Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, January 10, 2020

Couples' Counseling & Marriage Counseling Does NOT Work in Abusive Relationships!

If you are struggling with a relationship, some people may advise you to get marriage counseling, or couples' counseling. While this can be good advice in some relationships, it is NOT good for couples where there is emotional, verbal, psychological or physical violence.

In fact, in many cases, couples' counseling has increased the violence/abuse in the home.

Couples' counseling does not work because:

Couples' counseling places the responsibility for change on both partners. Domestic violence is the sole responsibility of the abuser.

Couples' counseling works best when both people are truthful. Individuals who are abusive to their partners minimize, deny and blame, and therefore are not truthful in counseling.

Couples resolve problems in counseling by talking about problems. His abuse is not a couple problem, it is his problem. He needs to work on it in a specialized program for abusers.

A victim who is being abused in a relationship is in a dangerous position in couple's counseling. If she tells the counselor about the abuse, she is likely to suffer more abuse when she gets home. If she does not tell, nothing can be accomplished.

If you think you will benefit from joint counseling, go AFTER he successfully completes a batterer's intervention program and is no longer violent for one full year.

Would marriage counseling be better? He won't go for help unless I go with him.

No. Domestic violence advocates strongly advise battered women not to participate in couples counseling, family counseling, and mediation programs. It may not be safe to talk about your feelings in front of someone who could hurt you later and blame his behavior on what you say.

Many battered women say that these kinds of counseling do not stop the violence and often increase their danger. Also, going to counseling together suggests that you share responsibility for his violence.

You are never responsible for his violence. Even if your partner is not willing to change, support and assistance in figuring out what you want to do are available at your local domestic violence program. They can help you plan for your safety.

Couples counseling is NEVER an appropriate way to deal with domestic violence. Therapists who offer couples counseling when domestic violence has occurred or is occurring do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence, and are practicing unethical and unsafe services. Men who abuse need to be in group intervention programs with other abusers.

Be wary of anyone who advises couples or marriage counseling. This isn't appropriate for abusive relationships. Most communities have agencies that provide individual counseling and support groups to women in abusive relationships.

Perpetrator Intervention Programs For Abusers

Abusers can enter voluntarily or be court ordered to Perpetrator Intervention Programs. It is important to note that there are no guarantees that he will change his violent behavior. He is the only one that can make the decision -- and commitment -- to change.

An intervention program should include these factors:

Victim's safety is the priority.
Meets minimum standards for weekly sessions (16 weeks).
Holds him accountable.
Curriculum addresses the root of his problem.
Makes no demand on the victim to participate.
Is open to input from the victim.

What programs teach:

Education about domestic violence.
Changing attitudes and beliefs about using violence in a relationship.
Achieving equality in relationships.
Community participation.

In the program, an abuser should become aware of his pattern of violence and learn techniques for maintaining nonviolent behavior, such as "time outs" "buddy" phone cals, support groups, relaxation techniques, and exercise.

How do you know if he is really changing?

Positive signs include:

He has stopped being violent or threatening to you or others
He acknowledges that his abusive behavior is wrong
He understands that he does not have the right to control and dominate you
You don't feel afraid when you are with him.
He does not coerce or force you to have sex.
You can express anger toward him without feeling intimidated.
He does not make you feel responsible for his anger or frustration.
He respects your opinion even if he doesn't agree with it.
He respects your right to say "no."

Am I safe while he is in the program?

For your own safety and your children's safety, watch for these signs that indicate problems while he is in the program:

Tries to find you if you've left.
Tries to get you to come back to him.
Tries to take away the children.
Stalks you.
If you feel you are in danger, contact the National Domestic Violence crisis line.

Six Big Lies

If you hear your partner making these statements while he is in a treatment program for abusers, you should understand that he is lying to himself, and to you.
"I'm not the only one who needs counseling."
"I'm not as bad as a lot of other guys in there."
"As soon as I'm done with this program, I'll be cured."
"We need to stay together to work this out."
"If I weren't under so much stress, I wouldn't have such a short fuse."
"Now that I'm in this program, you have to be more understanding."

Questions Women Often Have About Batterers and Batterer Programs

He says that I do things to make him angry. Am I to blame for his violence?

No. Abusive men often blame other people or situations for their violence. Many say their partners provoke them. The truth is that no one can cause another person to be violent. His violence is never justified. How he behaves is his choice and his responsibility. In fact, you can probably think of times where other people made him angry and he chose not to respond to them with violence or abuse.

