My husband won’t join me in couples counseling

Send your own relationship questions to [email protected]

Hi Meredith,

I've been with my husband since I was 19 and this is the only real relationship I've ever had. As I've gotten older (I'm 35 now) and learned more about myself and healthy relationships, I realize that my marriage is not. I have tried to talk about this with my husband and asked him to come to couples therapy with me. At first he said that I should go because the problem is me and my communication. So I went and I found it helpful, and I learned some new ways to communicate ... like "please don't shout at me" and "I need to take a break from this conversation; we can continue it later." Now my husband says I'm manipulative, controlling, responsible for all his insecurities, and the negative voice in his head. What a burden to place on me! He still won't come to therapy with me.

Also, in December, I met someone. He has a serious girlfriend and I'm married so it's not ideal and I don't feel good about myself. This guy and I message all the time. We met up once in January and we did kiss (it was amazing) but because of our distance, lockdown, his being an essential worker, and the fact that I have children, we haven't been able to get together again. We were going to go to a hotel for a night, and this is something I thought we both wanted, but the other day he said he can't because he will feel too guilty and I agree with him. Guilt is a killer.

I was all ready to walk away and not speak to him again, but he said we are friends, and now we've been chatting all day as usual. I get the feeling he wants to have his cake and eat it too – with me and the girlfriend. I know it's wrong, but I'm hoping because of what I've said about my husband you can understand why this happened. I know this thing with the other guy is a symptom of the unhappiness in my marriage, which needs addressing. But with my husband's refusal to engage in any kind of therapy (I've suggested some online workshops, workbooks, you name it) I'm not sure I can live my life unhappy when this other guy has opened my eyes to how good things can be. But I have two children and I would have to live with myself for breaking their hearts. (This is longer than I expected! I clearly needed to offload!)

– Burdened


"I know this thing with the other guy is a symptom of the unhappiness in my marriage, which needs addressing.”

Yes. That's it.

Much of your letter is about another man, a person with a girlfriend, but he's not your real problem. You need to figure out what to do about your marriage, sooner than later.

You say you're stuck because your husband won't participate in any kind of couples counseling (or workshops or book reading), but that doesn't mean the conversation is over. If he doesn't want to work on your big, glaring problems, there's still the option of ending the relationship and moving on. I understand that's not an easy thing to pull off, especially when you have kids and it's a pandemic, but you know this relationship isn't close to healthy. Therapy taught you how to talk about boundaries, and now that you can, your partner says you're manipulative. It's not getting any better.

Talk to your community (that therapist, family, friends) about what it would look like if you ended the marriage. Where would you live? How would you talk about this with your husband? Remember that kids tend to thrive when parents are happy. They learn lessons from grownups about what to put up with and when it's OK to walk away.

Focusing on your marriage and what comes next should keep you very busy – too busy to spend as much (or any) time on a man who has a girlfriend. Whatever happens, this other guy won't be able to help.

– Meredith

Readers? Time to move on?  Thoughts on getting over the distraction?