“The thing that attracted me to my husband was his pride. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him, standing up on a hill, his hair blowing in the breeze — and he too proud to run and get it.”

If the comedy of Jean Carroll, America’s first female stand-up comedian, sums up your marriage, you might be ready for marriage counseling. Let’s take a look at what is involved.

Jump in Feet First

Jean Carroll also quipped, “The other day [my husband] woke up with a headache. I felt sorry for him. I would like to help him but I can’t. I told him so many times. When he jumps out of bed – it should be feet first.”

Marriage counseling is the sort of step you need to take feet first. You and she seek it out if you feel your marriage is heading for bad times, or you are already buried by bad times. You both need to agree to attend couples therapy (or marriage counseling, or relationship counseling). You do not both have to be equally enthusiastic, but you need to approach it with an open mind and heart.

You can expect to be confronted by someone who is:

  1. Not your friend
  2. Not your ally
  3. Indifferent to your complaints and your wife’s complaints
  4. A problem solver
  5. A straight shooter

You may not hear what you want to hear. One sign of a successful marriage counselor is that, inevitably, the man thinks the counselor takes the wife’s side while the wife thinks the counselor takes the husband’s side.

Expect hard truths. Expect questions. A lot of questions. Almost every session will be questions, questions, questions meant to probe deeply into the problems that reveal themselves through the symptoms.

To start off, you have to find someone willing to work with you both. You need the right fit of schedule, temperament, and budget. You may be able to use healthcare insurance to cover some costs; ask questions on that level of detail when you call two or three counselors.

Make the appointment. Agree to go together. And realize that the first counselor may not be your only counselor. Just as you may have needed to visit a few medical doctors before finding your GP, so too might you need to try out a couple of counselors.

Do It Yourself?

Jean Carroll again: “My husband, he’s a wonderful man, a regular do-it-yourselfer. I say, ‘Honey, help me.’ He says, ‘Do it yourself!’”

Unlike Jean’s fantasy husband, you owe it to yourself and your spouse to make a real effort at marriage counseling.

Before you give up in an uncomfortable huff and say you can fix your own marriage, realize why you and your wife are even seeking counseling. You can’t fix what is broken. You may not even know what is broken. All you and she know is that, for some underlying reason you are either not seeing or are fearful of facing, you two are on hard times.

Symptoms, say experts at Psychology Today, of the need to look for outside help include:

  • Loss of sexual contact and intimacy
  • Perpetuating old arguments without end or justification
  • Living parallel instead of entwined lives

If you recognized the need, talked together about going, and agreed to go, make the best use of your time and money.

Can You Go to Marriage Counseling Alone?

Jean Carroll speaks: “That honeymoon! I’ll never forget it. Two weeks of heaven! Two weeks! Sometimes I wish he had come along with me.”

If your wife does not want to go to marriage counseling, trying to force her will accomplish nothing. You can attend counseling by yourself. Some spouses worry they will be attacked and berated in sessions, so they refuse to participate. That willingness to go, to work on your marriage, cannot be compeled, faked, or forced.

As Psychology Today says, “Don’t be a passive passenger.” If you go, go all in. Give it an honest effort. Be proactive, having a goal in mind. Avoid perpetuating the same behaviors you use at home:

  • Endless fights
  • Rehashing past wounds
  • Blaming and accusing
  • Fueling the urge to divorce

Set a timeline. Give the process three months, six months; whatever you, your wife, and the counselor agree upon. Re-evaluate the therapy and your relationship when the buzzer sounds. If you decide to divorce, you both know you tried.

One last visit from Jean“Single men wish they were married. Married men wish they were dead.” 

At The Firm For Men, you can get professional advice specific to your needs, whether you have concerns about Virginia family law, marriage, child custody, or other family-centered issues. Contact us online or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184. We are not marriage counselors; we are legal counselors, but we can help you get the help you need. No joke.