Help me, Chloe! My husband refuses to go to counseling

by Chloe Jeffreys · 64 comments

in Sex, Love and Marriage

Welcome to the part of the show where I share wisdom I’ve gleaned from my vast wealth of experience as I wing my way towards the long dirt nap.

Today’s question comes from a loyal reader from North Dakota. She asks:

Dear Chloe,

I’ve been married for almost 23 years and I feel like my marriage is falling apart.  Our last child left for college this year, and, since she’s been gone, I’m finding myself increasingly unhappy.

When I try to talk to my husband about my dissatisfaction he says that my expectations are too high.  He says this is how marriage is after so many years, and that the problem is my hormones. 

I want us to go to counseling, but he refuses. He says counseling is a rip-off, and, since he’s fine with the way things are, he doesn’t see the point.

We barely have sex anymore, and when we do it’s like ants crawling all over me. I’m almost starting to feel like I hate him.

We need help. How can I get him to agree to go to counseling with me? I’m about to give up. Can you help me, Chloe?


I Don’t Know How Much More of This Shit I Can Take


Dear I Don’t Know,

Throughout my long  life I have heard many women say that their husbands refuse to go to marriage counseling. Since I have found that men only want to talk to me about their marriage problems as a prelude to trying to get me into bed, I avoid these convos with men if at all possible, so I don’t know if men are having this problem with their wives.  That said, I can only give my wisdom from the feminine POV.

So here it is.

Your husband is full of shit and it is your job to administer the high and hot enema he so desperately needs.

One partner doesn’t tell the other to “get over it” or “live with it” without dire consequences to the relationship. When one partner refuses to acknowledge the emotional suffering of the other partner the end is near.

But here’s the thing; only you can allow your husband to treat you and your needs with such disrespect.  In other words: Quit acting like such a wuss and stand up for yourself. Fight for your marriage, Woman!

Your marriage isn’t up to him; it is up to the both of you. He doesn’t get to make unilateral decisions about your marriage without paying a steep cost.

Hand him the bill.

Make an appointment and tell your husband that you are going to marriage counseling. Tell him that he can either go with you, or risk losing you forever–that’s his choice—but you are going. And then go.

I recently went to see the movie Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s sad that this movie is being marketed as a dirty joke about old people having sex because this movie is deadly serious.

Streep is a woman who realizes that her marriage is in severe decline, and Jones is the husband who refuses to address their serious marital problems because he’s grown comfortable in their misery.

Yes, the characters are a bit stereotypical, but stereotypes exist for a reason.

After some silliness with a banana in the bathroom and book about how to give blow-jobs, Streep’s character finally reaches her breaking point and lets Jones know that she can’t live a life of quiet desperation any longer. She tells him that she’d rather live alone by herself than live alone with him.

In real life I’ve seen so many women reach their own breaking point; only it’s as they are walking out the door. That’s too late.

Don’t wait until you hate him, or, even worse, until you don’t feel anything at all.

I can’t count how many women I’ve known who have suffered for YEARS in broken marriages hoping that their husbands will just magically change one day. They buy marital advice books by the case (that the husbands never read) hoping to find the secret way to manipulate their husbands into becoming the man of their dreams.

I’ve seen women try submitting more, praying more, cooking more, cleaning more, giving more sex, and playing to his ego by pretending that every word dripping from his mouth is like honey from the gods. Egads!

These things might work for a time, but in the end—oh, about the time the kids all leave home if you want to be exact–these manipulative methods fail because you can’t play a role that isn’t you, 24/7, for the rest of your life. Eventually you will have to step out of the character of Perfect Wife, and when you do it won’t be pretty.

I couldn’t help but notice from your letter that you are reaching your midlife years. Your husband is not far off when he blames your hormones.

Women are willing to put up with a lot during their fertile years. Maybe the desperate need to propagate the species has naturally selected women who are willing to put up with big piles of stinky husband shit for the sake of their young. But as the estrogen fades, so with it does our willingness to tolerate poor treatment from our men.

