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I HATE Couples Counseling

HangingInThere2's picture

I am considering going back to couples counseling. My DH and I have been to counseling in the past but it has not been very helpful.  Our past counselors were good listeners but nothing from the sessions really helped us to improve things in our marriage. I felt mostly our sessions were just us both talking about our problems and each defending our point of views. My DH think's mostly he is "right' "correct" about most things and I spend the session time feeling in the position of defending my view or how I see things differently. The counselor just listened to both sides but offered very little input on how to improve things.  Needless to say these sessions were not very helpful or productive, it just ends up where we each get defensive about our view points. The result is usually I back down, be quiet and go along. He comes across very powerful and decided in his "right" way of seeing the issues and I end up feeling weak. I kind of give up on hope for change and try to learn how I am going to just accept.  So the past counseling has not been helpful to me or our marriage in my opinion.

Currently with our step family issues that have gotten worse I think we need HELP. That plus our communication issues and trust issues I think we may need help. We have tried to discuss and work thru these things on our own but we get no where. We both just get defensive and our stopped at an impasse at that point. He get's very cemented in his view and I give up trying to confince him of my side so we just fall back into a pattern that feels very frustrating as I want to work thru things were maybe we both need to compromise and he stays strong with his "right" way of seeing things.

Wondering if we should try couples counseling again? Maybe find a different therapist? Maybe find one with some step family experience?  I HATE couples counseling and really do not want to go back but I am currently at a loss of what else to do. We need help to be able to get thru this somehow. My DH has agreed to go back to counseling but I am the one dragging my feet now because I have hated the expereince of couples counseling so much in the past and the fact it has not helped us before. I wonder if it's worth the pain and effort. I also fear that it might not help and then what?

Have any of you had sucess with counseling? If so how did/do you find a good counselor to work with? What things should I look for in a couples counselor?

I am willing to just try counseling for myself only but I dont think that in the long run it will impact our marriage that much. I can work on me and my stuff to improve myself. but to really resolve things in a marriage doesnt it take two?  Dont we both need to go to counseling together to work thru the step family issues etc.? Doesnt it take compromise and understanding on both sides?




ITB2012's picture

What about doing separate, individual counseling? Then you don't have to sit and defend, you can say your viewpoint and get advice or challenged by a third-party.

DH and I tried couples counseling. We each went separately once and then started meeting together, and it ended up only being once. DH thought that since the counselor didn't think he had ADHD (something that had come up and OSS was diagnosed), that that meant everything was fine, he was fine, he was right, and the counselor told us just to do more fun things together. (Yet DHs list for "fun" things we were told to make by the counselor was a list of stuff to do--like we should do bills together more, woohoo.)

HangingInThere2's picture

I will definitely consider that, individual counseling might help me not feel like the sessions are just defending my feelings.

notsobad's picture

Go yourself, find out why you end up being defensive and backing down. Yes, it could be him but you are the one feeling it, so learn to understand it.

You can not change other people. You can only change yourself.

Notup4it's picture

Maybe do a combo of alone and couples?! I also would maybe tell the therapist what you are expecifng to get out of it upfront.  Like tell them “Our last therapist was a great listener but we are hoping that you can give us more suggestions, we feel that would be helpful”.   

HangingInThere2's picture

I will try together clear on expectations/hopes and present that to the counselor.

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture


Stephell isn’t worth it and you have no real kids with your DuH. Your DuH sucks and doesn’t put you first.

tog redux's picture

Yeah, couples counseling won't work if one person is completely unwilling to change and compromise.  It just ends up with that person using it as a platform to prove they are right and the other is wrong - which is the very issue bringing you into therapy in the first place.

I'd go for some individual therapy and decide how/whether you can cope with this and stay long-term.

Iamwoman's picture

Well, most already know my view of counseling: it’s a scam for the most part. There are a handful of counselors out there who not only legitimately want to help people but also have the correct functional tools to do so. The rest are just rip off artists.

disperse that handful across the country and your chances of finding a counselor who isn’t just collecting an easy paycheck are slim to none.

Between DD’s abuse at the hands of her dad, Skid’s PAS’d our for the past 8 years, my exH knocking me out, and my DH and I attempting to deal with all of this crap through “marriage counseling,” off the top of my head, I think I’ve seen the work, firsthand, of 12+ different counselors. Only one of them actually yielded any helpful results, and even that one tried to keep me as a client far longer than I needed (we know within ourselves when we are fully healed and ready to move on).

Add this statistic to the fact that your own DH, OP, doesn’t seem to want to change... it appears he wants you to do all of the changing.... and my two cents is that you’re wasting your money.

