things. Unpleasant things that have not yet happened.
A fearful person will not want to discuss personal issue (maybe even sexual in nature) with a stranger. A fearful person will wonder how a stranger could possibly know enough to fix their marital problems. A fearful person will wonder what a stranger could possibly say that would make a difference? A fearful person will wonder why people like them – intelligent, competent people – wouldn’t be able to solve their problems on their own.
A fearful person will want their secrets to remain secret.
A fearful person will almost always reject help because…. well, after all, weren’t we taught that winners never quit and quitters never win? Yeah… that’s it… I ain’t no stinkin’ quitter.
And so on. And on… and on…
The usual result in situations like this is strong resistance, arguments that escalate from somewhat calm to really, really loud. And both partners are left feeling frustrated and hopeless.
Feeling fear can be very unpleasant, but attempting to suppress those emotions is not helpful, so a few good questions to ask yourself about fear are:
- What exactly am I afraid of?
- Is it really realistic or just a possibility?
- What is the absolute worst that can happen?
- What can I do that I’m not doing now to protect myself from that outcome?
- Where in my body do I feel fear?
- How do I feel when I take a few deep breaths?
So, what else can be done?
A couple suggestions follow and it would be informative if your partner would agree to address the suggestions at the same time as you. Address, not commit to anything more than that. Surely there’s nothing to lose in merely addressing it if there is no additional requirement. For now.
Since what usually drives us as social beings is our wants and not our needs, we think of what we want, behave to get what we want, fantasize about what we want and so on. We can check whether we are meeting our wants through addressing three basic questions:
1. What is the greatest fear in respect to your issue
2. What do I want?
3. What am I doing to get what I want?
4. Is it working?
Write out your answers, acknowledge them, and then get on with doing something about it… because your greatest fear is your greatest weakness, and it will always come true if you obsess about it. However, behind your greatest weakness lies your greatest strength. Deal with it and get stronger, ignore it and become weaker.
Therefore, if your weakness lies within a troubled marriage then your strength can come from learning how to deal with that particular problem… so that you never have to go through that particular stress again. And ‘dealing with’ may not involve living happily ever after (HEA) with your current spouse.
That’s right. For many reasons, you or your partner may decide that the marriage cannot, or should not, be sustained.
Only you have the right to decide whether to stay or go. That is your decision to make. Only yours.
Once you’ve gone through the process we will describe here, you will come to realize that you are the only person in the world who can change your behaviours. You will also come to realize that the best reason to make changes to your behaviours is to benefit yourself – to make your life better. If you want to be happier, you will have to take responsibility for your life. To do otherwise is to become a victim or codependent. To read more about this phenomenon check out our blog on codependency.
Click here for part two of our “Reaching Out” series. In it, we dive more deeply into what you can do to avoid or resolve conflict with your partner.