What you are experiencing is part of the “empty next syndrome” and it isn’t a bad thing that needs a pill. It can be a very good thing if you both let it. The answer lies in the couple coming together and facing and changing the unsatisfying dynamics of the dysfunctional relationship that have likely been there for years and years just waiting to be addressed.

Your changing hormones aren’t the problem. They can be the catalyst for creating the situation that could lead to greater intimacy and satisfaction for both of you.

Your husband is worried about the cost. This is common. Many husbands cite the expense of counseling as an excuse not to go. He needs a reality check:



I’m going to level with you, Don’t Know. You have nothing to lose by insisting, even demanding, that your husband go to counseling with you. Nothing. Because if the issues in your marriage are not addressed—not just brushed under the carpet—your marriage is doomed.

If, after you truly communicate how important your marriage is to you, and how desperately you want marriage counseling, and your husband still won’t go, then go yourself. You’ll need counseling to help you prepare for the life you’re going to live without your husband because that’s what you are going to have.

Divorced or not, you are both on the sure path to two separate lives.


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Frank November 17, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Chloe –

Wives also refuse to go to marriage counseling.

When mine did, I took it as an indication that she had thrown in the towel. To anyone reading this who refuses marriage counseling, I’d like to warn you that that is a thought that is likely to cross your spouse’s mind.

When I first asked her to go, I thought she was crazy, and was wondering if she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. By the time we finally got to marriage counseling, two years later, I did hate her. It was way too late. I had received too much punishment (and a father shouldn’t be punished for his daughter’s death).

Is divorce expensive? Yes.

Is being a single parent difficult? Yes, especially when there is no contact and no support with the other parent, and you have to go it alone completely.

Is it hard on the kids? Yes – their mother has cut them off, and lives 4 hours away.

Would I want to spend the rest of my life with someone who thinks our daughter was murdered (complete fabrication on her part) and who tormented me for our daughter’s death (which happened when I was 80 miles away, and was accidental).

Is it lonely? Yes.

Is it better than being with her? Yes

(By the way, she made the decision to divorce with no prior discussion, handed me the divorce papers and left three hours later. The kids found out from their aunt that she was leaving and never coming back).

Some marriages aren’t worth fighting for.


PARM LANIADO March 31, 2016 at 3:09 am

No marriage is perfect. I’ve been married over 30 years, and I can assure you that they all take work. At times the husband carries most of the load; at other times it is the wife’s turn. With the economic situation today, maybe the husband is feeling nearly unbearable stress. He may feel as though he is not able to meet his responsibility to provide for his family – and thus a failure. Perhaps he knows you can’t afford a therapist, or is too private to discuss these things with an outsider. Giving up on him and the marriage won’t fix anything. Pray. God can open your eyes to what should be said and done, and your husband’s heart so that you can overcome these issues together. Divorce is almost never the answer. Usually it’s patience and endurance.


Don Dressel December 2, 2015 at 4:02 am

I being a man am on the other side of a woman going through a late mid-life crisis
My wife got into a romance scam and then started talking to men on chat rooms
She would not go to marriage counseling with me and continued on the chat rooms
She blamed me for everything but could not tell me why
I gave her flowers bought her nice gifts
Took her out to nice places
Left her love notes ect ect
I finally realized she liked attention from other men
I was never enough for her
I got fed up filed for divorce
We sold our home and I met a wonderful caring sweet woman who had been married to a self-centered selfish prick for years before she kicked him out because she couldn’t take it anymore
So to you women out there get rid of these selfish guys and move on
There is a whole better world out there
Life is just to damn short!!!


Chloe Jeffreys December 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Selfishness knows no gender.


