The Value Of Couples Counseling In A Sexless Marriage.

A year and a half of couples counseling provided no magical bullet solution, no revelation from the good doctor that cured our problems, or that made either of us see the errors of our ways.

What it did do, was provide a weekly, mandated, difficult discussion of the worst, most difficult and terrifying topics. It wasn’t what we resolved out of those topics that provided the benefit; it was the discipline and rigorous focused attention of the discussion itself, the process of authentically revealing, challenging, and calling bullshit as needed, week in and week out.

It took us a year and a half to get to the point where we could give up the need to talk “safely” (ie, without fear of consequence or reciprocity for our intentions or actions from the other), and instead develop the courage to be authentic with each other about what we wanted, and how much it really meant to us and what we were prepared to do or give up to get it. 
Couples counseling won’t give you an answer, won’t prove you right and your spouse wrong. It will give you a process and discipline. It will exercise your communicative muscles, until the two of you are able to understand each other, and see if you can accommodate each other’s needs. It will happen gradually.
Once you get to that place, you will then get to the root of why your sexless spouse feels trapped in the relationship. Only then will your spouse reveal why they are unsatisfied with the relationship and their lives. At that point, you can begin the negotiations. You are both finally at the table and you are both being the real "you", rather than self-censoring your needs before they are articulated.
Apocrypha Apocrypha
14 Responses Jan 11, 2012

Will be seeing the marriage counselor this weekend. Lots to talk about. Yikes.

counseling helped me..but i worked very hard to understand the situation..understand the spouse and understand i think you get out of it what you put into it..<br />
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The not going to solve your problems....but will present sugestions to make you think about why you do and act the way you do..and forces you to reconsider the way you deal with problems..or not deal with you communicate verbally and silently, with your attitude and body found counseling to be valuable..It also can help you see yourself and your spouse more clearly.<br />
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.The way you and your spouse deal with the counseling..the willingness or unwillingness to participate and cooperate... the honesty or lack of it during the sessions..says a lot..about you , the spouse, and the reason why the marriage is the way it is.

"I had no right to sex with my wife"--------You don't, really"<br />
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I agree - I just phrased it like that for brevity. As you say though, it is reasonable to expect sex with your wife, especially when she is as keen on a sexual relationship as you are, but is witholding for a bizarre reason, which I hoped would be at least addressed by counselling. It wasn't. It appeared to me that counselling assumes that no matter who is doing or not doing something, it's the mans fault. There's an old counselling joke "If a man won't have sex with his wife.......he's a b******. If a woman won't have sex with her's BECAUSE he's a b******!. There always seems to be an assumption on female messageboards and from agony aunts that women ARE entitled to sex with their husbands. I wonder if my therapist's attitude would have been the same if it was ME refusing?

In my case, the most acute period of celibacy occurred when I was unemployed, and then after I got a job - but while my wife was working only part time - first 4 days and then 3 days a week. Certainly when I was unemployed, I was handling virtually all the housework, kids and cooking. So, when those areas were explored, the question of "time" really wasn't a place she could stand on --though she tried. I did not ever get a sense that I was being blamed by the counsellor.

..... or in my case, couples counselling is used to belittle me and tell me that I am not doing enough laundry until the therapist gets bored and has to kill the last 5 minutes of our session by asking: "So, let us talk about intimacy..." and then my refuser-wife refuses to discuss intimacy and refuses to schedule the next session. <br />
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It took me nearly a year after that to recognize that my wife does not love me.

Well, without two partners parked in seats, there is no couples counselling to be had.

Indeed but there is a lesson to be learned: I was blackmailed under the supervision of a professional therapist who let it happen and collected our money and fed my false hope. I could not see that when I was in the situation and that is unfair. So, therapy can also be used to manipulate.

After almost 12 years of no sex, I finally got my wife to agree that it wasn't right for things to be this way between us, and reluctantly she agreed that we should see a therapist. I thought "great, an impartial counsellor will see someone refusing sex with their spouse, find out the cause, and try to fix the problem.<br />
Ha -Ha! Virtually the whole year we spent seeing this therapist was devoted to "re-educating" me to accept that I had no right to sex with my wife; my wife didn't have to have sex with me; and wasn't I ashamed of myself for putting my wife through all this stress?! Week after week I thought "there's a point to all this. She'll get round to the problem in time" but no, it didn't happen. Even my wife, who was quite happy with sitting there week after week while I was torn to shreds, asked if there wasn't anything the counsellor wanted to ask her? You might think I should have changed counsellor. Perhaps, but she was a well-known and highly respected therapist, so, I assumed that there was a purpose behind it. Also, I'm not sure that another counsellor would have been any different. Since reading forums like this I've seen lots of examples of counsellors telling men "Your wife doesn't want sex with you - live with it". I will certainly never go near any form of counselling again. Even if my counsellor had been wholly sympathetic to me, both parties have to want a resolution - and my wife never had any intention of changing or allowing anything to change. All this happened 7 years ago. Nothing since then..............

" I had no right to sex with my wife"
You don't, really. Though you may have a reasonable expectation of sex with your wife - you can't legislate desire. Perhaps there is a nuanced point - but nobody is *entitled* to sex, likely, unless you have paid for it. Sexual expression is given freely - a matter of choice. I have been down the path of scheduling "entitlement" sessions with a partner who wasn't really into it, and it was worse than doing without.

I asked my wife if she wanted to get a counselor. She didn't want a counselor and she didn't want to put out. She said if she wanted sex she would ask for it and she was a counselor, didn't think they did much good. Knowing her I pretty much apt to agree. I got a **** buddy and things have been better the last four years. Does she know. Hell No, but she reads a lot.

