DEAR CAROLYN: I have been asking my husband to go to therapy for more than five years and he always said a firm NO — absolutely not. After a particularly nasty fight, he conceded.
He just said, after three sessions, he thinks our marriage is fine; he doesn’t see a need to change to meet my needs — for example, to have sex or kiss me, or spend less time on his phone; and I am just looking for excuses to leave.
This is not true. If he came to me and needed me to work on a behavior to remain happily married, I would.
I have my own therapist to work on some trauma and anxiety, and I am making progress. But he refuses to see anything wrong with his behaviors and has an “If you don’t like it, leave” attitude.
Our therapist was less than helpful. She tended to defer to his feelings more, trying to get me to understand his points of view. She asked us simple questions like, “How does that make you feel?” and, “Do you hear him say … ?” and offered us no guidance beyond scheduling date nights. It was maddening, and I honestly think she was trying to tell me our marriage was probably over.
My husband said I had embarrassed him by talking about our sex life, and wished me good luck finding “that unicorn of a man” – meaning someone who wants to have sex with his wife and be a good provider. We haven’t spoken in a day.
I’m willing to try another therapist, one who gives us the tools needed to understand our relationship. He says absolutely not, it is a waste of time. I am not happy, but I love him. He refuses to budge. Am I a fool to leave my best friend and secure marriage because he refuses to do the (not unreasonable) things I need to be happy?
One Chance at Therapy Blown
DEAR ONE CHANCE: And then there’s that unicorn of a therapist who can turn a phone-addicted, therapy-bashing, blame-shifting, defiantly lousy spouse into a good one.
Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe there are professionals gifted enough to ask the right combination of questions to bring about the epiphany you seek: “Being humble, kind and generous has inherent benefits for me, too, and not just the person I vowed to be nice to?! Whoa!”
Or skilled enough to allay the fear of intimacy so embedded in him that denying and blaming you — tormenting you — is better, by his calculations, than betraying vulnerability of any kind.
But then the question becomes, how long are you willing to be unhappy while you search for this unicorn? The one your husband has pre-refused to see?
Wanting a little attention from your marriage is reasonable, and that’s the problem — the modesty of your goal has seduced you into believing it’s possible to achieve.
But it’s not. Not from a guy who accepts your plainly stated unhappiness as preferable to dropping his guard (or anything else) in any significant way.
He is a profoundly sad human being, if you think about it.
You at least have a path out of your sadness: your willingness to rethink your choices. So, no, it’s not foolish at all to weigh whether you’re better off now by yourself.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.