Many women write to me after they discover their husband has committed adultery. It’s overwhelming at the time because you are trying to understand why your husband had an affair, and what you should do next. Eventually, I had a game plan in my mind of what would help us get back on track. It included therapy and discussions (the two things that I now know make most men cringe), so I brought it up to my ex-husband and of course it did not go well. He didn’t think we needed therapy; he wanted us to figure this out on our own. He didn’t want to sit and talk every day and go over what happened. He wanted to move on. The problem was in my mind I needed to express myself concerning the affair and I could not talk to him directly without arguing. So while he was watching sports, acting like everything was ok, I was hurting inside, and needed to talk to my husband.
From interacting on the site, I realize that many women have husbands that are opposed to therapy. If you have a husband who is willing to go to therapy, wonderful; but if you have a cheating husband who does not want therapy, here are a couple of thoughts to consider:
- How you bring up the topic of therapy can make a ton of difference. The tone you use to bring up the topic of therapy is how your husband is going to perceive it to be. For instance, if you say, “We need to go to marriage counseling and figure out if this is going to work,” husband thinks, “You want another woman to tell you to get a divorce” – and he will not want to go to therapy. If you say, “You cheated so now we should go to therapy,” husband thinks, “This is going to be a blast session about how I cheated” – and he will not want to go. I think you get the picture. What I realized is that a man that has cheated will try to avoid the topic of what he did wrong at all costs. It is extremely uncomfortable; he considers therapy as a session to talk about something that he would rather ignore.
- Male ego – Another reason why wives find themselves with a rejected request for therapy is the male ego. Men like to feel like they are taking care of their family. That is traditionally their role within the family – make sure the kids and wife are happy and provided for. When we find out that he cheated, that role of ‘being the man and taking care of the family’ is tarnished. Some men consider a request for therapy as “you are trying to take the lead in the marriage, or give the lead role to some person who doesn’t know us.” Long story short, some men consider therapy a threat – to their power and to their manhood.
- Social viewpoint – From a society standpoint, many men consider therapy a talking session for those that have severe emotional problems. This viewpoint causes men to also feel offended when the topic of therapy comes us. He thinks, “I am not a weak person with emotional problems.” This stigma causes men to be on the defense immediately when the topic arises.
Long story short, getting to therapy as a married couple is often much harder than imagined. If I knew what I know now, I would have approached the topic much differently. I would have never talked to my ex-husband in a way that would have made him feel we were going to therapy because HE cheated (blast session). Instead, I would have talked to him more about our communication problems, and asked him what he plans to do to make it better. In that moment, a man might ask you what your thoughts are and what you can do. That is when you casually, without emotion, say, “I am not sure, we have been struggling for a while. I suggest we look into some therapists that might specialize in communication.” The key is to not mention the affair. If you mention the affair, most men will become defensive about therapy. Keep it lightweight. Also, offer other suggestions apart from ‘therapy’ so that it is not the only solution.
Some of you reading this might feel that you should not have to go through this to get your husband to agree to therapy, which is ok; I am simply sharing an alternative method that might work better. The end goal is to get in a room with someone who can help facilitate healthy dialogue. The goal of therapy is not to focus on the husband’s cheating. The purpose of a GOOD marriage therapist (not all therapists are created equal) is to strategically open up communication so that both the husband and wife get to express themselves in a manner that brings about awareness and understanding.