What is a batterer program?

Not all batterer programs are the same, but some of them include education about domestic violence, and what communities are doing to hold abusers accountable. Depending on the program, the education can include informing your partner that he alone is responsible for what he does, that abuse destroys families and that he can change if he chooses to.

How would my partner get into a batterer program?
Most batterers participate because the court ordered them to do so. Many men say that they would not have gone or stayed in the program if they had not been court ordered. Some men attend without a court order, and others go as a way to convince their partners not to leave or to take them back. Unless a batterer is truly committed to being accountable for his behavior and to stop being controlling, he is unlikely to change his behavior, with or without a batterer program.

Will he stop abusing me if he attends a batterer program?

Any man can stop being violent and abusive if he really wants to stop. Some batterer programs provide good information to participants. However, going to a batterers program does not guarantee that he will stop battering and does not guarantee that you will be safe. In fact, many men who are attending or have attended a batterer program continue to be violent and/or controlling.

To best protect yourself and your children, it is recommended that you keep in contact with your local battered women's services/program, especially while he is attending the batterer program. To find out what options and support services are available to you in your community and to learn more about batterer programs, you can contact your local domestic violence program or shelter.

My partner says he'll get help for his drinking. If he stops drinking, will he stop being violent?

Don't count on it. Alcohol and other drug abuse do not cause domestic abuse, even though batterers often use substance abuse as an excuse for their violence.

Batterers who drink or use drugs have two separate problems that need to be handled independently. Even if your partner stops using alcohol or other drugs, he is likely to continue to be abusive.

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shared by Barbara at 12:55 AM



I can attest that couple's counseling does NOT work! A few years ago I finally "convinced" my husband to go see someone with me. It was the most horrible experience as my husband got the counselor on his "side" and they became these buddies. I was left looking like I had the problem and finally I just said no more.
My husband left last year after 20 years of emotional, verbal and mental abuse...lots of good the counseling did. And the counselor I now see told me recently that the counselor my h and I had seen a few years ago, whom she knows, told her that he realized after we quit coming that he had dropped the ball and there were more serious problems than what he realized.
DO NOT ever go together as a couple for counseling when there is any type of abuse. Go by yourself to get help to heal and let your spouse go if they choose to. DO NOT ever try to force them to go, they have to take responsibility and choose to change.
Better yet, if there is abuse in the marriage or dating relationship, get out and don't look back. IF and only IF an abuser chooses to truly accept responsibility for their actions, not blaming you or anyone else, and shows a true repentance and change, than you can decide whether to give them another chance.

10:55 PM  

The counselors are a waste of time. Some will be honest and tell you get out, but they are middle class and do not understand the financial and other ramifications and have a job to keep them fed and housed. Others will counsel the two of you and Ive been down that road, but I learned quick not to be too honest. The abuser will sit there and barely say a word, that is a game they play and refuse to be drawn out even on the most mild confrontation. If you are being abused, my advice is to try and build real relationships and others to help you too. One thing abusers have no self-insight or desire to change. They think they are always right. The only way counseling works is if people admit they have problems and desire to solve them.

1:37 PM  

You got so many points here, that's why i love reading your post. Thank you so much!

4:28 AM  

I agree. Couples counseling when there is abuse implies that the problems are mutual. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I participated in marital therapy for 7 years only to be mocked in between sessions by my H.

8:44 AM  

Here are two links about dealing with domestic violence at the hands of an ex while going through a divorce:

I hope they will be helpful.

12:23 AM  

Well explained article

5:03 AM  

would love to get in contact wth you.any way of emailing?

2:02 AM  

Thanks for the article! After a huge blow up the other night my verbally/emotionally abusive husband finally agreed to counseling... couples counseling. Is there any way I can communicate to the counselor he chooses that I'm being abused without him getting suspicious/angry?

8:37 PM  

I am worried about the same thing. My husband and I start 'couples' therapy tonight and I didn't mention the domestic violence, only his suicide threats. I don't know how to bring the other stuff up and was hoping they might be able to 'guess'?? i am worried it will go badly and that it will set him 'off' again when we get home. So worried on one hand, not sure what I am worried about on the other (I know it is bad, that is why I contacted a therapist???)

