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counseling experience and/or alternatives (long)

I had posted recently about having a husband who tends to act very selfish.  Always thinking about what he wants, getting a little fussy when he doesn't get his way, not really showing that he cares about things I need or want, etc.  So, thanks to everyone who responded to that! 

But....this weekend we ended up having a major talk on the subject.  It all got started because we couldn't agree on whether or not to take a very last-minute, expensive trip.  I'll admit, I'm the very practical half of our marriage.  He's more "money grows on trees, live in the moment cause you can't take it with you" half.  Usually he sees my point about money, savings, and making smart decisions and I try to see his side of live and let live.  But this time his mood seemed very off after we talked about the trip (something he would enjoy much more than I would) and couldn't come to an agreement about yes or no.  When I finally had enough of his moping I said to him, "Sometimes I feel like you'd be happier living on your own so you could do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted to.  I want to know if that's how you feel."  After some tense conversation, he said that was how he felt.  Enter the tears and hurt feelings. He said he loved me the same as always, but he didn't like having to take other people's feelings or opinions into consideration, and that he didn't think he wanted to work on changing that mindset.  I was devastated.  I told him that he had two options: he could end our relationship, or we could try to make things work.  I stayed with friends that night and most of the next day.  He sent me a message and said he wanted to go for a walk and talk.  When I got home, he looked awful.  He had been crying, and still was.  He told me that he was so sorry for the things he said, and that he realized he was being incredibly selfish.  He said it really spoke to him when I told him I still loved him before I left, and that I would be willing to work on us.  He said he realized that life isn't one big party and we have to make sacrifices to make a relationship work.  All in all, it was the most sincere thing I've ever heard him say, and since then he's been acting like a new person; a better person.

But now I've got all these weird, insecure feelings (obviously) about our relationship and our future.  I know 100% that I want everything to work out, but I don't know the best way to go about making that happen.  Obviously therapy/counseling is one option, but I've heard good and bad thigns about it.  So (now that my novel is finished) I wanted to see if any of you had experiences in marriage counseling (good and bad) or with any alternatives.  Or, any input/opinions in general.  Thanks.

Re: counseling experience and/or alternatives (long)

  • What bad things have you heard about counseling?  It's an excellent way to strengthen a relationship.  Sure, you have to work at finding the right counselor... but I've never heard anyone say, "Don't go to counseling.  It'll make things worse."
  • And given your past post, I don't think a book or a couples retreat is going to change your husband.
  • Ditto Karen, what bad things have you heard about counseling? I don't understand how open communication and working on yourself and your relationship could even remotely be considered "bad".

    I have been going to counseling for 5+ years to work on myself and it has helped me learn a LOT of things about myself as well as take care of myself and make better decisions for myself. I cannot say enough good things about it. Sure it's hard work, but if you put the work in than you reap some great benefits.

  • The only bad thing I can think of with counseling is that both parties in the couple need to take it seriously for it to work. In my parents experience my father spent most of the time insulting the counselor so that was a waste of money and time. But in your case it seems like he does want to work on things- so I would absolutely recommend it.

    Outside of counseling there could be some things that might make things easier- for example in my relationship I'm a little more relaxed with money so when I want to do something extra expensive I "save up" my discretionary income (skip buying lunch, carpool, stay home on Saturday nights) to show my husband I'm serious about wanting to go on a trip. 

    Also when there is a trip or event that I would genuinly enjoy more- he stays home which saves money as well. Our time apart let's me enjoy my own indulgent side a bit more outside the relationship and doesn't mean that I am taking his feelings less into account just that I am trying to find a happy medium. Over time that has worked really well for us.

     

  • I've not been to marriage counseling, but the only people that I've heard say negative things about it are people who were very resistant to going in the first place and don't like to acknowledge the fact that they have flaws that they need to work on.

    A counselor or therapist probably is not going to tell you whether you should stay together or split up. What he or she will do is help the two of you to identify your problems and communicate with each other in a healthy way so you can decide what the best course of action is, and, should you decide to stay together, develop the skills necessary to maintain a loving partnership. It's not a quick fix and it can be really emotionally draining before things start to get better.

    Books on relationships and that sort of thing can be helpful, but they aren't going to solve serious marriage problems. If all the answers could be found in a book that you can read in just a few hours, everyone would be blissfully happy with their significant others. So, while certain methods might be good for you, I think you should consider them as complements to therapy, rather than alternatives.

