General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Why are some (most?) men reluctant to go into couples counseling when their relationships aren't working?

Asked by wundayatta (58596points) June 18th, 2010

In the last few days and weeks, I’ve become aware of many women married to men who essentially are running away from them. It might be work or alcohol or any number of things that the men use, but they all are missing out on time with their wives and children—so much so, that their wives are getting desperate—thinking of having affairs or divorce.

I feel like I have some idea of why men run away like this. Mostly it is the usual suspects: low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy. All, of course, are related.

The best way I know of for people to start to deal with these issues is therapy. But the reports I get are either “tried that; didn’t work,” or a flat out refusal to go.

I’m looking for greater insight into why these men don’t want to go into therapy. I’m sure there’s stuff like shame and masculinity issues and mistrust of expressing their feelings or inability to express them or lack of desire to learn to deal with emotions. But I guess I have a feeling there’s more to it. Some kind of self-destructive impulse or something. Fatalism? I don’t know. Maybe it’s all that stuff and it’s as simple as that and there is no magical understanding of this problem.

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24 Answers

Facade's avatar

I think it’s a mix of ego and shame. They don’t want to feel that they are doing something so wrong that they can’t figure it out themselves. They also do not want to bring another, unrelated person into their personal issues.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

It’s for the same reason….that men do not want to ask for directions.

They feel they should know and that getting help somehow reduces their virility and is a sign of stupidity and weakness.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Men are socialized to think they need to have all the answers and that seeing a counselor is giving up their strength – they’re wrong.

mbur123's avatar

Most men (not all) are not willing to see the elephant in the room.

cookieman's avatar

@Facade nailed it – but I disagree that it is mostly men. My wife had no interest in it for those exact same reasons.

Ironically, she counsels people and refers them to psychologists professionally.

mrentropy's avatar

I can’t answer this. My wife was the one who didn’t want to go to counseling.

Aethelwine's avatar

@cprevite I agree with you and @Facade. I’m another woman that has never seen a counselor, and I have no desire to.

wundayatta's avatar

@mrentropy Do you think the reasons why women won’t go are the same as those why men won’t go?

Does this happen more often with men than women, or same rates with both?

wundayatta's avatar

@jonsblond would you see a counselor if you needed to?

Pandora's avatar

Yeah, I’m not sure its either a male or female thing as much as a pride thing and privacy issue thing. Some people are bearly comfortable enough opening up to their partner and that may be where some of the existing problems lay. Then they are asked to open up to a complete stranger and that makes it even worse in their eyes. They may also feel that some things in counseling may reveal their faults in the relationship and they do not wish to lay claim to them or that they may be asked to do somethings they are not comfortable doing or willing to do.

Jeruba's avatar

Another thought is that in any threesome there’s always a risk of ending up as two against one. If either party feels culpable, that person may expect the therapist to side with the other party and gang up on him or her.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The only person that has spoken to me about their relationship counseling is my brother. His wife asked for a divorce, and because he wanted to work through it, sought counselling. She walked out during the 1st or 2nd session, and he encouraged her to find one of her choice. Even that didn’t help, as she still walked out after a few sessions. (Maybe it has to do with her being a psychologist.) He continued with the therapy, and about 10 years later married a very nice woman.

Aethelwine's avatar

@wundayatta That’s very difficult for me to answer. How would I know when I would need to? I’ve had some moments in my life that I’m sure others would turn to a counselor if it had happened to them. I was fortunate to have worked on my problems myself, and with the support of family and friends. I think having the support of many family members and friends makes a huge difference. at least for me

Facade's avatar

@cprevite Yes, women can be this way too. But I think most men feel as though they need to fill the role of “provider” in all areas of their relationships. I kind of feel sorry for people who let their ego get in the way of getting help. (this isn’t directed at anyone here.)

mrentropy's avatar

@wundayatta I don’t know about other women. My wife didn’t want to go because she liked to keep her business private—as in, only to herself. But she had a lot of issues, I’m sorry to say.

Merriment's avatar

I think a large part of it is that some men don’t really think their relationships are that troubled. They tend to dismiss their wives complaints as pms or something along those lines.

These are the same men who are stunned when their wives up and leave them. They will tell everyone far and wide “She just left out of the blue”...even though the wife may have been expressing her dissatisfaction for decades.

