Who hasn’t had this thought pop into her head: If only my boyfriend saw a therapist, everything would be different.
I can’t tell you how many times I wished this exact thing. And why did I wish it? Because I believed that after all the self-help books I’d read, therapy was the answer. Not to my problems, of course, but my boyfriend’s. And if my bf would just go to a therapist, said therapist would back me up and convince my guy that he needed to change, (just like I said he should) or he would risk losing a relationship with me.
Looking back over all the men I dated, only two were willing to go to therapy “for me,” my ex husband and G. Both therapy sessions went horribly wrong.
The first time my ex husband and I went to a therapist he lied about his cheating and had no real interest in changing his behavior. He merely did it to appease me (and ultimately keep getting laid), and probably because he felt bullied by me and just gave in. I was desperately trying to save my marriage, singlehandedly, and the only advice we were left with was “You two need to date again.” This didn’t exactly resolve anything. Anytime we went on a date it was awkward, I worried about the babies, we had very little to talk about, and it did nothing to resolve the anger that had built up in me. If anything, it merely covered it up with a holey, wet paper towel that still exposed the ugly problems underneath. Eventually, I wanted out of the relationship. And so, the second time we went to see a therapist, it was on his instance to save the marriage. But, by the time we got there, I was completely unable to be “convinced” to stay in the marriage. We divorced shortly after.
When I dated G, I was in therapy on my own because I was unable to accept G’s “flaws” and I was trying to figure out why I was always so frustrated and depressed. He always said he loved me, and he called all the time. What was my problem? Well, my problem was he smoked pot and never wanted to have sex with me. So, I thought if I could get him to meet with a therapist, she would convince him these things were interfering in our relationship and he should change his ways, in order to save the relationship.
This didn’t work. He liked smoking pot and he had an extremely low libido (most likely because of the pot), and he had no desire to change.
So? What did these men learn from therapy? Probably nothing. What did I learn? That’s more important here. I learned that just because a well-educated relationship specialist understands what it takes to have a healthy relationship, they cannot convince someone to love me or to BE what I want them to be. Just because my therapist and I agree that my boyfriend’s behavior is not acceptable, that doesn’t mean he also agrees or even cares.
And therein lies the problem.
Therapy doesn’t convince anyone to love you, especially if they don’t want to be convinced. And believing in therapy as a way to “fix” a relationship that is founded on neglect, disrespect, avoidance or any other ingrained behavior is wishful, unrealistic thinking.
Couples therapy ONLY works when two people are committed to each other and when those two people share the same value in working on the relationship. More importantly, what we personally should take away from therapy is often something we don’t particularly want to: that we cannot control or convince others to love us the way we want to be loved.
So, put the “everything will be different once he goes to therapy” fantasy to bed. Especially if he’s super resistant to it in the first place. And, if you’re at your wits end with this guy, maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be with him in the first place. If he doesn’t possess the qualities you want and need and if has no interest in meeting you half way then maybe he’s not the one.