Euro couples counsellor who can deal with strong intellectual man

I'm from southern Europe, in US 20 yrs, married to an American. Came for work and was to return to Europe within 2 yrs. Met him, and after a few yrs married.  He said he was willing to move overseas. I had already lived away from Europe for 10 years before I met him and made it very clear I wanted to return. I'm a v int'l person but at this stage of my life I was and am yearning to return to my continent if not my country. (I lived in 2 countries in Europe growing up, another 5 later)

Then he got a great job offer and I stayed. I stopped working. Gradually my sense of 'I want to return to Europe' has grown to the point where I cry on the plane when we return and am depressed for weeks. This summer we're not going to Europe because of the virus so the kids will not have the language boost they get in the summer camps there. 

I've talked  with him but feel stonewalled. He is thriving in his job and it's a job for life (academia). He dismisses my feelings or denigrates them by trying to break them down.  'You've been here so long can you even consider yourself European' etc.. I feel guilt at asking him to leave for an uncertain future, so have suggested a sabbatical to start. He said nothing in Europe will compare. Hasn't looked. 

I need a foreign-experienced, preferably Euro therapist, who will understand my wanting to go back and my feeling 'cheated'. Therapist needs to be strong and used to dealing with 'strong willed' 'good at demolishing arguments'  'little empathy' men. He's willing to do counselling. He will likely fixate on the counsellors' credentials and use that to dismiss any advice he doesn't like. Maybe better if a man counsellor as he can be sexist. On the other hand he'll dismiss any man who chooses counselling as a profession. My husband isn't a bad person but I am deeply hurt by his ignoring my distress. For not understanding that my request is not unreasonable, and after living 20 yrs reluctantly in his country and his never having lived overseas maybe he could give it a try.. He has occasionally promised to register with a headhunter/tap into alumni network in Europe/call friend in Europe, but hasn't done this. If he had said when we were dating 'I want to stay in America'.  I would have ended it. 

He works in his home office and comes out for dinner. He's not happy, but he's burying it and it's 'my problem'. I feel like a 50s housewife and do everything in the house/yard/admin. This is adding to my sense of feeling 'used' and 'ignored'. Never shows affection or appreciation. (I do show appreciation for the fact he works hard) I gave up my int'l career when we had kids. Our son is following his lead in disparaging me, daughter more sympathetic. Found a few counsellors but at 300 an hour I can't see us resolving this in a few sessions. I'd like someone more economical who 'gets' the situation. I know I'm asking a lot.

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

I am sorry to hear your current condition. Unfortunately, you have provided him no incentive to change and it is unlikely that he will. You know that, he holds all the chips. I wish you the best. I feel there is a low likelihood that anyone on this website will be able to find you a therapist. I would join a Facebook group locally. Anonymously post this message. You may get a better response. Best wishes love. 

This sounds like a terrible quandary. Is it really just you missing Europe? Or is it that you are unhappy in this marriage? It seems like you are not thinking about actions that you could take yourself to solve the problem.  Instead it seems like you're trying to figure out how to get your husband to make a change, which would be easier for you. But based on what you described, it does not seem likely. Can you think about what steps you are willing to take? For example, would you be willing to move back to Europe, without your husband, without your kids?  Are your kids old enough to decide where they want to live? Can you wait a few years until the kids are older to make your move? Are you willing to share custody and have your kids live in both the US and Europe? Would your husband be more willing to compromise if you show him that you are ready to make a change and you have thought it through?  I think that talking over your options with a therapist would be very helpful. You don't really need a therapist who is European - making difficult choices and taking chances is something all of us struggle with. I wish you the very best!

If you have insurance, you can see a counselor with a co-pay.   Call the mental health benefits phone number on the back of your card, and they can send you a list of therapists.  Maybe you can go through his school to get a referral.  Maybe you can just pay for 1-2 sessions for yourself to talk to a therapist about a good way to approach your marriage issues, or how to find a good couples therapist.

Hi! Your post mentions that your annual trip has been cancelled due to the pandemic. Now that European borders are opening up, and many academic institutions are announcing that fall and even spring semesters will be mostly online or hybrid, might it be possible to find a way to travel home, perhaps even for longer than usual?

The long term solution you are seeking may not be possible, but the pandemic may have offered you an unusual win. Long term, even if your husband loved spending time in your home country, and had many professional connections there, it would be hard to find a well-paying, permanent, academic job. Southern European Universities mostly don't pay well; in some South European countries it is common for academics to have second jobs for this reason.

But, depending on his field, spending more time in your home country, on a US salary, while you connected with family, should be very doable. If he's spending all day in his home-office now, his home office could be in Europe! Also, you could ask your husband to look into research collaborations and fellowships that would allow him to spend more time in your home country. That way, over time, you may both have more incentives to spend time there.

Your post reads like you are seeking someone who can convince your husband to abandon his own feelings and come around to yours. This will be hard to do, maybe even unfair. You’ve listed lots of reasons why staying here would be incredibly advantageous, and few that might convince a tenured academician to abandon that. Continuing to visit sounds like the obvious solution to me, a complete outsider of course, but just based on your wording. Best of luck. 