Alfred Phiri December 2, 2015 at 2:30 am

Want to learn more on men midlife crisis and how to manage it


Lost & Confused October 22, 2015 at 11:37 am

I’ve been married for 21 years. I’ve given him 2 beautiful kids. I’ve been there to support him in a new job or moving across the country. In the past year I have noticed (or woken up) the way he’s been treating me. He would always get upset if I didn’t understand what he was explaining to me, would talk to me like I’m stupid. Little things like that. One day he was ‘joking’around with me & said to me “What’s wrong, words don’t hurt”.
I actually got him to go to a marriage counselor, we went 3 times. When we got home after the third time he says to me ‘I don’t think this is working, she sides with you all of the time’. A few months later I said we should go back & he started in AGAIN about how we don’t have the money & it doesn’t work. To me he just said ‘ our marriage isn’t worth it’.
After years of this and a lot more ‘crap’. I don’t want to be around him. I don’t know if I love him anymore, it’s like I’m just numb. I’ll go out of my way so I don’t have to go home and be alone with him. When we are home, he will be upstairs & I’ll be downstairs. He feels like a roommate. I have talked to him about it & he says he’ll try harder.
I keep thinking I’ll be happier on my own. Even my family sees how he treats me (thoughtless & inconsiderate). My daughter says to me ‘I just want you to be happy’.
I’ve even looked back in my wedding album several times & I still didn’t feel anything.


Don September 27, 2014 at 3:04 pm

How sad! After reading her post it made me sad for her. Chloe as you know in my past posts I have issues in my marriage that recently came in to light. I am the one who told my wife if we did not go to marriage counseling that I would move on. I knew the writing was on the wall if we did not go! As a man tell her to sit him down and tell him there marriage is doomed if they do not go to a marriage counselor. Men have a hard time expressing their feelings but I never have. I wish her all the luck as she will need it!


Shoezie September 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Oh how I wish sex worked cause I’m horny as hell! In order to have sex (once a month is FREQUENT! Every other is normal here) I have to be completely naked, under the covers, in the bed. Hello, am I only attractive in the dark, with nothing getting in the way, making him actually work for me? I’ve been very specific about my needing him to express some kind of affection towards me when I’m clothed, you know, just so I don’t feel like I’ve actually BECOME the whore… Anyway, he says, yeah, you’re right, blahdeblah and BAM!! Nada. We sat right next to each other on the couch, not another soul in the house, for two hours watching a movie he’d already seen, and he never so much as put his hand on my leg. I feel so unloved. Sad part is, I can’t even manage to cry about it. I’m so tired of him saying he’ll try to do better but seeing absolutely no effort whatsoever.
I asked him years ago to go to counseling with a Pastor we know, but he doesn’t want to go to someone who knows us. Who is better than someone who sees us in our daily lives? I know, I know, I’m supposed to go myself. I just don’t know if I even care that much anymore. I also can’t believe I married someone just like my mother. Ignoring me was her favorite pastime. Ugh.


Adam D. Oglesby September 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Hey, maybe a male point of view is needed in this discussion. Hope I’m not intruding.

First, show me a man who’s not interested in sex with his wife and I’ll show you a marriage in crisis mode.

I’d be real curious why? A few questions:

Is the plumbing alright? His? Yours?

None of us look like we did as teenagers—(well, except maybe me)—but does he still find you attractive?

Do you think the sex you should be getting is going someplace else—say to the slut with the fake boobs and butt implants that works at his office?

In relationships, a certain amount of baggage build up is inevitable. This baggage is what connects you to your mate—the shared experiences—and what repels you from that same mate.

I have a theory: In any relationship you have a finite number of slights, of hurts, of unresolved emotional fisticuffs—before you reach a point of no return. In other words you can piss a person off just so many times before they say, “I’m through. It’s a wrap.”

Does that mean these couples will immediately get divorced or separated?

Nope, not necessarily.

You may stay with that person for the rest of your life but you’ll never get back to where you were. You become little more than emotional roommates; you go through the motions of being polite and civil to each other but the requisite bond of intimacy is nonexistent.

Lastly, the woman feels like she’s beginning to hate her husband. Well, regrettably, based on his actions–he may have already beat her to that place.
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Chloe September 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Adam, thanks for responding. I’m so happy to get a male point of view here.

Why do you think he’s refusing to go to therapy, and what can she do about that? Is there something that would help motivate him to want to go?


Adam D. Oglesby September 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm

If he’s anything like me the last thing I want to do is discuss my problems in public. As an anonymous blogger I’d bare my soul to the world, but up close and personal is a whole different thing.