9:15 AM  

All of these are true things my husband has beaten me over and over too many times to count he has threatened to kill me our son and our dog and he is always sorry and I always forgive him but the reality is it first happened in the first trimester of my pregnancy and I ended up having to go to a unknown neighbor and ask to use the phone and ask to call for help because I was bleeding and afraid to loose the baby we had tried for years to have. Then in the emergency room his parents called and made him come in and I made a choice to give my child his father and not speak up and the abuse stopped physically during the pregnancy but not emotionally and then the physical abuse 17 years later has only gotten worse to the point that the beatings sometimes go on for days. I haven't left because my son has a medical condition that requires weekly infusions and daily medicine and our only insurance is through my husbands work. We went to counseling and he did exactly like the other men in this article then he beat me almost on a regular basis after the counseling instead of getting better after going 1 time he was even worse he lied and acted like it wasn't his fault that it was mine. I have never been a bad wife I have never cheated on him or done anything in our relationship ever unlike him. I have now be diagnosed with PTSD because of the abuse and I have been trying hard to stay until my son gets out of High School but every day I get up believing today will be different and this time he is going to change and it seems like if I start to feel things changing and start to try and trust what he says and promises about being sorry and wanting to change and never doing it again and he is nice to me then in a moment it taken away and he is that cold cruel monster again. He is like Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde . I have only stayed because of our son and the fact everytime I am going to leave him he threatens to kill me or himself or all of us and I feel like I am walking a tight rope every single day of my life hoping this will be the day its all better and the happiness last and today is another day that proved its still not going to happen, The Dr. told him he would have to go to an intensive therapy progam and that he knew he was acting during the session.
And he just made excuses for not going. My husband is a professional and controls everything in our financial world and our personal mail he has the only key to the mailbox and over the years I have become more isolated and because of him I lost my closest friend and confidant by him saying I had to choose after she took me to the hospital ER after he beat me for 2 days straight and I begged the hospital not to turn in his name because I didn't want my sons father to go to jail and him to have to suffer the shame of everyone knowing in High School the truth about his father.
I have no access to any resources because my husband sees and checks everything he has all of my accounts set up online where he pays them. I work with him so I am always on edge. And he controls everything. Still waiting on the fairytale ending.

12:24 PM  

Omg!! Post above me. You need to get out! NOW!! There are shelters and organizations that will help in this dire situation and your son will get all he needs medically. You must go! Go to the police. Tell them you are fleeing from domestic violence. Tell me you're scared. Tell them all you just wrote here. You must! FOR YOUR SON'S SAKE ALONE...YOU MUST!

An abuser such as your husband will most definately kill you, your son, and himself. Not spend a day in jail because he'll take the cowards way out. AND ALL YOU'VE PROTECTED FOR YEARS WAS FOR NOTHING! !!

If you love your son and have stayed just for him...then get out for him. You are putting his life MORE at risk staying than going. So what if your husband kills himself? Sorry...he's abused you for years. Your son I am sure has seen much of it. You set a bad example for him by allowing your husband to continue as you know you must get out. I say this as one who stayed for 20 years. Biggest mistake, but unlike you...the physical abuse was the last resort that came in the last year before I finally make plans secretly to get out. I left with nothing basically, but with my daughter. I lost my son to the abuse. He suppressed the abuse deep inside...I had to leave him behind. He wanted a father and would so anything to have his...Even if it meant his father's continual abuse sadly. I did not understand we were being abused I wad so abused and brainwashed I couldn't see until the last few years.

PLAN IN ADVANCE. Say nothing of what you are doing. Police and them from a safe phone that cannot be traced. Get a restraining order and "Good Cause" to protect you and your son though these are just legal and will not stop your husband probably. Get a disposable phone with a new number so when you leave he cannot trace you. Do not take a car the has Lojack or traceable alarm system. Take important documents with you.

I slowly over a month hid things of my daughter's and documents until the day came that i was left alone with my daughter to flee. It is scary, not easy but I have to say it was liberating once I did it. Has it been easy? No, but I am so happy I did it. I made one crucial error. ...I said I wanted a divorce thinking he'd give it to me and leave. NO NO NO!! Abusers will not divorce you easily, they will make you suffer or kill you. I know...the abuse became worse...I held out. I should have left sooner. I waited 4 months to get out.
Please please breaks my heart. I know what you are going through. I stayed for years because my son was ill too. My son is screwed up now because I stayed on top of everything.
Shoot...I am in LA and I would help in anyway I can. I know the legal system and all about the shelters here in southern California and one great one in Northern California. A friend who has been through abuse was who made me see what was going on in my marriage, she guided me out to our freedom. I know without her words I would never have gotten out. I hope mine will help you too.

