Friday, December 20, 2013

"First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors"

Laura Doyle’s new book will be entitled: First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors.

The title lacks originality, but it makes her point clearly and effectively. Long time readers of this blog know that I too have warned people off of marriage counseling… here, here, here and here.

A relationship coach herself, Doyle learned the hard way why not to go into marriage counseling.

At some point in the distant past Doyle’s marriage was in trouble. By her account, she had gotten into the habit of belittling and criticizing her husband. When he failed to respond properly to her efforts to debase him, she decided that he needed to change. The best way to affect that change, she believed, was to go to marriage counseling.

You might ask yourself where she learned that the right way to treat a husband, or anyone, for that matter, was to belittle and criticize him. Is there something in the culture?

Doyle explained herself in The Daily Mail:

It was six years before John and I opted for marriage guidance. By then we rowed frequently and I was oblivious to the damage my constant belittling was doing. John spent so much time watching telly, he’d rather watch a repeat than make love….

I’d been on at him to ‘change’ — the classic wife’s mistake — and mentioned therapy as a way to do it.

What happened in marriage therapy? Let Doyle describe her experience:

For more than two years we traded weekly insults, with the counsellor often on my side.

She did nothing to disabuse me of my belief it was his job to make me happy, not mine. In front of her, I told John he had ‘no spine’ and that there was something wrong with him.

It was at her behest that I persuaded him to be tested for attention deficiency disorder — thinking there must be some medical reason for his shortcomings. Quite how John didn’t run for the hills I’ll never know.

Rather than encouraging me to see all the brilliant things about my husband — why I fell in love with him in the first place — the counsellor merely highlighted the bad.

Doyle was wrecking her marriage by talking down to her husband. Her credentialed therapist took her side. The therapist agreed that her husband was a sorry excuse for a person and supported Doyle’s attacks. Under the cover of “therapy” Doyle found herself empowered to insult and attack her husband with impunity.

Evidently, marriage counseling did not help her marriage. It inflicted further harm.

Doyle continues:

Even then I failed to recognise the major contributing factor to my marital strife: marriage counselling. But as I spoke to more and more women who’d had similar experiences, there was no hiding from it.

One woman was told by her counsellor: ‘Don’t you see, your marriage is dead?’ Her husband wanted to work at it, but she listened to the ‘advice’ and sought a divorce — which she now deeply regrets.

In another case it was only when her husband accepted the therapist’s proddings and said they should part that the wife realised it wasn’t what she wanted. By then it was too late.

No one should ever call this science. It is ideological indoctrination.

Eventually, Doyle started asking herself how her negative attitude might be contributing to her problems. She saw herself and other women vacillating between demeaning their husbands and acting the victim. When they do not get their husbands to follow their orders, they retreat into the role of martyr. It’s an alternate mode of manipulation.

In Doyle’s words:

Wives mostly swing between disrespecting their husband and playing the martyr. Marriage counselling re-enforces this, but I do the opposite by suggesting women rein in their negativity.

Essentially husbands just want to please their wives, but at times feel it’s hopeless.

Eventually, Doyle quit therapy and decided to seek out some real advice. She decided to listen to voices of experience, not voices of politically correct therapists. She asked women who had been in long, happy marriages for advice. She was so desperate that she took the advice.

She writes:

I was willing to try anything to save my marriage so I started to bite my tongue. The next time John asked: ‘What shall I wear?’ I got a perverse pleasure from his confusion when I replied: ‘Whatever you think, darling, you have good taste.’

Gradually the dynamic began to change; friends said: ‘What’s happened to John? He looks different.’ I noticed that he stood straighter and when I came in from work he got up from the sofa and smiled: he was happy to see me.

OMFG … who knew it was so easy?


Dennis said...

Life is really a lot simpler than we make it. If one wants respect, courtesy, et al from one's partner in life then one has to actively give it.
Women have to stop defining everything in terms of themselves and stop disregarding what men bring to the relationship.
Most men were brought up by their mothers to want to please them and that does not change for most men when they get married. Apparently the two people involved in a marriage enjoyed the attributes that each brought to that marriage.
It all comes down to respect given and received.

Leo G said...

Through my marriage, I have seen this too. In the manosphere it is called shit testing. When I finally had enough and started standing up for myself, and ignoring my dear wife's B.S., things started to change. We now have as strong a relationship as anytime during our time together. Not only that, but as you, the male. start to regain your manhood, the sex becomes out of this world!

Lastango said...

FWIW, telling John "Whatever you think, darling - you have good taste" is a theme straight out of Doyle's first book "The Surrendered Wife".

According to Doyle, the wife doesn't surrender herself. She surrenders her active, assertive, often aggressive impulse to control events and her man. She steps back, leaving part of the field to him. This creates space for him to grow into his masculine self.