Let me just touch again on the sexual aspect of their relationship since—in many cases—problems in the bedroom can be either the result of or the catalyst for other issues.

Here’s the thing—and I’m sure you’re well aware being a webmaster—we’re only getting a smidgen of the situation. The history—and there’s always a history–that led to this point is a mystery.

Who knows whether there were previous affairs—on either of their parts—suspected or actually confirmed. Whether she’s scoffed at his virility. Whether he’s had prostate issues and his genitals are on life support. Whether one or both of them have gained so much weight that neither of them are really attractive to each other.

(This seems to fall more into the category of lack of desire on his part since we know that he is at least capable of sex. She mentioned how awkward and God Awful the act was to her. What we don’t know is how many blue pills, porn watching, or masturbation it required for him get it up.)

Any discussion about sexual dysfunction within a marriage can prove to be an explosively contentious issue. If this situation has anything to do with his virility or ability to perform—he’d have to be awfully confident in his relationship to be completely forthcoming; particularly to a stranger; particularly in front of his wife; particularly if their relationship is not solid enough for him to know intuitively that she would accept his compromised sexuality.
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Chloe September 5, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Adam, you keep bringing up so many good points. How does a wife talk to her husband about erectile dysfunction? If that’s what is going on, what is she to do? Or say? It sounds like my reader wants to save her marriage, but is at her wit’s end. What words can she say to let her husband know that she’s at the end of her rope, but communicate that she hasn’t given up yet?


Adam D. Oglesby September 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm

“How does a wife talk to her husband about erectile dysfunction? If that’s what is going on, what is she to do? Or say?”

Say? I’d suggest not to mention a word. At least not directly. But in the background she should be investigating, trying to uncover the reasons behind his lack of interest.

A really important question is whether or not he’s interested in intimacy of a non-sexual nature. Is he a hugger? A cuddler?

If he isn’t, and has no interest in even friendly physical contact, the woman should really consider that he just doesn’t like her anymore.

If he’s open to cuddling, hugging, holding hands while watching a movie, then perhaps these more indirect methods may eventually lead back to sex—if he’s capable.

Counter to what many believe, men often fantasize about sexually aggressive women, women who do the pursuing, women who basically takes it from the man.

Yeah, that’s until it actually happens. Sexual aggression in a fantasy is quite different than the same thing in real life—especially coming from a person who normally doesn’t play that role.

The last thing the wife should do is force a man with possible sexual inadequacy issues to perform at her command. This gun-to-the-head approach can be intimidating to many men since, intrinsically, she’s also suggesting just how pissed off, disappointed and frustrated she’ll be if he can’t or won’t.

I’m not one who normally preaches the necessity for love in sexual matters. I think sex as pure sport is fine if both parties know and accept the limitations of their liaison.

But in this case, if they have any chance of righting their sexual wrongs, she better make sure this man actually loves her first.
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Lorna Hecht-Zablow (@lornamft) September 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Great discussion about counseling and the respective responsibilities of the spouses. I do think the men are getting a bit too much of the blame here though Every marriage is made up of two adults contributing equally to the existing dynamic (of course sometimes one spouse is behaving in a more destructive way than the other-violence, addiction or infidelity are never excused by the “she pushes my buttons” argument). The point is that everyone can benefit by looking at their part in their relationships and taking personal responsibility. I have seen many men initiate therapy and work hard on themselves to make things better with their wives. Regarding who should go to therapy; in my opinion whoever wants to go should. There’s no point in coercing anyone. Successful therapy is about personal growth. There really is no “relationship” to work on. There are individuals who want to work on themselves. When those people “grow up” in their marriages, things improve. Besides, when one spouse attends therapy and gains more “self” through the process, the other spouse sees it and often decides at that point to get in on the action. But by then, the spouse who’s been going may be getting so much out of their therapy that they don’t want to share the time!