2:04 AM  

This just happened for the first time and I am curious on what is going on, my fiance of 6 years and i got into an altercation this past thursday he is now in jail for the moment and is going to get anger management help and drug counseling as well, (for coke) that i just found out he has started using again. He had this prob 10 yrs or more ago before we even knew each other, he grabbed me by my jaw line and pushed me against the wall while we were in an arguement and i hit the wall so hard i blacked out and fell to the ground hitting my head causing a seizure, mind you im 4months pregnant with our 3rd child, this was the first time we have ever had a problem like this and i feel it was due to the coke come down, none the less he told the cops exactly what happened and as did i and he has been arrested today, but in the mean time he was not at my home. My question is would i be crazy to say with the proper counseling for all his problems (drug (coke) and anger) that I would be willing to give him another chance, or am i just hopeless? Again we have been together for 6 years and have NEVER had this problem before.

5:34 PM  

We are both guilty of abuse, but I more so.I am guilty of some of these more minor actions such as pushing or poking, not that I am trying to downplay the severity of my behavior, but it ended in my arrest. Please read on, as it is not so clear cut as this. I'm in my early 30's have an 11 month old child and 16 years of happiness. They left a month ago. I will do anything to earn her trust again. I could not be more repentant. We are both victims of each other. Here is my story. That day I walked 5 miles to the next town where she had gone to stay with family saying I had a surprise for her. She and her family thought the surprise was violence, but it was flowers, teething gel and a doctors appointment to get my mental health sorted. So I turned up at her parents house and her dad blocked me from seeing my son and closed the door. This drove me crazy, so I went to the back gate, hoping to see them through a window. Then I told a little inconsequential lie as I panicked. At no point did I cross the property boundary, but I did try the lock on the gate. The curtains were closed anyway and the police told me that these situations NEVER end well. Learn from me, just don't go over there. I even heard a story of one guy travelling 500 miles by coach with a full suitcase and 5 bags only to get arrested. Anyway I digress, it gets worse. I went and sat on our car I paid half for and chilled for just a minute or 2 when my dad turned up. I had issues with him over his fidelity amongst other things, to my mother who he has been divorced from for some 13 years. I knocked his glasses off and got arrested. Since then, in the last 4 weeks I have gone on antidepressants, quit an almost 10 year sleeping pill addiction and gone into recovery for 18 years of cannabis addiction. I have had a biblical style awakening and just when I think I have it figured out, another heart breaking revelation happens. I could not be more repentant, hence the major life changes. I am doing all this in the vain hope that it will make a difference and we can one day reconcile. Her rules are that we are separated. She even said she does not love me anymore, but we just had a child. I can text her, she only sometimes replies, but not call. I also have stuff stored at her parents, that I can't access because I have been banned from going over there. Not by the police, more of an honorary agreement. I must respect these boundaries, if I am ever to reunite my family. My only hope is that she will see the transformation in me. Domestic abuse is no joke,get help NOW.
She has been back with my son twice in this time and each time I was a mess. How can I enjoy time with him when I must watch her slowly leave. I am out of work and suicidal over it at times, but I struggle on. I am getting professional help for all these issues because i never want this to happen again. On her last visit I put my arm in front of the door to stop her from leaving and she had to assertively ask me to remove it twice. Now, she is afraid to come by to get more stuff and so am I because of the pain and I want to avoid it to stay sober. I don't want to ban her or change the locks, even though she has me under those conditions. Although I worry that I will come home and half our stuff is gone. I have sent too many texts to her since then and just need to back off for a bit and sort my problems out. So I came her to vent. I am not looking for advice or sympathy, quite the opposite. I want this to be a cautionary tale about how quickly things can escalate. If I am lucky enough to get another chance, I can NEVER mess up again or my kid grows up with only 1 parent or worse is raised by someone else. Coming from a broken home I believe in a 2 parent upbringing, so this is my personal nightmare. So if you have kids then u owe it to them.

11:05 AM  

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4:21 AM  

My daughter was choked a year ago by her husband after he got out of jail they got back together they both our verbally and mentally abusive to each other but he believes choking her was not his fault and says he was protecting there child I believe she need counseling what is your opinion

11:57 PM  

I'm Not a therapist - Take her to your local Domestic Violence Center. She does NOT need to live there. Speak to an advocate - they can set her up with someone. Usually FREE

She sounds Trauma Bonded.

5:55 PM  

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