It’s joked about in the media, and in social circles: women are always the
ones who want to “talk it out.” So, it comes as no surprise marriage therapy,
counseling or coaching might not on your husband’s list of fun things to do.
Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend shares ways to motivate your
man to seek outside help.
The best way to get a man to do anything is to better understand your man.
It’s not breaking news: men and women are wired differently. We men don’t
usually think, or act, like you do – so the idea of getting help from an outside
party might not always be the top thought on our list. Here are some
insights into the male way of thinking that may increase the chances of
getting them some outside help from a counselor, therapist or coach.
Understand They Would Rather Fix Everything Themselves
Why won’t your husband just pull over and ask for directions when he is lost?
The same reason they won’t go get therapy, or to a doctor immediately if
they are sick. The reality for most men is that they tend to assume if
something is broken with them, it is their job to fix it. In fact, I’ve even
heard one male client ask, “How are you supposed to help me solve my
problems when I’m not even sure what my problems are? Let me figure them
out myself and then I’ll give you a call if I need help.” Well, that wouldn’t be
such a bad idea if the man hadn’t been struggling with this one problem for
20 years and if his wife wasn’t on the verge of divorcing him. Sadly, many
times we can’t solve the problems that plague us the most simply because
we’re are too close to them and we just can’t see them clearly. Because the
ability to fix our problems is so closely tied to the male ego, most men just
don’t want to give up that power to another person and instead we tend to
wander around in the wilderness.
Try to frame your intervention with a counselor as a “normal thing” to do.
Use recommendations to professionals whom you have heard positive things
about. Find a counselor that will relate to your spouse and may have
something in common with them. Also push your counselor to be more
solution focused so that you and your spouse can actually go home and “fix”
things more yourself. Ensure your partner that therapy is just one “step” in
the right direction, not just a never ending process.
Frame Your Solution as an Action, Not Just Conversation
Ever heard of the stereotype of a man who did something stupid and tried to
make up for it by bringing his wife flowers? Why would he think that flowers
would compensate for an argument they had, instead of having a discussion
with the person he offended? The answer is simply because it is an action.
Men tend to be much more validated in life by what they do (action), then
what they talked about (conversation). The idea of paying for a counselor
and waiting for weeks just to talk seems like such a waste to many men when
instead they could fix the problem right now? “Just tell me what you want me
to do, and I’ll do it,” as I’ve heard from many men over the years. There is
significant benefit to the actual process of talking about things and then
acting on them. For example wouldn’t it be better to talk and figure out what
restaurant you want to go to before you start driving your car? Or make sure
you have the right issue before you fix it? One way we’ve found to help to
get men more involved is to create “activities” like Date Nights or Workshops
that they can go to that are filled with activities that facilitate the
conversations instead of just leaving all of the talking open ended.
Find counselors who are solution oriented and ask them to assign some
activities and tools that could be accomplished outside of the sessions so
your husband can have ways to feeling like you are doing more than just
talking. Turn each visit to the counselor into a more interesting activity by
going out to dinner before or after or creating some fun habit like going on a
date or out to a movie, etc. Have the discussion about your partner going to
therapy while in the middle of an activity.
Approach Your Partner From The Left Brain
Many times when men are contemplating going to therapy, they hear their
spouse talk about how the counselor will help them to “better understand
their own feelings,” to manage their “deeper pain or issues” or “move on
from their past.” Simply put, for most men, these words just scare the crud
out of us and they don’t make us feel that safe. Dealing with our own
feelings, emotions and pains from the past are all fairly foreign to the typical
male brain. We are more accustomed to working the other side of our brain
(Left) which is more about data, things, and tangibles. This is one reason we
are more prone to reach for the remote control, than a good book on how to
empathize with our partner. So if you are trying to get your man to go to
therapy, you are going to have to find a way to make it safe for them, in their
way of thinking. Be aware of his ego in order to prevent a battle of fight or
flight. Avoid things that threaten his ego, such as judgment, blaming, put
downs, eye rolling, criticisms, rejections, or telling him what to do. Just the
mere fact that a person needs to go to get “help” may be a big enough insult
to their ego that they never actually go and get the help they need.
Some other ways to make it safer is to show your partner that you are in and
dedicated to them no matter what. Ensure them that your only goal is to
make things better not to just find new labels to use on him. Use words from
the left brain like systems, patterns, rules and principles. Also find a way to
make him feel safer by ensuring him that the problems that you are having
are not just with him, but with both of you and you want to learn how to
understand that “system” better.
Let It Be Their Choice…Even Their Idea
An age old issue that has always been around in relationships is one person’s
need for independence to be balanced with their partner’s need for
togetherness. Generally when it comes to relationships and communication a
lot of people push the “togetherness talk” at the expense of the other
person’s sense of independence. This is very true a lot of times with men
and women and even more true when a wife wants her husband to go get
“help.” Generally speaking men tend to be much more independent animals,
more solo minded, less community oriented than women. We like our
independence and one of the best signs that we are still independent is that
we still have “choices” that we get to make. If you want to truly help your
partner get the help they need, you’ll have to find a way to make it his idea.
Give them a chance to come up with the ideas by asking question about your
problem like, “Honey how could we learn to stop arguing the way we do? How
do you think other couples learn to talk?” Then use his answers to give him a
choice like, “Honey I really feel our marriage is in trouble because we don’t
know how to talk…I feel like we either need to go see a counselor like you
said, visit our pastor or talk to some other experts. Which of those would
you be willing to do with me?” Now odds are my wife already knows what I’m
going to choose but she gives me the choice so my independence remains
For more relationship advice, attend:
Date Night with Matt Townsend
Friday, January 13, 2012
Miller Campus- SLCC Sandy Utah