Jamie@SouthMainMuse September 2, 2012 at 7:47 am

“he’s grown comfortable in their misery.” That says it all. Sounds like I’m about the same age as this woman — and our first left for college this fall. I keep myself in good shape and my relationship with my husband is very good. But as far as self-image, I feel like I have aged 2 decades overnight. I know it partly transition, partly hormones, partly because my body is aging — but it is hard. This woman does need counseling herself if she can afford it and that way she can tell her husband to jump in or she’s jumping off with more confidence.
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Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator August 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Chloe, you are helping a lot of women through the honesty that shines forth from your blog. Brava! Love the comments, you clearly have built a trusting community here.


Chloe September 1, 2012 at 5:07 am

Hey Stephanie, I am lucky to have some very wise readers, that’s fact. Nice to see you, by the way.


Corinne Rodrigues August 31, 2012 at 8:28 am

I loved your advice, Chloe. As with everything else in life, we’ve got to take responsibility for our own happiness!
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Chloe September 1, 2012 at 5:05 am

I believe so. Ultimately our happiness is up to us.


Ginger August 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Reading through the comments, I noticed you wondering whether wives communicate the seriousness of the problems. My gut feeling is yes, they did. They just didn’t communicate in a way their husband accepted as valid. Men seem to have an easy time dismissing their wives as being “hormonal” when they are displaying raw emotions. They think that because she can stifle her emotions three weeks out of four that anything said that fourth is the hormones talking. My experience is the opposite. It’s that fourth week that she’s going to say what she has been feeling all along. The rest of the month, her hormones are keeping her silent. Even we women propagate that lie. We want to believe everything if fine, so we stifle ourselves, don’t make waves, value keeping the peace way too much. All until the day we can’t.

(Biologically speaking I wonder if our bodies are saying to us, “Let’s be extra nice to him even when we’re mad, so we can have a baby……..No chance this month, go ahead and say whatever you want.”)
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Chloe August 30, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Ginger, you need to start an advice column. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Men (and women) think the PMS is the aberration, but it is during that time that we’re really telling the truth. The rest of the time we’re putting up with it and even fooling ourselves that everything is fine.

Menopause comes and without a baby on the line we let it fly. We’re done.

Your POV makes a TON of sense. This is why men end up so baffled when their maid, chef and whore walks out the door. And the wife is wondering, “How could this be a surprise? I’ve been telling your for 20+ years?”


Amy August 30, 2012 at 6:24 am

Maybe we have a sick and twisted humor at our house…. but one of our catch phrases is, “it’s cheaper than therapy/divorce.” My car was shitty, and he kept saying he couldn’t afford a car. I told him he can’t afford divorce, either, so find a way to get me money for a car. I told him we couldn’t afford to have me tag along to Las Vegas on his business trip, and he threw it back at me, we can’t afford divorce either, so pack a bag and get on the plane with him. I wanted to join a dance class offered at the girls’ studio, and we were already barely meeting budget as it was… but then I made the last payment from our son’s trips to the psychologist last winter and realized, this class is WAY cheaper than therapy and will probably give just as many or more benefits…… Actually it’s only 1/8 the cost of therapy. So there!


Chloe August 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

People lose their sense of proportion and become penny and pound foolish. The immediate cost of that trip to Vegas seems like too much, but we need to think about the long-term costs of not investing in our marriage.

Marriage comes first. If you don’t put your marriage first then nothing else will matter. Of course, two healthy people in a marriage realize that sometimes the kids need attention first, or sometimes some other things becomes the top priority. But those things have to be occasions, not the rule of thumb.

And I like you idea of tallying up both bills and handing them over.

I get so tired of listening to cry babies say, “But he won’t blah, blah, blah.”

Really? He won’t? Have you made it entirely clear to him that your universe depends on him doing XYZ?

Obviously, you need to reserve ultimatums for the really big things and not use your power unwisely. But to not use it at all is equally unwise.


Brenda August 30, 2012 at 6:21 am

My nest is still full and I’m grateful we got to a counselor when we had grammar aged kids. I just wanted to say I agree on the untapped power of a woman within the marriage.