Here’s the thing: if your man doesn’t love you enough to respect you with basic, common, human decency, then he never will. You can’t force someone to love and respect you more than they already do.

If I’m wrong, and he shows you the utmost love and respect, but you two have just seemed to reach disagreement in the area of child rearing, then a good self help book may be more helpful as long as your DH reads it too (nothing will change without both parties involved in changing).

If I’m wrong about that too, and the only issue is that you need to stand up for yourself more, then you might actually be better off with a good life or career coach. These people tend to be very positive, empowered people. They will help you with your confidence. You won’t just pay $200 to sit around and mentally spiral into everything that’s wrong with your life as you would with a counselor. A life or career coach will actually help you grow as a person.

Good luck - I know this is a tough place to be in. I wasted thousands and thousands of dollars believing “counselors” could actually help, and in the end, feeling as if I just vomited money to scam artists... and I’m referring to “highly reputable” people here. I suppose the desire to feel as if we haven’t wasted our time/money/effort can lead some to believe their counselor is helping, but I prefer to live in reality. 

HangingInThere2's picture

I appreciate your directness. I agree don’t want to waste time or money. It is a tough decision to know if and when you should get help and if it’s worrth the investment of money, emotions, energy, time.

still learning's picture

Couples counseling can be useless if one of the parties really doesn't want to change and it sounds like that's where your husband is at.  ExH and I went to two sessions where he sat with his arms folded and didn't speak the entire time.  At least the counselor could see who was the majority of the problem!  

DH and I had major issues with adult skids, particurarly ss33 in the beginning of our relationship. ss just about tore us apart, we were at an impasse where it was ss has got to go or I will.  At that time I asked DH to go to counseling with me and he refused so I went by myself.  Did going by myself help our dynamic? Absolutely!  I spent 6 sessions telling the therapist everything that had happened and she was horrified at the treatment I was recieving from ss and DH.  She helped me establish solid boundaries with both of them and basically disengage from ss.  

I am willing to just try counseling for myself only but I dont think that in the long run it will impact our marriage that much.

If you change the way you approach your marriage the dynamic will change.  

I can work on me and my stuff to improve myself. but to really resolve things in a marriage doesnt it take two? 

Not really.  Youre already in a one way relationship and DH is going to do what he's going to do regardless of how you feel about it.  It's time for you set some rules for your own life and especially how you relate to the marriage.  Wife doesn't need to mean subserviant doormat.

Dont we both need to go to counseling together to work thru the step family issues etc.?

Sounds like he thinks things are fine and there's nothing to work through.  He just wants you to see things his way and allow him to do what he wants to do.  This is where you separte yourself from his family issues and your finances from the pot.  

Doesnt it take compromise and understanding on both sides? 

That's the ideal right?  If your DH was able to do this he would probably still have an intact first family.  

HangingInThere2's picture

Very accurate and helpful input.

I think just like you discovered if I can establish some solid boundaries and better practice disengagement it might be a huge help. I have tried establishing some boundaries but they have been weak and I still haven’t figured out how to truly disengage from their treatment of me.

Like you pointed out I do think I need to separate myself from the family issues. Need help to learn how to do that.


marblefawn's picture

We had some luck with it. We chose both counselors because my husband had already seen both years before for problems with his first marriage, childhood trauma and depression.

One was as you described -- he listened, didn't offer much. The other was OK, but could be a little aggressive. We didn't fix our marriage, but we got direction on exactly what to do when conflict happened.

Here are some suggestions based on what you wrote.

If you feel yourself shutting down in a session, tell the therapist you're shutting down. This might be helpful info for her to understand your dynamic. If nothing else, that means the therapist has to intervene sooner to take a break, offer feedback or change whatever is happening that's making one of her clients shut down before her eyes -- her goal is to keep both of you from shutting down so progress doesn't stop.

If you feel you're back in the pattern of you two just talking and talking with nothing coming back from the therapist, SAY THAT! Stop talking, look right at her and say, "Here we are again. Now what?" If she's not giving you what you need, ASK FOR IT. There are lazy therapists, distracted therapists, and maybe some feel you two arguing in front of them has some weird therapeutic benefit to you. You know it doesn't. The next time you feel stuck in the gripe cycle, direct your attention to the therapist and ask her, "Now what? This is exactly how we fight at home. How do we stop the cycle?"

