#1) Don’t even THINK this thought:
It is very tempting to think, “if he loved me, he’d see a marriage counselor with me” but just don’t even entertain this thought. Think of something that you absolutely do not like doing—mine is scrubbing the toilet? Pick your least favorite thing to do and pretend that your husband said to you, “if you loved me, you’d scrub our toilet every single day.” Ridiculous, I know but now think about how you’d feel doing your least favorite thing if he said this to you. Now, think about doing it because you’ve CHOSEN to do it–because you are thinking that if it doesn’t get done, germs could overtake your bathroom. It does not mean you will enjoy scrubbing the toilet, but it is a totally different experience. This is a very subtle difference but it can change everything. I think we can all agree that the outcome of marriage counseling would be much better if your husband isn’t participating in it because he feels he’s backed into a corner and doesn’t have a choice.
#2) Drop the ‘manual’ you have for him
We all have ‘manuals’ for how everyone we interact with should behave. Think of this as an instruction booklet or simply our set of expectations we have of other people. We have them for our friends, our parents, our children and oh, boy do we have one big one for our husbands! Most of the time, we don’t even share this with our spouses–they should just automatically ‘know’ and anticipate our needs, right? Not so–even if we were to sit down and create a list of our needs and give it to our spouse so that he can and try to meet them, this will be a total no-win game destined for failure. Let me let you in on something–we are totally responsible for meeting our own needs and as soon as we depend on the behavior of others to feel good and be happy, we will suffer. Dropping the ‘manual’ for your husband means simply that we stop making his actions determine our feelings. You can still make requests of him if you want to, but just notice what happens when you make a request of him and don’t get upset or hurt if he doesn’t follow your request.
#3) Work on YOURSELF I coerced my husband into marriage counseling to fix our problems on several occasions during our 25 year marriage. In the very few sessions where we got past sharing our side of the story (me trying to prove that I was right/he was wrong and him explaining why he was right and I was wrong) and we actually worked out a ‘solution’ to the problem at hand, I went home hopeful. I went home thinking “we have finally SOLVED our problem!” only to have everything go back to “normal” when we fell into our typical patterns a few days later. This is why I want you to know that the BEST way to improve your marriage is to work on yourself and how you view the relationship with your husband.