The cost of a divorce madero think she should get a written quote from a divorce attorney and ask him which bill he wanted to pay. But then again, that could be my snark overflowing from a lack of estrogen. 😉


Chloe August 30, 2012 at 10:17 am

I love this idea!!! Hand him the bill. Tell him, “This is what counseling costs and this is what divorce might cost.”

We need to use our power wisely, but be need to use it when it’s appropriate.


Negin August 30, 2012 at 2:45 am

Fabulous post and great comments. I’ve sent the link to others, hoping that it will help them also.


Chloe August 30, 2012 at 10:19 am

Thank you, Negin. I hope so too. I get so weary seeing so many dear women who’ve told me over the years that there husbands wouldn’t go to counseling now getting divorced. I am struck with how many of these husbands now are begging for counseling. It makes me wonder; did the woman really communicate how serous the problems were?


Julie Danis August 29, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I didn’t get married until mid-life and we never had a full nest to leave us empty so I can’t comment from experience about this experience.

But I can say that I love the phrase “empty next syndrome” because it is a perfect way to describe what I felt/feel as I transition from the fully employed, corporate controlled, over scheduled life to the “next”…which I’m sure will still be over scheduled!
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Chloe August 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I think the syndrome is more due to hormones than children leaving home. It seems that we just have less tolerance as we get older. We also want it all to mean something. And a shitty marriage gets old when you start to get old.

In the movie, Streep says, “I realized I had nothing left to look forward to.” I see men often just giving up and getting old and many women wondering, “What’s next?” If the man can support that then unhappiness creeps in. And if there are long-standing issues then those only become magnified.


BigLittleWolf August 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Wise words… But divorce is more than very very (very very) expensive. It can be far worse. The odds are stacked against midlife women in the everything department post-divorce, depending on the state you live in – more so. Most just don’t want to say as much.

As for marriage counseling (or improving marriage), well… one can’t do it alone. Period.

Hormones? That seems like an easy excuse often used (by both sides of the gender divide) when something more insidious is going on, including utter fatigue or a web of not-far-below-the-surface other issues. And that’s not including medications or various conditions which may reduce libido for both parties. (And it’s not always the women who are saying “not tonight” in so many words or actions!)

You might find this discussion interesting… the comments in particular are revealing of the deep divide among some, when it comes to the war between the sexes which I, personally, find tragic and unnecessary. (Hope you don’t mind the link: – both a symptom and a problem, regardless of the semantics used.)


Chloe August 29, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Hey DA, I don’t mind a link from you at all. Good links that lead my readers to good reads is good stuff.

Divorce is not an easy answer, and a woman must ask herself if she is better off with him or without him.

Thanks for the comment and the link.


Debi Drecksler August 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm

You explained it very well. I hope it helps her understand what she needs to do for her health, happiness and well being!


Chloe August 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I hope so, too.


Magnolia August 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Word, sister. Word.
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Chloe August 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I totally meant to hyperlink your article. I’m going back and doing that right now. I mentioned it in my above comment. Very fascinating topic for those who are interested.


Magnolia August 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I appreciate the referrals.

But, I would highly recommend that they read through the pages and pages of comments of the dialogue between me and some of those husbands at the end of some of those articles.

It will tell you all you need to know.
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Jamie August 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Excellent post, Chloe. Counseling was a last resort before I divorced. It showed me just how much of an insensitive ass I was married to. So glad I went though…


Magnolia August 29, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Ditto. And I second Susan’s comment. Women *do* have power and leverage. We just don’t use it.

I didn’t want my marriage to end in divorce. I did EVERYTHING I could to stop it from happening. Until I realize that I was the ONLY one doing it.

I let go and watched that sucker careen right off the cliff, crash, and burn, baby, burn.

Yea for Magnolia.
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Chloe August 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

One person cannot heal a marriage. And the marriage advice books, most of the written for suffering Christian women from what I can tell, that tell you that you can make an ass of a husband change if only you keep your house clean, keep your mouth shut, and give him more sex have made things so much worse for couples.

