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Husband Refuses Counseling

Husband Refuses Counseling


Dear Rachel,

I have been married for five years, and we have two children, three and one. I am sad to report that my husband and I have not been getting along for most of our married life. We met our first week in college, and started dating right away. We dated exclusively from the beginning, and our entire social system since then has revolved around us as a couple. Our relationship was great in college, but, since our marriage, things have been going downhill.

We barely spend any time together, hardly communicate, and more recently, have been having screaming fights that leave me crying in my room. I still love my husband, and I want to work things out. I even suggested to go for counseling, but my husband refuses. Last week I made an appointment for us, and he wound up calling the therapist and canceling it behind my back. Should I just go for counseling on my own?

Bewildered Wife

Dear Bewildered Wife,

You cannot make anyone do something that they do not want to doI am so sorry to hear about the deterioration of your marriage. It is so hard to be in a relationship like this, and I commend you on your bravery in facing this situation head-on. It’s clear that there are a lot of hurt and angry feelings between the two of you, and some type of action needs to be taken.

That being said, you cannot make anyone do something that they do not want to do. It is clear that your husband does not want to go. Did you ask him why he refuses? Realize that he may not give you an answer, as he may not be sure himself as to why he refuses to go. However, try to find a quiet time when he may be more amenable to talking, and use the opportunity to air your concerns. When discussing the matter, make use of the classic “I” statements. That is to say, tell him about your feelings, how scared and sad you are, and how you would like to work together to make things better. Then, ask him again, in a non-confrontational way, if he would be willing to go with you to counseling. Do not make statements that sound like you are judging or accusing him, as this will cause him to take a defensive stance, and possibly continue his refusal to go.

If he still refuses, then you can go for counseling by yourself, if you want. However, before you go, you should be clear of your goals in therapy. While I’m sure it would be helpful to have a place to air your feelings and your fears, individual counseling should not just be a gripe session against your husband. While it sounds as though your husband may have major issues that are contributing to the deterioration of your relationship, keep in mind that the functionality of a relationship dynamic, or lack thereof, is the result of the interplay of both sides. You can, and should, use therapy to identify your own issues that you may be bringing to the marriage, and work on them as necessary. This attitude will be critical to the success of your efforts to preserve your marriage.

A good therapist will be able to help you strengthen yourself and help you become more self-aware. By becoming more self-aware, you will be able to identify the areas in your life that you can improve on your own. Everyone brings their own personal “stuff” to their relationships and their marriages. Often, we are not even aware of how our behavior triggers particular responses in our spouses, friends and children. Alternatively, other people’s behaviors can trigger particular reactions of ours, often without our awareness. Such dual-trigger paradigms can lead to a vicious cycle. A good therapist will help identify these behavior patterns, and help you work through them.

A good therapist will be able to help you strengthen yourself and help you become more self-awareYou may well find that as you work on yourself, your husband will start to change as well. “As water reflects a person’s face, so does the heart of one person reflect another” (Proverbs 27:19). Relationships are a type of dance, with each partner unconsciously knowing their steps very well. When one partner changes the rhythm, then the entire dance begins to change. When he sees that you are changing, this may be the impetus he needs to join you in marriage counseling. Unfortunately, when there is a long history of hostile feelings, a spouse may refuse to take action until he or she sees that their spouse has made the first step.

It’s important for you to note that when a person or couple enters counseling, there can be real growing pains in their relationships. This happens because people tend to be comfortable in their old habits (no matter how healthy or unhealthy they may be). So bear in mind that real change takes time and effort.

I think that you are a very brave and strong woman to decide to take positive action in your life. I want to wish you a lot of luck, and may you see a lot of blessing from your effort.


“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Beryl Tritel.