Said another way, she becomes receptive, and then the feminine and masculine can find each other. Domestic bliss ensues.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a lot of truth here, and the difficult dynamic expressed in "vacillating between demeaning their husbands and acting the victim". I mean that's right out of the "Drama triangle", two roles, persecutor and victim.

Although there's a third oscillating role "rescuer" (apparently here played by the counsellor), but otherwise where the wife will read up on all the ideals of how relationships are supposed to work, and in such times she feels positive because she has an ideal relationship she is working on, if only her husband would stop resisting her good advice.

But a part of me wonders what's missing from prescriptions like "The Surrendered Wife", that fall into the Christian ideal of the wife surrendering control to her husband, and empower him to surrender to Christ, and then everything magically works. I certainly can't argue against it as a working theory.

I've never been married, and so its all theory for me, but from what I've heard from women, the problem comes down to feelings of resentment. That is, women (or pre-liberated women) start with the IDEAL of surrender to their husbands, and ideal that kindness attentiveness and generosity of spirit will provoke the same expressions in the husbands. So there's an unstated assumption that says if she pays careful attention to what her husband wants and needs, and offers it to him freely, then he'll be so grateful, that he'll naturally recipricate, while in traditional roles, he's focused on his career and work and getting ahead, so he may be grateful for her attention, its also invisible to him, so if a wife isn't careful, she can become just as invisible to him as his mother was once he found an external source of power and pride, and no longer needed his mother's approval.

So what's missing is assertiveness. She mistakes her generosity of spirit as having magic power which is not real. So how does a woman act assertively? How does a woman "call out" her husband when he makes promises and doesn't follow through? And when 99% of his attention is towards his external work, how does she get him to notice his neglected home duty (and surrendered to Christ as they say).

So I'm not sure of anything, but what I've come up with is that we all have a right to (1) Confirm agreements made (2) Renew and adapt agreements (3) And give attention to agreements broken.

Somehow that all can seem clear and easy in the abstract, but more difficult when shame and guilt are involved. And that's perhaps the trap of "surrender" - its just back to the idea of the wife plays her proper role, the husband will naturally conform to his proper role, and ignores the reality of how he was raised, how he saw his parents behave, and how he experiences criticism.

It's easy to say trying to control someone is unhelpful, but harder to see how to encourage cooperation when life has 1000 apparent demands, and your husband thinks his work is done after he punches out.

I guess that leads to the idea of marrying "the right person", and another grand ideal, but perhaps hopeless. I mean, I do think the ideal of "courtship" might be a good one, and including various "shit tests" even, to see how a man responds to frustration, with giving up, giving in, and blaming others as equally bad signs for his adaptabiility.

I suppose I might say "emotional intelligence" as a vital skill, but worry a bit that EI also allows for manipulation, which is the covert opposite of surrender.

I like the ideals of Marshall Rosenberg to work on language and focus on meeting needs (giraffe languafe of the heart) over assigning blame (jackel language), but in practice, it seems artificial and slow, and

He doesn't focus on differentiated gender roles, but also says it can be done in all relationships.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I heard a wise woman say this past weekend:

"Men want to fix things. Women want to change the person. It's a completely different view on life."

Sounds about right. And don't think of it as just about women nagging and wanting their husbands to be different. The woman I'm quoting wasn't just talking about wives wanting to change their husbands. She was talking about women wanting to change the person of their daughters, sons, etc. It's much more insidious than limiting it to a spouse.

Ever wonder why women claim they're "sharing" when they're really complaining? Yeah, sharing… ha! Give me a break. Rationalizations come in the form of semantics, too. Thank John Gray from "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" fame. Manufacturing that kind of nonsense is what gets you on Oprah.

And if you think it's just "sharing" and not complaining, watch another woman disagree with or contest another woman's "share" (read: complaint). The aftermath is not pretty.


Anonymous said...

A Chicago psychiatrist w/patients on the Gold Coast and elite N. suburbs told me:

"My female patients are frustrated. Their "Enlightened" husbands and boyfriends comply w/all the latest Feminist and relationship concepts. But now, the women aren't sexually attracted to them!"

For what it's worth. -- Rich Lara

Larry Sheldon said...

I am surprised to learn that Andi Sullivan has taken his head out of Palin's uterus.

I don't much care what "his" opinions are.

Recruiting Animal said...

In the end, she did get marriage counseling only it was good advice rather than bad.

I think you're criticizing a certain brand of marriage counseling not the whole endeavour.

Ms Doyle was doing something wrong and she couldn't figure out what it was. She needed help to solve her problem.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Point well made... except that she received good advice from a friend.

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