What If My Spouse isn’t Interested
Creating a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner
In the last installment of our e-course What If My Spouse isn’t Interested- 6 Things You Can Do to Create a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner, you learned the importance of keeping the goal in mind. In this installment of “6 Things You Can to to Create a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner”, we will discuss the 6th thing you can do to create a happy marriage with an unwilling partner – understanding the fear/shame continuum.
Step 6 The Fear/Shame Continuum
A few years ago I received a call from a woman who was interested in couples counseling. There was one problem: her husband refused to come to counseling. I gave her some pointers about how to help her husband become more amenable to coming to counseling (Click here to read about
How to Communicate with Your Spouse about Going to Marriage Counseling
I recommended our Getting the Love You Want marriage workshop to a couple so they could start learning the Imago communication method and communicate productively without letting it turn into a fight. A year later she called me and told me that although the book was helpful, he was still disinterested, and she was fed up. I stressed to her that until her husband was ready, her only solution was to look at what she was bringing to the relationship and how she could be the best spouse she could be.
The Magic Book-the secret to a Happy Marriage I also recommended a book entitled How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Drs Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. While it seems this book would put me out of business, as much of what I do is teach couples how to talk about issues in a way that brings them to a closer connection for a happy marriage, I thought this book would provide her with some insight into her relationship and help it improve given their inability to come to my office.
I was shocked when she called me a few weeks later and told me her that her marriage had drastically improved. While they were still not ready for counseling, her marriage went from an intolerable marriage to a happy marriage almost overnight. What great secret did this book reveal about how to create a happy marriage?
One of the main contributions of the book is the theory that couples disconnect due to fear and shame. An example, men and women fear homelessness equally, though in different ways. If you were to ask a woman, her main fears would be harm, isolation, and deprivation. Most men would say that the most difficult part would be feeling like a failure. While safety may be an issue for men, the utter shame of being on the street, unemployed, etc… is the primary concern.
Becoming Conscious of Each Other’s Triggers-another secret towards creating a happy marriage
This gender distinction is key to establishing and maintaining connection in marriages. Men must be conscious not to trigger their wives’ fears and women must be conscious not to shame their husbands. This comes up quite often around career. If a man is struggling to find a career path, is dissatisfied at work, or even unemployed, this can be very scary for women who are relying on their husband to support. At the same time it can be a shameful experience for men in that position. I have heard numerous stories from couples where male shame is exacerbated by female fear around employment issues and vice versa. In fact, fear and shame become a cycle where her anxiety causes his shame and his shame causes her anxiety. The only way to break this vicious cycle is to be attentive to each other’s vulnerability.
The Perceived Dangers of Talking
Another classic example of a potentially shame producing setting is talking about the relationship. While many women feel that talking helps them feel better, men dread it. This is why many men do not want to come for marriage counseling. They aren’t “good at” expressing their emotions and talking about their feelings. Therefore, a counseling setting can be a shaming experience for a man, turning a seemingly benign encounter into yet another opportunity to fail (in his eyes). However, talking about relationship problems is necessary and inevitable if you want to improve your marriage.
When couples come to see me, I often remind them to avoid blaming language in sessions. I will tell the “blaming” spouse- he really wants to hear what you have to say and understand you so that you can improve your connection. He is going to have a hard time if he feels he is being accused or criticized and will feel even more disconnected. Try sharing your feelings in a way where you take ownership. How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It gives countless examples of ways in which both men and women cause more disconnect in their relationship. The authors also provide many suggestions for relating in a way that promotes connection and how to create a happy marriage, but I wouldn’t want to spoil How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It for you by revealing them all.
Summary of what you learned in Lesson 6
- The vicious cycle of the fear/shame continuum
- Become conscious of your spouse’s triggers and stop the cycle
- Talking can be difficult for men and exacerbate conflict
I hope you enjoyed the e-course- What If My Spouse isn’t Interested- 6 Things You Can Do to Create a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner. You no longer need to suffer, even if your spouse won’t join you. Master these six things immediately and begin to enjoy your happy marriage as you deserve. Please e-mail me and let me know how it is working for you. I would love to post your success stories on my website! If you found something difficult, your comments are important to improve this course so that other people can be helped to create their own happy marriage.
Contact us using the form below or schedule a free 30 minute clarity call with Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin here.