I also know men who seem to think that if they can just not talk about something for long enough….it will go away. And to an extent they are correct..they just fail to see that their wives and their families may also go away. Either physically or emotionally.

plethora's avatar

@Jeruba is exactly right, and that can happen to either the man or the woman. Based on my own experience, I think there is more to it. Men are totally different animals and tend to solve the problem (whatever it might be) in their heads before they talk about it. Women tend to talk as part of the problem-solving process. So counseling is (generally) easier for a woman to negotiate.

In my own experience, I was very open to counseling, but had little idea what I was getting into. Fortunately we had good counselors. Bottom line is it did her no good and the relationship no good. But it did me a world of good.

I participated in a number of weekend sessions made up of 5–10 individuals of both genders…no couples, although most were married. The counselor was great. I, however, at the beginning, did not know how to even identify a feeling, much less talk about one. My greatest source of help was the women in the room, as I, at first, just listened to them talk. Over time, listening to the women was THE source of most of the benefit I received. I’m not sure that would have happened without the counselor (who was male) but I know for sure it would not have happened without the women.

So, to answer the question, I think most men have no idea how to talk about feelings and therefore have no idea how to even begin to negotiate the counseling process or participate in it. As a result, they are very defensive about it….all wrong, but that’s the way it is. I am just thankful that I had the opportunity to be guided by the examples of a number of women interacting right before me while at the same time not excluding me.

Iclamae's avatar

When I first read the question, I thought, “That’s not fair. I know plenty of women who are just as bad or worse and plenty of men who don’t mind working their problem out. The question sounds like a stereotype.” But after reading the comments, I can see that you’re more legitimately curious about people who hesitate on trying counseling as a whole.

These are the reasons I’ve been told by both genders for not wanting counseling, for themselves or as a couple:
~I’m not crazy, don’t need a shrink
~I don’t like having someone tell me what to do. Especially when they don’t know me
~Afraid of being ganged up on
~Don’t want to admit the problem
~Want to keep it private. Don’t want others to know there’s a problem
~Ashamed of possibly needing counseling
~Stubbornly want to solve it yourself
~Already know what they’ll say and don’t want to pay for the counselor (but then don’t act on the problem)

Personally, I’m kind of skeptical about counseling. I’ve gone to a counselor for personal advice and talking. But I think that if my boyfriend and I were fighting and arguing to the degree that would require counseling, I wouldn’t expect it to save our relationship. I kind of feel like we should be able to communicate the problems to each other well enough. We have arguments now and we talk them out. Usually there’s a misunderstanding or something that needs to be re-said and we can figure that out on our own.

I do think relationship counseling is a good thing, and if my boyfriend wanted to go, I’d oblige but I would be skeptical until I saw results or heard something I hadn’t thought of. I feel like people should be able to resolve their relationship problems on their own but after watching my parents, I understand that sometimes a third party is needed. Or time.

Edit: Also, I never know when to say “It’s a fundamental difference between us that can’t be resolved,” vs. “I’m just not saying this right. We actually agree on this. Or one of us can be persuaded.”

Nullo's avatar

A man can sort out his own problems, presumably.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Men are afraid to be seen are weak or to be vulnerable enough to express their feelings and to be open to the feelings of others. It has improved over the years but much too slowly.

Men have as much need for their feelings and have the need to express them and be empathetically heard. They need to feel safe enough to face their fears and do the work to grow personally and in their relationships.

Any men out there who want to discuss this with me privately, please see my fluther profile.

unused_bagels's avatar

I wanted counseling, but couldn’t afford it when my marriage needed it most. Fortunately, we managed to save what we had, and now that we’re in therapy, things are great. I’m not saying it was magically fixed, but I will say that once you address the elephants in the room, it’s easier to move around them or even begin pushing them out.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think there are a lot of people in this world who are consciously or unconsciously terrified of introspection. That may unearth personal culpability. Much easier to blame the other person and expect them to get themselves straightened than to acknowledge that the problem could be within me! Me have a problem, surely you jest!!!

I have not found this to be a gender specific problem, I know many females as well as males who are not interested in any sort of counseling.

zenele's avatar

Good to see you back.

I have no problem with couples therapy.

syzygy2600's avatar

My buddy Sal wouldn’t go because he works full time and his wife has no job, she cheated on him, in his words “why should I have to pay 75 bucks for someone to tell me I’m an asshole, when I’m not the one who cheated”

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