Beryl Tritel, MSW, is a therapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ramat Bet Shemesh. She has been living in Israel for over 10 years with her husband and their 5 kids. She also offers Skype sessions. She can be reached at
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Amy Denver Colorado, USA October 26, 2013

Forgotten MArriage We've been married over 45 years and right after the 'I do"s' were done my life changed. He refused to do any thing with me, his and my family! He refuses to talk, associate, sleep, go any where, have kids, just plain nothing. He lives behind a closed door in the basement, work as much as he can, all holidays, weekends, never takes vacation. I have tried to at least talk to him by saying hello, and he just grunts and goes back to his basement. He has no friends, TV, radio, computer, books or newspapers. He's been retired a few years and I bet he has no idea who the president of the USA is. He likes building things and is in the process of building a new garage for himself and his cars. I think it even has a built in garage. He refuses help from neighbors and just ignores them. I personally try to stay away from the house, I go on vacation with the gals from church and do voilnteer work. I'm just to tired to even look at him ! Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA July 29, 2011

I'd like to know if Chana experienced Emotional and verbal ABUSE in her marriage. If not, this may explain her response. Chana, disagreements are very different from emotional and verbal abuse. Also, if someone SOMETIMES yells, slams a door and walks out, it is very different from it being a nearly DAILY occurrence. So, what was it in your case, Chana? Ups and downs, or abuse? Reply

Lisa Providence, RI July 28, 2011

Divorce Him! Sometimes, you need therapy when you can't solve a problem yourself. If your husband "doesn't believe in" therapy, you can go by yourself, but you need to realize that you can't stay married to a man who refuses to face up to problems and refuses to work them out.

Divorce him now, and continue with therapy. Reply

Germano Riviera Brooklyn, New York May 20, 2011

What a life ! Let's not forget; that if a man it's fulfilling his obligations only as a father, and not as a husband, and a man. The woman has every right to be happy with her relationship; just as he does. Life is to short to leave-it unhappy. This is not what G-d intended to do to any human being. There is enough suffering in this world; to be unhappy in your own home. Reply

Chana Greenfield, WI May 19, 2011

Husband Refuses Counselling No marriage is perfect. I've been married over 30 years, and I can assure you that they all take work. At times the husband carries most of the load; at other times it is the wife's turn. With the economic situation today, maybe the husband is feeling nearly unbearable stress. He may feel as though he is not able to meet his responsibility to provide for his family - and thus a failure. Perhaps he knows you can't afford a therapist, or is too private to discuss these things with an outsider. Giving up on him and the marriage won't fix anything. Pray. G-d can open your eyes to what should be said and done, and your husband's heart so that you can overcome these issues together. Divorce is almost never the answer. Usually it's patience and endurance. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 19, 2011

Multiply the yelling by 10 more years. Is this what you want? 30 more years of the same? Believe me, if this man is yelling and screaming in order to get his way, it will escalate. You can change until your face is blue, and he will escalate. The reason? He's doing something he doesn't want you to know about, and by acting this way, is re-directing your energy and focus, so you won't suspect. This is how men cover up their indiscretions. He won't go because he doesn't want things to change. He wants to give himself a reason to do bad. The reason? His wife yells at him, his wife doesn't understand him, his wife is not supportive of him. His wife squanders his money, and so on and so on. If you do change, as has been suggested, it may not help. DOES HE WANT the relationship? Does he want the marriage? Does he want a peaceful homelife? Those are three questions you need answered. Plain and simple. No discussion. Just ask, and demand an answer. Then, you have to ACCEPT what he says. Don't fight it. It will be dangerous. Reply

Michael N Dineen Ridgefield, Wa/USA May 19, 2011

Counseling Counseling may help --why is it always after the we get married....Don't ether one SEE the person before they get married.??
And how soon they forget the Vows they made
on their wedding day. It all comes down to the Word LOVE--G-DS LOVE in them both... Reply

Jonella Boondox of Sullivan County, NY May 19, 2011

Husband Refuses Counseling I feel this is a mostly excellent answer from Rachel. The only advice of hers that I would take issue with is her admonition not to use the therapy session for a gripe session against her husband. I do believe that ost therapy relationships begin with a lot of griping! (or else why would you bother goiong?!) If the therapist is good, and qualified and skillful and compassionate, the therapist will know well how to guide this person through the therapy process in a successful manner. But there is nothing wrong with starting the therapy by griping about her husband! She almost certainly will NEED to do just THAT! - to begin the process of making changes in herself and her life. To tell her not to do that is to inhibit her - and make her feel as though someone important is watching over her shoulder. That's not good for real therapy to happen!! She should speak from the heart - fully - to the therapist and then take it from there. Reply