  • The only time couples counseling is a bad idea is when one of the people is physically and/or emotionally abusive.  From what you have posted this does not seem to be the case for you.  A good counselor will help you learn how to communicate effectively and help both parties learn how to compromise.  However, both people do need to be on board in order for counseling to be effective.
    Congrats to November 2010 Labor Buddy MJHershey KTFU with #2!! Lilypie Third Birthday tickers
  • Counseling can also be bad if you don't both commit to it. You have to both be willing to stick with it for a minimum of like 12 sessions. 1 or 2 sessions won't fix the problem. While you are trying to find a counselor that you both like, try reading "Getting the Love You Want". THIS IS NOT IN PLACE OF COUNSELING.
  • yeah I think counseling is a must.  You can improve your communication and decision making skills and focus on self-improvement.  Clearly he has some selfishness issues and counseling can help him get to the root of them and learn some new positive behaviors that will help your relationship.  I wouldn't leave it unchecked.  Most usually slack off on the whole "self improvement" after some time. 
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    Gretchen Evie, born 7/8/2012 at 35w5d
  • image renegade gaucho:

    I've not been to marriage counseling, but the only people that I've heard say negative things about it are people who were very resistant to going in the first place and don't like to acknowledge the fact that they have flaws that they need to work on.

    A counselor or therapist probably is not going to tell you whether you should stay together or split up. What he or she will do is help the two of you to identify your problems and communicate with each other in a healthy way so you can decide what the best course of action is, and, should you decide to stay together, develop the skills necessary to maintain a loving partnership. It's not a quick fix and it can be really emotionally draining before things start to get better.

    Books on relationships and that sort of thing can be helpful, but they aren't going to solve serious marriage problems. If all the answers could be found in a book that you can read in just a few hours, everyone would be blissfully happy with their significant others. So, while certain methods might be good for you, I think you should consider them as complements to therapy, rather than alternatives.

    Yeah, this. The only time couples counseling it is "bad" is when there is abuse involved (but each would still benefit from individual counseling!).

    The only people I know who "complain" about it are those who have not taken the time to find a great counselor (i.e. have a bad experience and stop looking) or who are reluctant to put in the work required in accepting responsibility for themselves (and letting others own their own feelings, and so on), or to become self-aware and reflective.

    Books can be helpful...if you both get into reading them together and doing the exercises together...but nothing can stand in for the benefit of having a third party there IN person to actually witness you as a couple and truly work with you in a way that is developed for you as that couple (and as individuals).

    Both my H and I went to couples counseling in PREVIOUS relationships with our respective common-law spouses.

    Now, in both cases, counseling did not "work" to repair the relationship but I say that with many disclaimers. One being, our partners were not willing to put in the required "work" to do so (i.e. to be honest, to commit to the process, to become more self-aware, and so on). Counseling, even couples counseling, is really all about the individuals involved. Second being, for one of us (H) things came out during counseling (i.e. his partner had cheated on him at least twice earlier in their relationship and was actively considering it again) that changed it for the process (i.e. for my H not only was the cheating a deal breaker, but the lying about it for 3 or 4 years).

    However, I will in NO way say that counseling did not "work"! I am a HUGE proponent of it, as is H. Both of us learned a tremendous amount about ourselves from our respective couples counseling. We have also continued with individual counseling since then, as well as workshops, etc and both credit the "end" of our past relationships as transformational in our lives in that they got us into counseling and on to a path of more authenticity, self-awareness, etc which has had TREMENDOUS benefits in our lives...and certainly in the rwonderful elationship we found with each other (and indeed it was an important criteria to us both that we each had been and were open to counseling).

    ETA: A lot of couples counselors may point you to workshops as well, but I WOULD advise counseling BEFORE going to a workshop.

  • My DH and I did marriage counseling last fall through this spring.  We had 2 counselors.  The first one was recommended by his coworker.  He was not a good fit for us.  He kept going into religious "lessons" and telling us to forget about the past and move on.  Well, we didn't want to forget about the past, we wanted to learn from our past mistakes and move on, plus, we are not religious at all, so that guy didn't work out. 

     

    We found the second counselor through my husband's EAP (employee assistance program) at work.  We gave them a brief description of the issues we were having and they matched us up with a marriage counselor in the area.  She was awesome!  She specialized in couples and individuals that were young adults and knew how to talk to us.  

     

    My biggest regret is that we spent so many sessions with the 1st counselor who wasn't really helping us.   Once we got in with the second counselor we were able to really make some progress.  Finding the right counselor has got to be one of the biggest challenges to marriage counseling.  You both seem committed to it, so I think your counseling can only be beneficial!

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