Help My Partner | Justin Lioi, LCSW - Brooklyn, NY

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Help My Partner

The COVID-19 crisis only increases stress, anxiety, and depression.

Of course, you knew that, but it’s important for us not to beat ourselves up for feeling overwhelmed when we’re struggling to manage with what is an undoubtably uncertain time. And uncertainty is a difficult state for most of us.

Some questions you may be asking yourself:

Will my family get sick? How do I protect my parents, my partner, my kids? Will I get sick and what happens to my family if I do? Will there be treatment? Hospital beds? Ventilators?

Once we start with all the “What ifs” and “Will there be’s” we are already down a deep rabbit hole and the coping skills we thought we had, the challenges we thought we had conquered, start showing up again.

Plus, even if you are sheltering in place at home, being with family 24/7 can bring up a lot of STRESS.

It’s to be expected.

And you’ve probably heard of POST-traumatic stress disorder, well, right now we’re in ACUTE traumatic stress times. And there IS a way to get through that.

Supporting you in managing your stress and anxiety through Online Counseling is a way I can help.

Please contact me with any questions or concerns you have and we can have a phone/online consultation so you can see if online counseling would be a good fit for you during these challenging times.

To get a man to go to therapy there are a few things you need to take into consideration. Men are not socialized to ask for help—especially when it comes to slippery “feminine” things like their emotions.

But men have them (emotions, that is) and often could use some help in accessing them. They often know the man (or dad) they want to be, but not having access to these feelings may be getting in their way

.

‘Asking for help’, though, is not a cherished part of masculinity. In fact, a good many of the guys–particularly the straight guys–I work with are sitting in my office, not because they decided to seek out counseling services on their own, but because a woman helped them get there. Maybe it was a girlfriend, a wife, a mom, or even a female friend many of my clients had someone encouraging them to seek out counseling. (For some, it was even an ultimatum for their relationship.) To get a man to go to therapy they had to be strategic and sometimes it took quite a while.

If you’re female-identified and reading this you may be one of those women wondering how you can get a man you care about to go to therapy. In fact, perhaps it’s therapy that you’ve been trying to provide. And that can be overwhelming.

But you know what? It’s actually not your job to be another person’s sole emotional support system. (And, yes, you may have been socialized into believing that it is, but that’s another patriarchal digression.)

So let’s talk about how you can get some support in all your supporting.

How to Get a Man To Go To Therapy

  1. Let him know he’s not the only one affected: Men are socialized to hold most feelings in as well as to fix things on our own. We don’t “explore”, or “process”, or (like a 9th grade algebra test) “show our work.” There’s too much vulnerability in showing you how we got there. We’ll share our solution. This is kind of ok when there’s a personal problem that doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else, but mental health issues are relational issues. He might say, “I’m the one who’s irritated [or angry, or whatever]—not you!” But those feelings affect others. Friends, family, kids, partners. So use this in your discussion with him. Talk about how his not leaving the apartment, or how sarcastic he is, or how his silence affects you. About how it affects your kids. In fact, one of the more motivating factors I’ve found that gets guys into counseling is when they begin to see how their moods and behavior are affecting their children. They don’t want to be the cause of their or your suffering and this motivation often gets them in the door to counseling. If they see how their behavior, their depressive moods, their anxiety spirals—how all of it is hurting you or your kids they may be pushed to make some changes. Use this as a catalyst to get them started—and trust that their new found therapist will help them with the rest!
  2. Go to therapy for yourselfNot only does this decrease him saying “Why should I go? I’m fine with me! You’re the one having the problem with me,” but it’ll give you a chance to examine your own choices—perhaps what you’re drawn to about this person who you think needs more support. You can show that you’re not afraid to do this kind of self-work as well. It can also help you set more boundaries. It can allow you to express yourself in a way that gets heard. Therapy isn’t just for people with diagnosable mental health issues—it’s for people who want to improve their relationships, their connections, and to find greater fulfillment. Plus, once your guy starts going to therapy he’s going to make some changes. He’s going to be more assertive, less anxious, more open. That may sound great, but you need to ask yourself: are you ready for that? Be careful what you wish for because once one person in a couple starts to change, the whole relationship is affected (see number 1). It can help for both parties to get some support so they can be there for each other’s respective changes.
  3. Consider going to couple’s therapy together: This is by far one of the most common ways in to therapy for men. This shifts the blame of who “needs” therapy and can show your investment in him and making the relationship work. Another plus is you can gain a supporter in getting him into his own treatment as the couple’s therapist may encourage him to seek out counseling on his own. Also, while it may seem to be less threatening because he’s doing it with you, the hidden secret is that couple’s therapy actually asks for a greater vulnerability and emotional investment than individual therapy—which is what you want! And it can help you see up close what he is struggling with and what’s getting in the way of him being more of the man he wants to be. You can also start to recognize what you may be bringing to the relationship dynamic (no, I’m not saying it’s your fault, but we all affect each other in ways we’re not always aware of…)
  4. Define the limits of what you can (and are willing) to do: You’re familiar with the “Lead a horse to water” trope, right? There are a bunch of things you can do. You can research therapists who you think he’ll connect with (or that are at least convenient to where he lives or works—or are online). You can seek out helpful blog posts about men and therapy, or one that’s particularly about his issue and how it can be benefited via therapy. Basically, you can put lots of info in front of him but at some point he’s gotta have some ‘buy in.’ I’ve had women call to ask about how I work, my availability, how much I charge and all that, but If she wants to make an appointment I can pretty much bet that it’s not going to work out—yet. So really take stock about what you’re able—and willing—to do.

It’s hard to see someone you love struggling and to know that there are ways he can get relief, but he’s just not taking it. None of these ideas are fool proof and there’s no guarantee it’s going to get him in the door. In fact, there’s no guarantee that going to therapy is going to be the answer you’re all looking for. But counseling is a way for all of us to become more of who we are. To give us more access to our emotions, more relief from the things we try to hide, and the freedom to move deeper in the relationships we want—and already have.


If this still seems pretty overwhelming and you want to talk further, please don’t hesitate to contact me and we can talk a bit more about what’s going on.


Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working in family and men’s counseling for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.