I teach a 9-week class designed to give couples some tools and resources for strengthening their relationship and to grow closer together. At the beginning of each week I have the men and women split into breakout groups to discuss questions from their gender’s point of view. In the very first class of the last cycle I asked the men’s breakout group to identify their top 3 fears about being part of a marriage class or marriage counseling.
Can you guess what they came up with?
~ I’m afraid that this will bring up even MORE issues between us. Yup, that’s the number one fear my guys had. They were willing to admit that tensions and issues already existed in their marriages. The fear was that intentionally working on the marriage would reveal additional issues.
What would you tell them? I told them that there was a very real possibility that working on a relationship would bring up additional issues. Knowing that more issues might arise is not a reason to avoid counseling or a marriage class. In fact – it’s a good reason to START counseling or attending a class! Every relationship has issues – things to work through. It is better to find a way to address those issues rather than let them fester. Eventually festering problems cause horrible sickness and require amputation. Not a pretty sight.
Man up. Yes, there will be tensions and issues in your relationship. Don’t run from them. Deal with them appropriately.
~ I’m afraid that we’ll realize that we’re not really compatible. As long as they keep their heads in the sand a lot of guys figure that they’ll be able to keep on truckin’ in the marriage. I was lucky enough to snag her, now I just gotta keep a low profile and pretend that everything is okay. She’ll never know we’re not compatible if we simply never work on the marriage.
I’m not sure but I think a lot of this fear stems from the fear of loneliness. We so often desire to be part of an intimate relationship that we alter behavior, change our appearance, or do all sorts of other zany things to attract and woo a partner. If she finds out the real me, if we’re forced to talk and be open, maybe she will not really be compatible with me and we’ll split up.
Here are two things to remember: 1) there are lots of different types of compatibility, just ask EHarmony. While some happily married couples are compatible in areas X, Y, and Z, others might not be and instead are compatible in areas A, B, and C. This leads to number 2) You HAVE to be compatible in some way, shape, or form or you never would have become a couple in the first place. Quit focusing on the negative and start to emphasize the positive that already exists.
~ I’m afraid that I’ll have to talk about my feelings and emotions. As much of a stereotype as that is, it was the men in the class that said it about themselves. Seems men realize that women are much more naturally suited for talking…and talking…and talking about emotions. The fear was that they would be forced to do it as well.
Unfortunately this one is true. You cannot build a relationship without connecting to your spouse on a deeper level. There will be some elements of your emotions and feelings that will need to be discussed. It doesn’t mean you have to turn into a Chatty Cathy (I’m apologize to everyone named Cathy. It’s nothing personal, just the expression). It does mean that you will need to practice expressing what you think and feel.
God reveals to us through the Bible that the marriage relationship is built on mutuality. Husband and wife mutually control the other. They mutually submit to the other. They mutually respect each other. It’s not about one person who dominates and one who yields.
So, women, as a partner you need to do everything within your power to help alleviate these fears that we men have. When issues come up we need to know that you will help address the issue in a calm and loving way (no berating, belittling, or combative maneuvers please). We need you to reaffirm the connection and compatibility between us. And we need you to be sensitive to our insensitivity – the fact that many of us HATE sharing our emotions and feelings.
Married couples can work together to build strong relationships. Men, we will have to overcome our fears. Women, you will have to lovingly work with us to overcome our fears. But together we can do it.
How about you? What fears do you have about getting into relationship counseling or a class?