I Tried Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling is for couples who have trouble communicating or connecting emotionally. Abuse is NOT a communication failure or the lack of connection.After telling my awesome counselor that I would be willing to go to marriage counseling for abusive relationships, she recommended a woman nearby. I took the information to my husband, and he agreed to attend.

Will and I set up some ground rules for the counseling, such as not berating one another for what we did or didn’t say to the therapist on the ride home. There weren’t many “rules”, but the few we had helped me to feel more secure.

What I Hoped to Accomplish

I hoped that one more try at counseling would open my husband’s eyes to the abuse in our relationship. I wanted my marriage to work. It was becoming more and more obvious that we weren’t going to be able to solve our problems without outside help.

Results

We attended only a few times, and you could read about a different session here if you like. The first time, we talked about the three cats I’d adopted while he was deployed. He said that I took them in to spite him; he thought I purposefully disrespected his wishes.

I spent the whole hour discussing the cats and all the measures I’d already taken to ensure they were as little trouble as possible. I felt as if I had to defend myself unduly, but I went along. It turned out that the therapist also had a dislike for cats, and I think that colored her perspective just a smidgen.

In between the second session and the last, I talked to my therapist about how it went. My therapist asked if the abuse was mentioned, and I tearfully said, “No! We spent the whole time talking about the stupid cats!” My therapist recommended that I open with the abuse and skip the cats during the next session.

We went back to marriage counseling the final time. Our therapist asked how the situation with the cats was progressing, but I said, “I’d rather talk about the abuse and violence in my home than the three cats.”

We did. I ended up telling Will that if he put his hands on me one more time, that would be the end of our marriage. He agreed that was fair; he said, in front of the therapist, that he should never have done that kind of thing anyway.

Two or three days later, he put his hands on me for the last time. I left him. There were no more marriage counseling sessions.

Recommendations

Don’t bother unless your abuser says they want to change and goes to individual counseling for some time before you two go to marriage counseling.

I feel that setting that strong boundary in therapy challenged my husband. He wanted to see if I meant it or not. I think he planned the physical violence to some degree. His voice mails the day I left said that he was waiting for me to leave and couldn’t be happier.

Marriage counseling is designed for couples who have a failure in communication or emotional connection. Abuse is NOT a communication failure, nor is it lacking an emotional connection. Abuse twists up love into an unrecognizable mass that both people mistakenly still call love. Abuse is not love, and abuse does not allow a relationship to heal.

Until the abuser seeks personal change, don’t waste your emotional energy, time or money on marriage counseling.

Read Why We Don”t Recommend Marriage Counseling For Abusive Relationships at the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

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Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott says:

    How right you are that marriage counseling with an abuser is a waste of time an energy. I also tried it with my abusive husband. Unfortunately, I wasted 6 months of our time and money. All that I got out of it was stronger verbal abuse – he learned what things hurt me, and did them with more vigor. I wish the counselor had been more aware and stopped it before we even started it. Or, I had known more about domestic violence, and known that 20 states actually forbid joint counseling for relationships where there is domestic violence.

  2. Beverly Diehl says:

    Excellent post, and good for you for leaving your husband as promised.

    For myself, there wasn’t much physical violence, simply continued verbal and emotional abuse. And NO counseling (for him, though mine helped me greatly).

    Would like to invite you, and any of your readers, to guest post on my blog in October. FMI here: http://bit.ly/TiEL6q

  3. Counseling sessions with an abuser are “fishing expeditions” for him to learn your weaknesses and use them *against* you. Don’t do it!

    • You are absolutely correct, celestebella. The openness therapy requires forces you to give up too much personal thoughts. Untrained therapists who do not recognize the signs of abuse can inadvertently re-victimize the victim and empower the abuser to abuse more harshly.

  4. Verbal and emotional abuse has been the problem in my marriage. 28 yrs but got much worse as time went on. I only recently found out this was considered verbal abuse. Very subtle and not all the time. After a year of individual then marriage counseling, he improved a lot but still reacts in stressful situations. I swore I’d leave if he did not stop. This,week, a complete verbal abuse in front of my daughter. I told him his behavior was dispickable and embarresing. He has apologized 3 times, but I still can’t get over the incident. I think I need ground rules if it happens 1 more time I’m walking. A real shame. I need to just be strong and realize I can survive by myself. I’m not that young (56) which makes it even harder.

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