Should you force someone to go to counseling?

My wife and I are currently in a disagreement, and given our usual disagreements, it means that she won’t talk to me for several days. She suffers from depression and anxiety, some of it extends from a neglectful and abusive childhood. When we get into battles, she adopts a “my way or the highway attitude”, but usually she ends up backing down after a few days and I have a tendency to let things go. However, now we are at a point where I am seriously thinking about giving her an ultimatum: Either she agrees to go to counseling or she has to leave.

My problem is that last time we tried counseling, she sabotaged the process. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

No, you shouldn’t force anyone to do anything.

However, with much love and grace, hopefully that she will eventually see, you can suggest, encourage her into counseling.

Do you have a counselor for her? If not, maybe she just can’t get it all together to find one herself.

Is she aware that she is suffering? Or is she blaming everything on you?

Print off information on the net for her to read. Explain to her that you do not like to see her suffering, to see your marriage suffering. Maybe even go to counseling together, again, so she doesn’t feel so threatened.

For some people, they have to hit rock bottom, for some people, kind words and gentleness works the best.

I don’t know your wife’s temperment. I don’t even know your temperment, however, I always suggest using grace first instead of force.

I will pray for you.

This is never easy to deal with.

You need to talk to a priest about this. I know separation is allowed in certain cases, but I don’t know what those are.

You could try to force her to go, but would she get anything out of it if she doesn’t want to be there? On the other hand, if she realizes you are serious about separation, it may give her the motivation she needs to do what she needs to do. The bottom line is that you can’t change her, only she can decide to change herself. I don’t know what the answer is, but you are in my prayers.

She is aware that she is suffering. She will openly admit that her life has no meaning. Of course, the problem is that the way she is trying to get meaning is through acquiring material goods. She complains that she doesn’t make enough money, but then also complains that I haven’t found her a new job. That’s right, she cannot look for jobs herself, she expects me to do it for her (which I do, but I guess not enough to her liking). She is both aware of her suffering and she blames me at the same time.

I feel like I am constantly putting out her fires and I am running out of energy.

I will pray for you.

This is never easy to deal with.

Thank you.

No, but if you’re angry and/ or frustrated, why don’t you go alone? It might help you to have a neutral person to talk to.

It sounds as though she needs some individual counseling. Is she open to that idea? What about the idea of medication, at least on a temporary basis? Obviously, you’ve discussed this from the marriage end of things in the past, but it may be time to gently push her to get individual help. This won’t fix your marriage, but it may go a long way to getting her to the point where she can realistically work with you on fixing the marriage.

I also think the idea of you going to counseling alone is a good one - obviously the stress of dealing with your wife’s condition is getting to you and perhaps you could use some outside support.

I will keep you in my prayers.


Maybe you can try some individual counseling yourself, so that you can learn to not back off and let things go all of the time. You really can’t force your wife to change, but I think counseling will give you the benefit of being able to deal with things in the best way possible and might give you some new insight into where the problems are stemming from.

I’m sorry you are going thru this. I can tell you from the perspective of a woman dealing with depression that I had to seek counseling for myself. My husband suggested it multiple times but I just knew I could DEAL with it myself. Some people have a hard time asking for help - I am one of them. I did find out my husband had done some inquiring on his own trying to find me some Catholic help but we do not have anyone available in our area. He, like you wants me to feel better.

I second the recommendation about you going to counseling yourself at least you’d have a release. If you have kids, they may benefit as well as they know your wife is suffering and probably don’t understand it.

If counseling isn’t an option or not what you’d like then your priest or spiritual advisor in your church would be another great option.

I’ll keep you and your wife in my prayers.

I’m sorry things have gotten rough. I don’t think ultimatums ever work. And if they do for that one time, people usually grow resentful if they feel they were forced to do something, anything that wasn’t their idea. I would ask her to go to counseling, and explain that things reaaaallllly need to change. You’re willing to go too…for yourself. Maybe you both could go separately and then together, because she may have issues that she doesn’t want you to hear. I’m so sorry she had an abusive childhood. She really needs to grieve through that childhood, because she probably has some residual feelings of not feeling loved, etc. When we never got the love we needed as kids, it is VERY hard to love a spouse or even children of our own. So, maybe just keep planting seeds. I hope things get better!!!

Forcing someone to go to counseling will not work. The person would in all likelihood sabotage the process. If you need help dealing with your situation, you should go to counseling/therapy. Let the process center on how you deal with issues and leave your wife out of it as much as possible. Good luck.


It sounds like it’s YOU who has adopted “my way or the highway” attitude. She goes to counseling or she has to leave?

My first reaction is “whatever happened to for better or worse?” This is part of the “worse.” If she has a problem with depression and anxiety, she needs your patience. Trying to reason with her and push her into counseling when she’s feeling bad is the absolute worst time to pressure her. You are only adding to the problem.

