My husband has a male-ady. I call it MRC, Men’s Resistance to Counseling. Imagine a dog as it begs away from the bath, the leash straining as he pulls from suds and finishing fluff. Getting a man into counseling is no easy feat. Women talk about their problems to connect, but men see this type of discussion as threatening. They feel that by admitting they have a problem, they are confessing weakness. And so every time I brought up marital counseling, my husband cited cost as the deterrent. Then he upped the ante; he called the shrink a quack. He even tried forgetting about appointments and playing sick.
But we had issues: in-law influences, hurt feelings, an inability to compromise, and not wanting to be on either one’s page when it came to raising our three young daughters. I longed for someone to sit with me on my side of the seesaw.
I don’t remember how I got the names. Our first stop was to a woman with a great reputation for settling marriage mayhem. She leaned forward in her plush chair in her Manhattan prewar apartment, pushed her sleek blond hair back, and looked at me as if I were a fool. I didn’t absorb her messages right away, and my husband was unwilling to pay the high fees without quick rewards.
Months later, trouble took us to an expert with whom we had two things in common —he was Orthodox Jewish and living in Brooklyn. A friend suggested him, thinking that my husband would hear this male authoritative voice. But he was too serious for me. This time I felt squeamish.
We went back into the city to someone our rabbi suggested, but this liberal-minded, frizzy-haired woman was not the type my husband would ever respect. He boomed, “She gives us no practical solutions!” I suspected he did not like her because she was completely on my side, a playground pal at last!
A well-respected lady in our neighborhood was our next stop. The only pleasantries of those meetings were the pastel-colored walls, the inspirational plaques and the pretty coffee-table books. There was a small, bright blue, smushy ball available to squash when one really wanted to crush one’s mate. The plants were well-watered and healthy, and it seemed that we too would flourish there. However, after many sessions, this keen woman shook her head and with a tight breath, puffed out the word divorce. Then she gave us the number of someone else as a last resort.
The progress we made with this next therapist was palpable. I compare his work to that of a Feng Shui decorator who rearranges furniture to create a flow. My husband and I both responded to this counselor’s understanding, wisdom, tact and, perhaps, his male authority. He enlightened us, convinced us to behave, and continues to work with us till this day.
I take some credit as well. I learned that this 45-minute session is not my opportunity to gang up on my husband. I try not to cut him off and even toss him a compliment here and there. I even sit some sessions out, allowing the time to be just for him. These separate appointments seem to work best. Now my husband goes willingly to his sessions. Gone is the testosterone toughness and ignorant dismissal of a personal, psychological education. He knows that from this discussion, he learns, grows, and gives his family a gift far greater than a flat-screen TV or a fancy vacation. He realizes that he can listen to a professional and still call himself male.
This in itself has been excellent for us. In my eyes, there is no more respectable and macho thing than a guy who does battle with problems, especially when it involves subjugating his own pride. I appreciate it and find it extremely attractive.
And thanks to our latest therapist, we are still married.