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My Husband Refuses to Go to Marriage Counseling

What can I do if he won't work on our problems?
My Husband Refuses to Go to Marriage Counseling

My husband and I have been together for 13 years and have two daughters. We argue a lot and spend the rest of the time not talking to each other. I want to go to counseling, but he says he doesn't believe in it because it's "not biblical." I don't know what I can do if he won't work on our problems. Help!

I appreciate your question. And I must confess it saddens me, as a Christian counselor, that your husband would spiritualize his resistance to counsel. I don't know how he supports his stance—the Bible is full of encouragement to seek wise counsel (Proverbs 12:15, 13:10, 15:22, and 19:20, for starters). But it sounds as though you won't get far by trying to prove him wrong.

What matters is that your marriage gets the help it needs, whether it's in a counselor's office or elsewhere. For example, one way to find good counsel is through a small group of other couples. When my husband and I wrote our book Love Talk, about communication in marriage, we also developed a fun and nonthreatening DVD kit for couples to watch together in a small group for six sessions. Other products exist in the same format, and we've received countless e-mails from wives who found this was an easy way to get their husbands talking. Perhaps your husband would do something like this since it's not "counseling."

Another option to consider is a "marriage mentor" couple. Your husband would be hard pressed to claim mentoring isn't biblical. There are dozens of mentoring relationships throughout the Old and New Testaments. The idea is to find a more seasoned couple you both respect who would be willing to meet with you and allow you to learn from their relationship. Many churches have a marriage-mentor ministry.

One more option is to attend a church-sponsored marriage seminar together. Many couples find a day together in a seminar that focuses on them is just the ticket for tuning up their communication. At the very least, a marriage seminar can be a catalyst to seek further help through reading a Christian marriage book together.

Secret Crush

It's hard for me to believe, but I'm struggling with a crush on a man in my church! We're both married and have kids, but we met via the hospitality committee last year and really clicked. We often find other ways to serve together—whether it's setting up chairs before Sunday school or serving beverages at a potluck. I don't think we've crossed a line, but I know I think about him way too much. What should I do?

The fact you're surprised to find yourself struggling with a "crush," as you put it, tells me you haven't been on the prowl for such a relationship and, in your heart of hearts, don't want to act upon it.

That you're wondering How can I even think about another man? is also a good sign. I've worked with other married women in your position who instead were asking, "Is it really so terrible to daydream about another man?" But an "innocent" crush can quickly wreak havoc on a person's life—not to mention her family.

Still, there's something in your letter that gives me serious concern. It's the fact that over time you've both found ways to be together. This is how a well-intentioned person can become relationally reckless.

Let me step back a moment and discuss two aspects of marriage—constraint and dedication. Your commitment to your husband involves constraint. And this constraint engenders feelings of obligation. It keeps you faithful, not because your heart is always in it, but because you made a promise. Your commitment to your husband also involves dedication. This is what engenders enthusiasm, which translates into active devotion. It's this part of a person's commitment that prevents her from making a terrible mistake.

My advice is to lean into your dedication to your husband. Cultivate it. Renew it. Dwell on your shared memories and explore your dreams for the future.

And let me give you some practical advice on how to quell the crush. To begin with, talk about your husband whenever this man's around. Talk about what you admire or appreciate in your husband. Let this other man know how dedicated you are to your husband.

In addition, set boundaries. This might be difficult because it may mean giving up involvement in a group or committee in which you're invested. If you feel you don't have the inner strength to do this, enlist the support of a trusted friend. Disclosure of your secret feelings to a confidante can go a long way in disarming their power. But never confide your feelings to the person to whom you're attracted. This has the potential to fuel the flame.

Finally, when you feel the overwhelming pull to escape into thoughts about the other man, picture that man interacting with his wife and children. Consider the destruction an affair would cause your loved ones. Focusing on negative consequences will refuel your energy for the struggle. As you refocus your attention and dedication onto your husband, bathe the process in honest prayers. God promises to provide us a way out even when we're faced with the strongest temptations.

Leslie Parrott, Ed.D. is co-founder (with her husband, Les) of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University and the author of several books, including Love Talk (Zondervan). Have a relationship question for Leslie? Check out her website at www.realrelationships.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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