Because those things often DO work….for awhile. Of course a man who has a full belly, a clean house, and a tired dick is going to be nicer. He’s got a chef, a maid and a whore who does her job and demands nothing. But this gets old. And as we get older it gets REAL old.

Readers: Magnolia writes about perimenopause and has talked extensively and the hormonal changes and how they affect marriage here:

It’s a very interesting read. I highly recommend!!


Chloe August 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I think counseling can be very clarifying, either way. It’ll either help the relationship to grow or it will show that it is dead.


Sally August 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Yes! To both the original post as well as this follow-up comment of yours!


Chloe August 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Sally, I discussed this post this evening with our therapist. He said that women use words and men use actions. Women tell their husbands that they are unhappy, but all the husbands hear is, “Blah, blah, blah.” What men do hear is a woman packing her bags. We women need to be much more active in letting our husbands know how unhappy we are.


Magnolia August 31, 2012 at 3:31 am

Hmmm……interesting. Not necessarily earth shattering insight from “therapist”. But, it does lead me to wonder:

When does it become the husband’s responsibility to actually try to hear? Or is it incumbent upon *us* to make sure he hears it?

And how exactly do we do that? Do we draw pictures in the dirt? Bring a doll house into the room with Barbie walking out the door and point to the visual aid?

Yes. Sarcasm abounds in my answer here. (and I will take the admonition that my present state of divorce is coloring my perspective). But, to tell women *we* need to be much more active continues to put the onus on US to make sure our husband’s *hear*

I say that husbands have as much responsibility to learn to listen with their ears. We both rowing the boat.

Anyway. I’m probably not the person to be commenting here. Like I said: I don’t have a whole lotta patience with asking women to keep shouldering the emotional load for every friggin person in the house. They can put their big boy britches on.
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Helene August 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm

There are so many couples who suffer in a bad marriage for years and then call it quits after the last kid leaves home. A close relative of mine is going through this right now. But in this case the wife filed for divorce with the husband pleading with her to try counseling (with him). She refused.


Chloe August 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Helene, it’s funny how often I’ve seen women suffer in marital agony for years with men who they say “refuse to go to counseling” only to see these same men BEG their wives for marriage counseling as she’s walking out the door.

It makes me really wonder. Did the man really refuse to go or did the woman just not let him know how serious her dissatisfaction was?

I don’t think it’s fair not to let your husband know how unhappy you are earlier in the relationship before the love is dead.

But, yeah, if I had a dime for every female friend or relative who said to me, “Yeah, it was too little too late” as their husband was begging for marriage counseling I’d have enough money for a iced Grande Caramel Macchiato AND a blueberry muffin at Starbucks.


Anne (@notasupermom) August 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I hope this is a wake-up call to wives and husbands.

My nest is half empty. It has brought up a lot of feelings and many of them aren’t good. Although, I’m very lucky to have a husband who gets me.
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Chloe August 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Don’t wait until the nest is empty, right? I think all the problems in a marriage are magnified to the nth degree after the last child leaves home. That’s why a couple will really sink or swim.


Julia August 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Yes! Counseling is expensive, but a divorce is more expensive. A good marriage takes two people trying their hardest. A crappy marriage is two people going different directions. I hope that ND Lady can find a good counselor to help her on the road ahead — whether that road is with or without her husband.


Chloe August 29, 2012 at 9:42 pm

I always laugh when I hear “expense” mentioned as an excuse. Like your marriage isn’t worth every penny? Because divorce is going to cost you a whole heck of a lot of money, and a whole lot more!


Andrea August 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Smart post, Chloe. And I think it is wise to pay attention to this long before the empty nest hits.


Chloe August 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Yep. I’m at the age now where I’m seeing a lot of my friends’ marriages fall apart. The ones that made it through the baby years, and then the child’s years, and the teen years, succumb to the empty nest years. It doesn’t have to be this way. But a couple has to be proactive together. One person can’t do it alone.


Susan in the Boonies August 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Bottom line, I agree with what you’ve said here: a woman HAS more leverage and power than she knows.

