More men are seeking therapy than ever before, but there still seems to be a long way to go before our society fully appreciates the benefits of psychology to health, success and happiness. Many men don’t see the point of therapy, especially if they have tried to improve their relationships themselves and haven’t got very far. Often couples try the same tactics and get the same results. They need someone outside the relationship to suggest different ways of trying to solve issues. And it is natural to be somewhat skeptical and hesitant about such a personal and confronting service.
With couples therapy, the reason for coming and who initiates it will determine your initial attitude to therapy. Have you been pushed into it? Is this a last-ditch effort? Have you been given an ultimatum? Or are you just motivated to learn? Unfortunately some men are not open to the experience of therapy as a potentially helpful process, and precious time can be taken addressing his resistance.
Regardless of the initial reason, you need to consider whether you are really ready to give therapy a chance, or whether you have already made up your mind either about the situation and that therapy won’t work. It is normal to be wary and cautious when trying something new, but are you open to change, even if you say you want it?
It usually takes both people to create a big problem in a relationship, and it takes both to solve it together. People usually put up defences when confronted about the part they play in the problem. Hopefully you won’t be as defensive with your therapist as you may be with your partner. You need to trust the therapy process and try to own your part of the problem. A good therapist does not take sides, he or she just wants both people to be happy and to learn and develop. You may not have realised you were part of the problem until you come to therapy, so this can be confronting and also an important step towards positive change. Because there are at least two sides to a story, you will get to tell yours. So it’s worth making sure your story is clear and you have examples. Remembering how you both argue will help the therapist understand the problem better.
Some men prefer to avoid their emotions and get on with solving issues. But you can’t solve relationship issues properly without emotion. It is a very different problem to an engineering issues or a medical one, or an I.T. problem. Try to identify and express your feelings in the therapy room, and focus on expressing your experience rather than talk about your partner the whole time. At first expressing the ‘intangibles’ might feel like you are learning a new language from another planet. This is really the only way to create a stronger connection between two people. And you can ask the therapist and your partner to go at a pace that is comfortable for you to learn. That means asking for patience while you learn if you need to go slower than your partner.
You will feel worse before you feel better. Try not to QUIT therapy just because it becomes uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be. Let the therapist know what is uncomfortable, and what you need from the process. It is confronting because you are asked to be as honest and open as possible, and try not to run away even though you might get the urge to.
A therapist is like an umpire, a coach and a tribunal judge all in one. It’s important to be honest rather than just try to win. You need to admit mistakes and misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Sure, you are allowed to say when you think your partner is wrong, but have some examples or evidence to back up your argument.
You may end up resolving things, or not. You will have more awareness of yourself and your partner. You may always see things differently to each other, and an acceptance of this can prevent further conflict from happening. You will be guided to find your own choices, because ultimately only you know what’s best for you. And therapy is not for everyone, but many people can benefit from it.