Many women share the same frustration. Although conflict, tension, and disconnect may be obvious symptoms in their relationships, oftentimes women find that their men are unresponsive to requests to seek professional advice. Why are men so reluctant to go to therapy? And how can you convince your man to go to couples therapy?
WHY MEN RESIST
Matt Englar-Carlson and David S. Shepard, family counselors, explain that men experience great distress when it comes to the gender roles they have learned and the ones they are expected to play within the context of their relationships. This quandary puts men in a constant state of internal conflict as they attempt to construct their gender identity in their relationships, as parents, in friendships, and in the workplace. The role men have been taught to play calls for them to be stern, stoic, and good providers. Learned models of masculinity impose on men interpersonal distance; however, modern conceptualizations of gender roles demand of them relationship skills and emotional availability. In other words, men don’t correlate opening up and expressiveness with their masculine role, yet their partners expect it of them. In the emotional context, men don’t have it easy!
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Especially in sexual topics, men can feel challenged when confronted with their partner’s demands. And when a man feels challenged, he feels threatened and his “fight or flight” mechanism is activated. Typically, men flee the scene of a confrontation and leave their partners feeling even more frustrated than when the conversation started. In other words, your demands for answers and confronting a man regarding your “couple’s issues,” although justified, may scare him and make him distance himself from you both emotionally and physically.
HOW TO PERSUADE YOUR MAN
- Stop the blame game. Accusatory and harsh methods of communication will not get your man to agree to couples therapy. On the contrary, this approach may cause him to stray. Learn how to communicate without turning the conversation into a courtroom in which he is the defendant and you are the prosecutor. Express yourself in terms of your feelings. For instance: When you don’t respond to my questions I feel unappreciated. Avoid using “you” in your arguments, as in “you make me feel …” Stay calm and seek the right moment to voice your concerns. Be constructive in your statements and reassure him that you want to find a solution that will bring you both to a happier state.
- Be inclusive. Instead of yelling at your man saying: You need help! say calmly: I strongly believe we can both benefit from couples counseling. Say: I would like for us to try to get an impartial party to assist us in reaching our goal of having a better relationship. Stress that your goal is not to attack him, but for both of you to learn to communicate and move forward.
- Be calm and collected. Avoid speaking out of anger and when your emotions are at their worst. Yelling and screaming will not contribute positively to a bad situation.
- Look for a therapist who is knowledgeable in men’s therapy. Traditionally, couples therapy has focused on the issues of women within the relationship, leaving men feeling ostracized and misunderstood. Suggest to your man that you work with a therapist who has a less traditional approach so he feels included and supported throughout the process. Interview the potential therapists and ask him or her if they follow a man-inclusive approach.
Consult with your health insurance provider for available couples therapists within your network.