Leah Newport Coast, Ca May 18, 2011

Husband Refuses Counselling You should do everything you can to save your marriage. I believe if you pray for help in your relationship G-d will be able to work on your husband to be more receptive to you. You can't change your husband but you can change the way you behave. Reply

Morris Abadi from Brazil Sao Paulo, SP - Brazil May 18, 2011

Your husband is right Dear bewildered Wife,
dating, getting married, and so on means little or very slight changes.
Having children means new life, dedication, forgetting of your prior lifestyle.
Having children means the actual struggle, and now, the couple will ra=eally have to grow up,get more mature, and stopping playing games.

Enki San Francisco May 17, 2011

There are books and books There is a book "The Garden of Emunah" which is mostly about faith but it has important things to say about marriage.

If you read it, well and good.

If he reads it, even better.

It's worth reading for its own sake, but it does say a few important things about marriage too. Reply

Pamela Cohen London, UK May 17, 2011

Don't be frightened of the Truth I believe that if one has been married for only a few years and most of their married life, they have "not been getting along", then something is seriously wrong. A marriage should be built on mutual respect, love and have a strong foundation. Why do couples just plod on and leave the situation to fester. Difficulties should be sorted out immediately and not left to mould. Couples, should be able to sort out their differences but if they can not then counselling can be a good thing, however, be prepared that the counsellor might even advise a divorce (which has happened in some cases). Couples should make sure their relationship IS sound before getting married and especially before bringing children in to the world.
Men are usually quite stubborn when it comes to counselling for what ever the reason. Women do not have the same problem and will find it quite easy to speak to a counsellor. Reply

Anonymous Rogers May 17, 2011

Some newlywed individuals are homosexually inclined. They typically aren't sure of their feelings, they want to have a family, and want to see if they can become straight.
Some can keep up the ruse for years, but there maybe ongoing friction with their mates.
I had the same problems as the woman in the article. Many arguments along with many great times. After 20yrs, I began asking questions and discovered why he wasn't attracted to me.
He was faithful all along but towards the end, he wasn't able to hide his interests in men.
Just an idea that you may need to consider. My husband also refused counseling. He would not be accountable to anyone; father, mother, friend, spiritual counselor, nor professional counselor. I took this as him not wanting to get closer to me.
We have children and I'm don't believe anymore that staying together is good for them. I was depressed and children shouldn't see a parent live long term in that condition. Reply

Anonymous boston, Massachusetts May 17, 2011

Bewildered Wife I have been in your situation, when my husband and I needed counseling, and he refused to go.
It was frustrating, and I ended up miserable, with a deteriorating marriage, feeling helpless.

I ended up going to individual counseling, which helped me to improve my feelings about myself, and stop blaming myself only for our marital problems.

My husband, much later, agreed to go to a meeting with our Rabbi. He admires and respects our Rabbi, so I felt encouraged.

The Rabbi made significant progress with our issues in our one 1 1/2 hour session, and I walked out of the session feeling lighter and more hopeful.

I wish you strength and courage as you continue to face difficulty in your life with your husband. There is a feeling of isolation and loneliness that is hard to overcome, but it is is possible to see the light within yourself and to focus on your beautiful children, who you are bringing up. Reply

Jorge Gonzalez Oxnard, CA May 16, 2011

Bewildered wife The answer given by Rachel is great right on. I just want to add: when you talk your differences or problems with your husband, do it in a neutral territory - outside the house, this is because we tend to put an armor in our domain, therefore the fights or arguments will have a similar fate.
Sometimes when communicating is difficult, is possible to communicate in writing - this opens the door for oral communication.
Most important of all find yourself, love yourself, you are the only person that you can change. Remember that you have 2 precious babies, they need you both to have the perfect structure in their lives - tell this to your husband.
Hashem may bring the love back in your marriage.
L'shalom. Reply

Saul Wasserman Palo Alto, CA May 15, 2011

marital discord Another way of thinking about the situation is to ask, "Who does husband respect and who does he listen to?" He might refuse a counselor, but there might be a rabbi, or relative, or teacher he would turn to and could be helpful. Reply

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