Advice Columns‎ > ‎

My Husband Won't Go to Therapy

Q. We need some help in our marriage. I would like to come to a training like yours but I don't think my husband would ever agree. Martha

A. This is a comment we frequently hear from women. It's very difficult being in a relationship where you see problems and your partner essentially refuses to see them or to deal with them. We could talk about what you already know: his deep-seated-but-covered-over fear of becoming vulnerable, his defense, and his limited I'm-ok-you-must-be-the-problem-head-in-sand worldview. Unfortunately these are lessons that he is not likely to ever take from you alone (at least until his inevitable wake-up crisis arrives).

If you are starving in your relationship, the truth is that it is up to you to get things moving. But evidently you feel too powerless to do that so we must begin by asking a question. Why are you not able to speak up so that you can be heard? We know that some people (mostly women but some men too) have a deep fear of speaking up for themselves. It goes far beyond any kind of rational fear -down to some kind of primal level. For them the risk of speaking up (and facing possible rejection/abandonment) is not unlike risking self-annihilation. A lot of people stay in very unsatisfactory relationships for that very reason. But knowing about that fear is not enough.

Looking at it in a different way, there must be a part of you that feels very young inside and the prospect (to this younger part) of speaking up to your partner is terrifying. When you, as an ordinary woman, with ordinary needs, can't just look at your partner and speak up clearly for what you need, then, this child part in you must have a big hold on you. [We are of course assuming that you dealing with an ordinary man who is not so small that he needs to bully or dominate physically in order to get his way].

When you have a young part who is afraid to speak up, it's pretty natural to find ourselves in a relationship where we have to learn to speak up and your husband, in that way, through his resistance, is giving you exactly what you need right now. It's also important for you to realize that when you are so afraid to speak up to your partner a part of your inner self is seeing him as 'father' or some very big male energy that the deeper part of you is still very afraid of.

Most women have learned a lot about 'talking' from their heads (much like their partners). But they haven't learned about 'speaking from their bellies' which means going down and discovering the truth of what they feel, what they know in their bodies, in their intuition, and then learning to express from that place. [Naomi feels very passionate about this very topic and is co-leading 'Finding Your Voice' workshops for women, mentioned elsewhere in these pages.]

We can tell you that if the love between you is really there in your relationship, your partner will come through his resistance - if you will make the effort to learn how to express yourself with clarity, determination, and directness. Once your partner has learned new skills and awarenesses, the whole issue of seeking counseling will have a different light around it. But getting over that first hurdle will not be easy. A lot of unacknowledged fear is in the way, both yours and his.

We obviously can't tell you there is no risk as you begin to make more of an effort to speak up but you might keep in mind that not speaking up and not being heard probably means that your relationship is dead - if not already, then it will be when the point arrives that your problems become undeniable and quite possibly insurmountable. So what do you have to lose by working diligently to find your true voice now? No one ever claimed that growing up and developing a real self was going to be easy.

Or maybe the truth is that you (like multitudes of others), would really just prefer to keep on playing it safe - pointing your finger at your partner for being the one who refuses to move.

[Oh yes, we do hear that chorus of "yeah, buts" from women who are in the same position as the one who posed this question - as in "yeah, but you don't know how stubborn my husband is." Much as they don't want to hear this (in fact sometimes refuse to hear it), women in this situation are often so focused on their husbands they are unable to see how their own resignation (and hopelessness at being heard) plays into the drama they are experiencing. They are unable to see that they are the very embodiment of a feminine consciousness that allows its wisdom to be undervalued. They are unable to see that the deadness that comes from their resignation, their fear, and their unwillingness to risk is a perfect match to the emotional deadness they are able to so clearly see in their husbands. We look at the veiled women in other cultures and feel sad about a feminine that can't find a stronger voice, but a North American woman who has a desire to seek help in her relationship and can't get her husband to hear her shouldn't pretend to herself that she is any more liberated.

Basically there is wisdom that comes from the masculine perspective and wisdom that comes from the feminine perspective. Both are needed. Any woman who believes she is open to the masculine wisdom from her partner, and yet finds herself in a situation where her feminine wisdom is not being honored, has to ask herself how she has allowed herself to get into such an unbalanced situation. Then she has to ask herself why she stays there.]