Friday, October 6, 2017

Can This Marriage Be Saved by Therapy

A woman has married a man who does not want to have sex with her and who is not a good provider. Under normal circumstances we would want to understand how she makes decisions. And we would want to know why she thinks that the problem lies with her husband. If we were feeling courageous we would ask how it is possible that she has come to believe that her deadbeat husband will be transformed by therapy.

The two have been married for five years and she has been pestering him to go to therapy… as though therapy is going to solve her marriage by making him into someone else. She has been leaning in, asserting herself and doing everything in her power to force her husband into therapy. She has not yet figured out that pushing a man around diminishes his libido. True enough, some men do respond well to moral BDSM, but most do not.

The woman in question writes to the Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax. She explains what happened when the man caved in to her imperious demands and went to therapy. Funny thing, the chosen therapist was the kind of practitioner I warn you all about. She was asking idiot questions like: How does that make  you feel?

Anyway, here are some excerpts from the letter:

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

As often happens in these cases, we do not know the occupations or much of anything about this couple beyond the fact that they have been married for five years and that she is miserable. Oh yes, we know that she is in love. We do not know whether they are planning to have children or want to have children.  Thus, we are at something of a loss.

For her part Hax takes the woman’s side and suggests that her husband is such a loser that therapy cannot reclaim him. For all we know, a better wife might do the trick, but no one wants to consider that possibility. So, Hax suggests that this marriage can’t be saved:

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.

One regrets that a good columnist like Hax has trotted out so many therapy culture clich├ęs. How do we know that he fears intimacy? Perhaps he has been berated and put down so many times that he has simply turned off to his harridan of a wife. In that case we would want to know why he doesn't leave her. Is it possible that she is the family breadwinner? And is it possible that he has a lover on the side? We do not know.

Anyway, Hax blames the husband and suggests that the wife is being reasonable. On that she is wrong. Engaging in yet another round of male bashing, accusing a man of being insensitive and out of touch with his feminine side is what produces these problems. it is not the solution. 

Rather than ask how said wife has chosen so badly, Hax tells her to move on. Perhaps the wife will find another man to lean on, but at least she will be freeing her husband from a wife who berates and belittles him all the time:

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.

1 comment:

Clint Baker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.