You'll be starting with a new therapist. That's a good time to tell the new one EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED FROM HER, just like telling a hair stylist what you want. Tell her you've been unsuccessful before because the therapist did not give you enough feedback. Tell her you want practical tools, not theories, to help you two keep out of the patterns you mentioned. Tell her you already communicate, but you don't progress beyond the same themes. Ask how you get past airing your complaints to resolving.

Before you go, discuss with your husband what you both think the problems are. Pick one or two to focus on with the therapist at first. Agree on solid examples of how each problem played out between you so the therapist can get a feeling of what she would have seen and heard if she'd been there with you when it happened. Agree with your husband, as much as possible, on how you'll present the examples and the language that you agree fairly describes it. (And here's why you give the therapist examples...) And then you ask the therapist exactly what you both could/should have done differently in the example you described. Ask her to pick it apart and say where you went wrong. This should help you get more direct feedback from the therapist and it will give you really practical tools to apply to the stuff that you repeatedly argue about because you KNOW it will come up again.

For example, my husband and I agreed SD was a problem in the marriage. We told the therapist that and then gave her specific examples of times when SD caused a fight between my husband and me.

The example we gave once was that when we watch movies, SD draped herself over my husband on the sofa and I sit on the floor with the dog. I told the therapist, "It makes me feel weird -- like I'm the child and she's the wife." My husband said, "That's ridiculous. She's my daughter, not my wife. Why would you think such a disgusting thing?" This is where the therapist should intervene, right? Because there's a deep divide here that needs to be navigated and interpretted by a third party. If you therapist doesn't offer anything at this point, YOU ASK.

In our example, the therapist said to my husband, "SD is not a child; she's 25. You are married. You are physically putting SD in the literal position of a wife. That's mixed messaging to a SD already struggling with territory issues because you treated her like a wife for 10 years and now you have, well, an actual wife and she is competing with your new wife. Set clear boundaries for SD, physical and otherwise: SD needs to sit in a chair. You need to sit next to your wife on the sofa. This shows SD the new pecking order. If SD is already on the sofa when you get to the room, YOU sit on a chair. You do not give SD any space to drape herself on you and that begins to break the physical territory issues. The emotional ones will follow."

You see? The therapist addressed the why (you treated SD like a wife for so long and now she's confused and competing with your wife), but also exactly how we should address the problem from now on (don't sit where she can "mark you;" show her you're paired with your wife by making a point to sit next to your wife). (Yes, my husband needed that kind of literal direction to break his kid's hold on him.)

If you give the therapist an example, you can get more concrete answers, I think. (I interview a lot of people for work, and this is one of my tricks when I need better explanations. If you still get nothing back, time to reconsider the therapist.)

Counseling didn't fix our marriage. Counseling just gave us a few tools to get through the rough patches. Don't expect too much from it, but I think you should come out of a session feeling like you have something new to try when things get ugly. Make that your goal: if you get to the end of a session and all you did was gripe back and forth, ask the therapist for something solid to try over the next week. Don't let them get away without giving you something for your money. You can argue at home for free.



HangingInThere2's picture

Your input was very helpful for me to figure out an approach if I’m going to counseling. These are are some thoughts I will use and put into practice. Picking a focus of one or two issues at a time would help keep the session focused. I am now going to start thinking of examples so I can be prepared to give some context to the therapist of times when it’s just been “weird”.

I hope I can find a counselor that is helpful with directness and input as you found if not like you said ASK. You gave me some tools how to approach and how to adress the counselor in our sessions, helps me a lot! I in the past usually just let them lead the conversation but maybe I need to be more direct and ask for help, tools, concrete resolutions.

Thank you, this was extremely helpful input!

marblefawn's picture

I'm so glad it's helpful!

Yea, feeling "weird" about a situation is a legitimate reason to discuss it, even if you can't quite find the words to explain why something weirds you out. I was sort of ashamed that I thought my husband's relationship with his daughter had a sexual undertone, but I had to bring it up because there was either something wrong with them for acting that way or something wrong with me for seeing it that way!

Therapy is so awkward for most people, it takes a long time to figure out how to make the most of it. I so hated going (it was so $$$ --- all that money wasted because we can't get along???) so I wanted to maximize the cost benefit and shorten the duration!

And for us, there was only one big problem we had to negotiate with a therapist, so we could at least limit the scope. I told my husband, "We're paying a fortune for this. If you want to fight, let's do it before we get there so we save money!!!" I'm joking, but be mindful of constructive therapy time versus just repeating what you'd say to each other at home. You have to give a therapist a taste of how you fight and of the issues, but be concise or you're just running the clock and paying off the therapist's Mercedes!

Good luck! I hope it works for you.