I've had significant problems in the area of talking meaningfully with my spouse. This in turn is creating serious difficulties in our marriage. We've been going to counseling, and I've been trying hard to be more open and available to my wife, but she says she's ready for a divorce. How can I learn to communicate more effectively? Is there anything I can do to save our relationship?
Your willingness to work through the problems in your relationship is admirable. It's also a positive sign that, despite your present difficulties, better days may lie ahead for your marriage.
The key to realizing that hope lies in serious and intensive marital counseling. If the therapy you're undergoing at the moment seems to be taking too long in producing noticeable results, we'd urge both of you to be patient. Marriage counseling can be a long and difficult process with many ups and downs. If your relationship with your wife has been struggling for some time, then a "quick fix" is not something you should expect. If you're the kind of man who tends to "shut down" under stress, it's possible that your wife emotionally "checked out" of the marriage a long time ago. She's going to need time to heal and rebuild her sense of trust and security.
In most cases, non-communicative husbands - those who are good at "hiding" emotionally and relationally - are simply following through on a style of behavior that they learned at a very young age, sometimes as a means of daily survival in an abusive or emotionally frigid home. Though your behavior may not be intended to convey any such thing, your wife may be interpreting your withdrawal and silence as signs that you are indifferent to her needs. She may feel that if you really loved her, you'd try harder to break out of your shell rather than abandoning her when she craves your validation and reassurance.
If that is not your intention, explain to her how important she is to you and how much you love her. Make it clear that you are committed to continue the counseling process until you discover exactly what it is that shuts you down and makes it so difficult to express your inner thoughts and feelings. Promise her that you will also find a spiritual mentor or a small group of Christian men who will be able to hold you accountable and help you learn how to become a better husband. In all of these ways you will be providing her with the tangible proof of your love and your dedication to the marriage that she so desperately wants and needs.
If for some reason you and your wife are not happy with your current counseling arrangements, our Counseling department would be happy to provide you with a list of alternate referrals for your local area. They would also be pleased to discuss your situation with you over the phone.
In this iQuestions video from Focus on the Family, Gary Smalley offers ideas on what to do when your wife thinks you don't communicate well, and explains the six levels of communication.
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Learning to Communicate