Why Men Are Averse to Couples Counseling
It is a common misconception that men are “less emotional” than women. The truth is that men experience emotions just as much as women do, but they may express them differently or keep them to themselves. Additionally, the unique biochemistry and subtle brain structure differences between men and women can result in different feelings and responses to conflict management and problem-solving. While men and women are more alike than different, these differences can sometimes cause confusion and tension in relationships.
Processing vs. Fixing
One of the differences that stands out is the tendency for women to prefer processing and discussing how to manage conflict and problem-solve, while men tend to prefer simply fixing the issue with less discussion. While this dynamic is not true for all men and women, on average, it tends to be pretty accurate and can lead to conflict.
Counseling Feels Like a Process-Driven Activity
Given that counseling tends to be about discussing conflict management and problem-solving, it may feel more natural for women to align with more process-driven people. Yes, the process is aimed at resolving (fixing) an issue, but to men, it may seem more efficient to just skip to the solution; whereas, for women, the process IS part of the solution. You can see the rub.
“I Don’t Want to Feel Ganged Up On”
Historically, men have seen couples counseling as a place where the counselor and their spouse gang up on them and tell them everything they are doing wrong and how they need to change. This perception is not accurate. A skilled couples counselor will help both partners see their flaws and will not allow the process to be one-sided.
“I Don’t Want to Get Bogged Down by Just Talking About Feelings”
Another common experience for men is feeling that counseling is only about discussing emotions and that if they don’t cry, they aren’t doing it right. This belief is also untrue. A good couples counselor will create space for emotional expression and intellectual discussion of how to fix issues. If they don’t, it’s probably best to find another counselor.
How to Talk to Men About Couples Counseling
As a Gottman Method Couples Counselor, I teach the importance of understanding the other person’s perspective before attempting to persuade them to change theirs. This is particularly essential when discussing couples counseling with men. Here are a few suggestions:
- Begin by checking out what you think he is saying. In many cases, it is important to have a neutral, matter-of-fact tone, but you know your husband’s style.
- Simply summarize his perspective to be sure you understand him. For now, just summarize his perspective without offering your opinion. Once he feels heard and understood, he will be more open to hearing your perspective.
- Describe what you both agree on regarding having a healthy, happy relationship. “I know we both want to enjoy our lives together.”
- Ask him what he needs from you. This can help you understand his needs and how to meet them better. You can mention couples counseling as a way to learn more about each other’s perspectives and needs.
- If he is concerned about being ganged up on, offer reassurance that the therapist will not take sides and that his concerns are valid. Let him know that he should be included in choosing a therapist; and that he can talk to them one-on-one to get a better feel for their style.
- Be patient and give him time to think about it. Trying to force a decision can shut down communication. Keep the dialogue going.
Updated December 5, 2023
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Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level 2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.