And if she doesn’t, then separate paths are what lie ahead, whether or not the couple remains married, so you might as well get some advice to help yourself cope with what is.
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Chloe August 29, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Isn’t it always surprising how weak women make themselves sound sometimes. Unless he’s beating you or holding you at knife-point, you have a lot of power in the marriage. Use it for good, not for evil. But use it. We’re supposed to be help-meets, not doormats.


Chloe August 31, 2012 at 7:21 am

I really like the dollhouse with Barbie idea, Mags. Maybe somebody could sell a kit and call it, “I’m leaving you if you don’t go to therapy with me, you bastard!”

I don’t think my therapist was trying to shift blame to the woman. I think he was just pointing out the reality that men often don’t hear our words the way they do our actions. Men can’t hear, “I’m unhappy.” But they can hear you packing your bags and walking out the door.


Magnolia August 31, 2012 at 7:36 am

Yeah, I know. I got that. But, I don’t accept it.

I think it’s just more excuses for men to be clueless. “We can’t help it if we can’t hear you, we don’t use words, we use pictures.”

And I’m not saying to hell with men and how they are soldered together. I’m saying if your therapist is instructing women on how they should change their communication styles (which is how WE are soldered together) when do we ask men to change?

Again…..I accept full responsibility for my VERY skewed point of view these days. I’m just not feeling real sympathetic toward the plight of men.

Here’s hoping for better times ahead.
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Ginger September 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

My point of view is not skewed by divorce, and I agree with you, Magnolia. Neither method of communication is more or less valid.

Pragmatically, though, I’ve always believed that Happy people don’t change. The motivation comes when we’re unhappy. So, fair or not, the one who is miserable is going to have to change how they are communicating that.

I think Chloe’s therapist is right in this respect: More women try to save their unhappy marriages by talking about it. More men walk out the door.
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Magnolia September 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Hi Ginger,

Thanks for the solidarity. 🙂 Divorce does a way of alienating one so.

When you say, “more men walk out the door” are you using that as an analogy for taking action, rather than talking? Because, statistically, more men actually *don’t* walk out the door. Women do.

And when they reach middle age and menopause, those statistics sky rocket. The conservative estimate is women initiate 2/3s of all divorce around the time of menopause and middle age. From what I see at my blog, I wouldn’t be shocked if that number was considerably higher.

I am trying to own my bias when I mention my divorce. Because it is true, I’m really not feeling very empathetic or compassionate toward the plight of men when it comes to marital problems.

But, from what I see, women are leaving in droves and men still don’t seem to “get it”

I wish I could give the final answer on why that is, but just based on my own “qualitative” analysis, it’s not feminism or that women aren’t trying to communicate. Oh, they are.

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Ginger September 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Magnolia, I didn’t mean that more men than women seek divorce. I do think they are more likely to just decide they are unhappy and walk out, rather than trying to work on their marital problems.

At least, that has been the case among those I know. I’m no expert.
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Magnolia September 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I’m definitely inclined to agree they are not usually the first to want to work on marital problems.

And I suppose you’re expert enough in your own observations. 🙂
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Chloe September 7, 2012 at 10:55 am

Adam, I can’t help but read both of your comments and hear, “She shouldn’t do anything.” I’m sure that’s not what you’re saying, right? But it sounds to me like you are saying that she shouldn’t insist on therapy because that would be embarrassing for him, and she shouldn’t confront sexual problems they are having because that would damage his fragile ego.

Ummm. I’m starting to side with Mags here a bit and say, “At what point does he just have to suck it up to save his marriage?”

I’m pretty sure this marriage is doomed if they don’t get outside help. My experience with women is that this wife has little patience left and it’s only a matter of time before she walks out the door leaving this man baffled and confused. A woman who feels like ants are crawling all over her during sex is not interested in performing an undercover investigation to find out why they aren’t having more sex; she’s grateful that they aren’t. Of course, this is a negative feedback loop because the less sex you have generally the less sex you want; shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I guess it is sad that outside help might threaten the man’s poor little ego and fragile self-esteem, but that’s sort of just too damned bad. I’m beyond certain that the wife is going to find out things in therapy that are not going to feel so good to her either.


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