There’s a common pitfall many men plunge into when they go to marriage counseling.
I see many of my clients making this mistake without even knowing it. And when counseling seems to fail them, they blame the counselor or their wife.
My counselor friends tell me there’s not much they can do to help. There’s an underlying problem that keeps many men confused and frustrated.
It’s a mindset problem – an underlying attitude that nearly guarantees the counseling process will fail.
It’s a relinquishment of their leadership.
Many men just hand over their keys to the counselor. Then they sit on the couch and resign themselves to the role of a spectator and they expect the counselor take charge.
By taking a back seat they give away their power to lead, to make their own damn decisions and take their own damn actions.
Your Marriage is not a Mechanical Problem
Think of the times you’ve gone to a mechanic with your car. You describe the symptoms, the noises and the vibrations to the mechanic. He rubs his chin and says, “Well, I need to put it up on the rack and have a look.” Then you shrug your shoulders, hand him your keys and proceed to sit down to read an old issue of Golf Digest.
When he comes back he says, “Well, looks like your hydrostatic excrusion valve has failed to maintain pressure which caused your exhaust bearings to overheat.”
With a deer in the headlights look you say, “Ummm….okay, well, let’s fix that. How much do I owe you?” Then you go back to the riveting piece by Arnold Palmer about off-camber hillside chipping.
Counselors are not mechanics. They can’t tweak your “marital excrusion valve” and just fix it.
Your marriage is not a car problem. This is a driving problem. And you’re the driver.
You’re going to have to strap in, stay alert and learn how to drive this damn thing.
If you don’t you will surely hit the wall and crash.
Driving Your Marriage 101
Driving your marriage means you must know 3 things very, very clearly. These define how well you are leading yourself. They also reflect how well you are driving your marriage.
1. Who am I as a man? What are my driving values as a husband, lover and father? What do I expect of myself when nobody is watching?
2. What do I want? What are the core elements of the life I want to live and the relationship I want to be in? What do I expect for myself and my family?
3. Where am I going? What is the compelling long-term vision I have for my life and marriage that is so powerful it makes me want to cry?
What happens to a man when he has no clue how to answer these questions?
He hands over the keys to someone else and watches.
He sits on a marriage counseling couch with his face in his hands.
Hopelessness sets in and then comes the blame and resentment.
Then usually more pain and eventually divorce.
This is back seat driving. Don’t do this.
You can do better.
This is an Inside Job – Not Your Counselor’s Job
Your marriage counselor wants to help you both find a way back to peace, harmony, understanding, respect and affection.
She/He is trying to help you uncover the patterns and habits that have lead you to disharmony. Then she/he wants to help establish new thoughts, beliefs and habits that can lead to mutual empathy, understanding and respect. These are powerful tools for change and can lead to a renewed energy of hope and resolve to restore your lost attraction and desire.
The counselor’s job is to show you a path for healing and mutually creating the marriage you want.
But there is a critical part of this process that is NOT mutual.
You have the unilateral power and responsibility to hone your own driving skills.
These driving skills include:
- How do I handle the hairy corners of conflict?
- How do I steer myself on the slippery track of blame and resentment?
- What are the switches that trigger my over-reactions and defensiveness?
- How do I push on the gas to set expectations and stand up for myself?
- How do I hit the brakes and slow down, have patience and just listen?
- How do I handle the skid of not being perfect and making mistakes?
- How do I lighten up and stay calm and confident even in bad weather?
The marriage counseling process isn’t meant to fix two broken halves.
It’s a process of helping two whole people who have 100% responsibility for how they are showing up.
A man needs to take charge of his own skill development. Nobody has more power or influence over improving his skills, mindset and confidence than he does.
I’ll say that another way for emphasis.
Despite our childhood training to the contrary, nobody else can make us the strong, smart, confident, attractive, loving, powerful men we want to be. We must own it.
If we want success at work, play, love or in marriage counseling we must do our own driving.
We are in charge of how we think, how we feel and how we behave.
We get to determine how we show up and how we respond to everything.
When we finally show up clear-headed, calm, confident and aware of our own power we can drive with intention…with a grin on our face.
And then there’s a strong chance you won’t even need marriage counseling.
I teach smart, romantic, compassionate men how to take charge and make rapid improvements in their life and relationships. I wrote a free ebook for you to get started on your way. The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage can be downloaded by going HERE.
Photo: Anthony Santen/Flickr