I recommend prayer and very gentle coaxing during her happy times. She knows she’s not happy during the bad days and eventually, she will most likely look for help with this problem, but it has to be on her terms.

You can’t “make” anyone do anything.

BTW, my signature, below, was added to my profile during one of my times of depression. Now, that things looks brighter, I appreciate the wisdom of it even more.

There’s your answer.

I’m having a lot of problems with my mother and have been constantly encouraging her to go to counseling, but she refuses. There’s nothing I can do about her behavior, but I can choose how I respond to it. So that’s what I’m working on now.
When my husband and I were having severe marital problems, I was the one to refuse counseling. I wasn’t ready. When I finally did decide to get help, it was through Retrouvaille, which is not counseling. It helped immensely, but I had to get to the point of being ready to go myself. No amount of begging, ultimatums, or anything else would get me there. But he found someone to talk to in the meantime, which helped him.

OP, is your wife verbally or emotionally abusive to you? You can’t force her to get help, but if you feel you can’t live with her anymore due to abusive behavior (if there is any), you can separate until she proves she has done what she needs to do to take care of herself. It may never happen, and you may end up separated for the rest of your life. This is why I say you need to talk to your priest about this, to see if your situation meets the criteria for separation.

Depression and anxiety are terrible illnesses, but there are other people who suffer besides the one with the affliction, and no one is required to stay in an abusive situation.

Signs of emotional abuse:

Good advice FLCathMom. Someone has no right to demand that you stay with them in sickness and in health if they are not going to take the steps that they need to take in order to be healthy. Serious depression can lead to mood swings that can be very abusive in nature. No one should have to live with that, especially when treatment and therapy are available.

There are definately some signs of emotional abuse. She makes it very clear that my job is to take care of her and that she cannot be expected to take care of me in any way.

She has steadfastly refused to go to counseling, although, when I told I was going to go by myself, she said I could do whatever I want. Last time I went by myself, it kind of coaxed her into seeking help. I think that deep down she realizes that she has real deep problems, but she is afraid to admit them, because then she couldn’t blame me for everything.

She finally broke her four day silent treatment, although now she is trying to pretend that nothing is wrong. There was never any admitting of any wrongdoing on her part. During our fight, she offered to move out and rent an apartment and I kind of regret not taking her up on the offer.

I realize that I should be more patient with her, but it feels that from an emotional basis, as if I am living with an alzeimers patient. Emotionally, she is just not there.

My prayers are with you. How wearied you must be. :frowning: I am going to pm you.

I just thought I would update everyone. Things are still a mess at my house, although I have called to set up an appointment with a counselor. I asked my wife if she would consider going, and her response was: “Whatever”. So, I will probably be going by myself. In a way, I kind of like that because I really feel like I need someone to listen to me. If I bring up my concerns with her, she starts a fight and then blames everything back on me.

Thanks for all of your advice and prayers.

I’m glad to hear that. You will gain a lot of strength as well as some much needed perspective.

I don’t know if she’s emotionally abusive or not, but I do notice that people are quicker to “diagnose” it in husbands than in wives. (This includes myself.)

Here’s the thing about emotional abuse: the only way people can ever deal with it is to come to recognize it and then accept the fact that it can’t be fixed. I know of very few situations where a seriously abusive person has been able to change. Now, most people do things that could be defined as “abusive” at one time or another. We may yell or say mean things or do the silent treatment, etc. But, there is a difference between what a normal person does on a bad day and what a chronic abuser does as a matter of course. Also, if somebody has an addiction problem or is dealing with an acute mental illness (like depression) then dealing with those problems can fix the problem of the abusive behavior. But, for your garden-variety abuser, there isn’t really much that can be done for them.

I think you should do some more reading on these issues. If your wife is abusive, then you will probably recognize that after doing some reading at the EA web sites. If you arrive at that conclusion, then you’ll have to decide what you want to do with it.

The stuff about having to take care of her and look for jobs for her, and the way she suddenly decides that everything is now OK - refusing to acknowlege there is a problem - are big red flags for me. So, that’s why I encourage you too read about emotional abuse.

Expect things to get worse as you start learning ways to circumvent the passive-aggressive behaviors you are describing, though your counselor will probably warn you of that as well. I am glad to see you are going yourself, you will need that support of your own to make progress in the marriage as you start to put a “will not tolerate” limit on the crazy-making you’ve been forced to deal with.

I’d also strongly suggest Retrouvialle if you can get her to go. Also, as you are close enough to that point to start putting together a strategy how to possibly fend it off. However, (speaking from personal experience) if your wife really is seeing marriage as a one-sided responsibility, where she’s never at fault and feels justified in lashing out at you for not being “good enough” at things that are her responsibility in the first place, you have an uphill climb trying to work it out where she’s going to be willing to start carrying her own weight.