Somcock, nobody WANTS to get a counsellor. What happens is, one person says we NEED help, and books the appointment, and informs the partner of when and where. THAT signals the importance of trying to get help to achieve intimacy within the marriage. Your wife is missing a very important piece of information about her marriage to you --something that might have been a game changer, if you'd chosen to share it with her. And again, the point of the story, is the counsellor is should be there to give you the space to do your OWN good. You might think the two of you can do this on your own, but how's that worked for you so far? What's going to happen when she finds out about your friend?

She said when she wanted sex she would let me know. She hasn't said anything yet. Woman have a tendancy to use sex as a weapon. I don't like confrontation, but I do enjoy sex a lot which I get from my fuckbudy as often as I want it, how I want it. Did I tell you I have been married 42 years. I'm sure your amused thinking older men don't need sex. Actually it isn't unusual for my friend and I to have sex 4-5 times a day when I see her and she is 58, I'm 60. The wife is 61. All of us are still is great shape. The FB loves oral and the wife hasn't gone oral in 7 years. Wifes need to wake up to the needs of husbands. I know this is a common complaint because I hear it all the time. Older women that want **** and most of them no longer give head. If my wife finds out I hope she is ready to join in or get out.

What a profound post! I have been questioning counseling lately, you know, weighing options... If all I get from counseling is better communication, and disciplined listening I'm willing to pay double. What a valuable life lesson! Thanks

Unless the counsellor is a complete dud, there is always value in such a process. <br />
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During my time at individual (and joint counselling) I can't remember even one session where I didn't come away without something to think about. Mind you, she was a brilliant counsellor IMO.<br />
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I think the real problem is people going to a counsellor with a desired outcome in mind (to "fix" the spouse / to save the marriage) which may simply not be possible. A counsellor is a mediator, not a ******* magician.<br />
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Tread your own path.

"Courage to be authentic with each other about what we wanted" --- We never lacked that. She always had the courage to tell me when she wanted to be left alone in bed, which was often. Now I have the same courage, and I don't want anything from her either. We have always been great communicators, so the intractability of our sex life was very clear early on. In addition, I rationally buy what she is saying: I should not need to hump her or anyone twice a week. So I don't miss (partnered) sex any more, and I have no expectations. I just have a vestigial emotional pain left, like in an amputated phantom limb.

See, when I went, I was expecting our counsellor to be like Dr Phil. Specifically, I thought he would tear my partner a new one, and that the value would come when she realized, from a dispassionate professional third party expert, how awful she was being, and then resolve to stop being that way. for months, I was like WTF? Where's the air support here? He barely said anything! So we had to talk. Then she revealed the affair, and I was expecting him to really bring it - for wasting months of our time. Again, nothing. No judgment. No advice really. No external solution. Not even a solution, really. Simply a process and discipline of communication and authentic ex<x>pression, over and over and over again.

A counsellor as a boxing referee? Yeah! I like it! Or is that a boxing referee as a counsellor?

Back in the day when I fought, the referee - amongst his general instructions about going to the nuetral corner etc etc - ALWAYS had the same ending instruction. "Protect yourself at all times".

I think this is an excellent post about the value of learning to communicate effectively and without fear.

Good article indeed, although I disagree that this applies to all.
For me counselling simply does not work at all. Regarding your comments, I think that we do not learn to communicate. We actually loose it, and sometimes, some people need to be "refreshed" but it is not something that we did not ever knew.

Are you always this methodical and logical? That is scary. Marriage is supposed to have emotion too.

I'm not clear your intention with the criticism. I'm writing to a purpose here - to clarify and demystify couples counselling and what happens there. I spoke about the process and the work - the emotion is what you bring through it - and is personal. I didn't think anyone would get much value from me discussing my tears and quiet resolutions, nor gale force rage. If you want something like that, ask me about my poetry. Or, maybe read this one

My apologies. You seemed too unattached in your summation. I am not a big fan of counseling, if two people aren't honest with each other in private, a stranger isn't going to able to help.

Then I failed to convey the point of the article, which was that the stranger instead required US to help, instead of providing the outside prop.

That does make sense, but didn't you fee odd airing all this out with a stranger?

You will find that in general in these kinds of discussions, I will sound unattached. That's on purpose. The traps in which we find ourselves - trapped in a sexless marriage, the illusion that we have no options, are because we are attached to our way of thinking. I could convey the roller coaster ride I've gone on - and I have with some interested parties privately, but I'm trying to impart an experience here with a practical intent - to help. As such, I want to keep this general.

Yes, for months. Maybe even the better part of the first year. It felt awkward, like having THOSE discussions in the front seat, with a stranger in the back, only occassionally interrupting to clarify, or to direct our attention to something someone said but that was missed. So often we talk in hyperbole, or metaphor and move on --he'd often make us back up and be specific and articulate what we meant. Over time, a long time, we gradually stopped relying so much on the proxies, the metaphors, the innuendo, the assumed knowledge in these discussions, which was, wherein much of the disconnect was. It always seems too pat when people say "You need good communication!" People don't necessarily know when they have good communication or ineffective communication, or how to get it. We never got an instruction lesson on how to communicate more effectively - he simply, by shining his flashlight at aspects within the mire of our discussion, compelled us to clarify or challenge ourselves to be sure we were saying what we meant.

Particularly, he compelled us to go farther than we thought. My wife had a lot of sealed arguments and scarecrows in her way of thinking about herself. "I had an affair because I was stupid." He said, correctly, "I can tell that you are not a stupid person." That people have affairs for reasons, and that stupidity is not one of them. These gentle nudges often made us look more closely at areas we'd packaged and moved on.

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An absolutely brilliant summation of the value of counselling IMO. And if your partner refuses to go to counselling, it is still well worthwhile doing it solo. Because the same things Nefandus describes above (It will give you a process and discipline. It will exercise your communicative muscles,) will work for you as an individual too.