I felt so sad reading your post. You say your husband is not a bad person, but he's not really a good one either, is he? He is selfish, thoughtless, judgmental and sexist per your description. He also sounds emotionally abusive. The part that really got me is that he doesn't show any affection or appreciation. I am married to someone that was not from the US originally, but he never said he wanted to go back and I never agreed I would go with him if he did- so we worked that out long before marriage and kids. I'm sorry your husband lied to you. I think you need to figure out how long you want to stay. If your marriage was happy would you still want to go back to Europe? If the answer is yes, I think you should start to plot your way back. You don't mention how old your kids are - can you hang in until they leave for college then go? Plus it's NOT ok for your son to treat you poorly - you need to put a stop to that behavior right away or he will go on to be another partner like your husband. I hope you can find someone to help you in the short term, but in the long run I think you need to plan to go back on your own. So sorry...

From what you write, your husband is an academic with tenure ("job for life") and is supporting your family.  Tenured academic jobs are not very portable.  Unless he is fluent in another language, he will have to teach in English.  This limits the jobs he could consider in Europe to the UK and Ireland.  (There are a few universities that teach in English in other countries as well.)  The likelihood that he could find an equivalent job is low unless he is an absolute superstar in his field.  Does he even have the legal right to work in another country?  Through your marriage, he might be eligible for EU or another citizenship, but he would need to go through this process before looking for a job.  Given this, what is your plan for supporting your family if you move to Europe? You suggest he "give it a try," but are you actually suggesting he quit his job, with the financial security it provides?

 Of course, he could take a sabbatical anywhere, as that is paid for by his home institution.  Would you consider a one year stay in Europe enough?   I would think through the financial aspects of your proposed move before you start paying a therapist to talk about moving to Europe. As for the fact that he dismisses your feelings, that is another issue entirely.  This is where a therapist might be appropriate.

Sorry I don't have a therapist recommendation but be sure to watch the movie Marriage Story together!

Hans Stahlschmidt is the therapist you are looking for. He's phenonemal. I'm a therapist, and he is the couple's therapist for myself and my husband. I recommend him to everyone, but he is particularly fitting for your situation. 

Ah, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. Academia is a difficult culture to permit flexibility, but your partner is clearly using this as an excuse to shut down your needs and preferences, as though they shouldn't be of equal and as important weight in your relationship. I'm sorry your son is learning this from his father, too. I don't know if she does couples counseling, but Dr. Melissa Holub ( is an incredibly smart, intellectually-responsive therapist. It took me a long time to find such an insightful and challenging (in a good way) therapist. She has a PhD (likely to be important to your husband), though I am not suggesting a good therapist must have one, I suspect it will be important to your husband. If she's not able to do couples' counseling, I suspect she could give you a good referral (though don't know how easy it will be to find a male therapist who meets all the criteria, and honestly, it sounds like you really need an ally, too, perhaps for yourself separately).

Good luck. Your story sounds similar to many of my female friends' experiences with their male partners. This is larger than you, but it doesn't mean it's not impacting you in very devastating ways.

From reading your description of your husband, he sounds like he has NPD (narcissist personality disorder).  Demeaning, dismisses your feelings, has no empathy, misogynistic, lies, ignores you, entitled acting,   manipulates, blames everything on you, etc.  They are often very intelligent, charming, charitable, often ambitious looking to the outside world.   I am a survivor of narcissistic abuse and after 22years and as a SAHM to 4, I finally had enough and decided to divorce.  Your post reads very much like what I experienced.  I’m in therapy with Stacy George in Oakland. She’s very familiar with this personality disorder and you might research this before trying to “fix” him.  She is in Oakland and charges 140$ (insurance generally reimburses portion).  It helps to have someone familiar with this validate your feelings.  People with NPD are incapable of change as they believe it’s you that needs to change.  This would be for YOUR benefit rather than your husband’s/or couples therapy.   If you come to the conclusion after some research that this isn’t what you’re dealing with, then have you considered spending summers in the country you’re from?  Rent a place short term or even buy a small apartment?  Something to consider if you really miss home.

Our situations are mirrored, I could have written your message exactly but just the opposite. We've been trying to find a resolution for this for a long time but can't. Two continents - we haven't been able to overcome that.

I'm sure you have considered a sabbatical - we did that a few years ago and it was KEY to allow me to live a regular life there again not as a visitor, but it was just a year.  Beyond sabbaticals, there is a lot more funding in some European countries for visiting academics or researchers. I don't know about Southern Europe, but through budgets from proposals, my husband hosts about 2 visiting professors every year for about 6 weeks, usually it is someone he has collaborated with who has heard about it and asks, another is a regular who comes every year. If your husband collaborates with anyone from Europe, tell him to ask them.

Also in Germany I have heard of Humboldt Research Fellowships - I know 2 researchers/academics from California who have done this, you may want to look into it  Maybe not the right region of Europe you want, nor the solution, but if you had a situation where you knew you could come every year for a few weeks, it might help. For our sabbatical, I had to push for it, my husband wasn't really interested - be persistent. Why not look at this Humboldt Foundation site and see if it is something that might work for your husband's skill set and then push him to apply. I think these can be done all at once (like 6-12 months) or in units like a month a year. Of course all on hold due to the virus.

Sorry I know your question was about a counselor and when we went to one to discuss this exact issue, I really had to make my case. Just as you've experienced, I found if you have a spouse who is unusually talented or making an important contribution, then even the counselor will find it hard to feel that that should be sacrificed for your old regular life. And even I of course saw that point too, which is why in the end we are still here. Yes he could have a good career in the States but the academic support is not the same. So we fly back and forth a lot. I too fell into despair with the virus, as did almost everyone so I remind myself that everyday, everyone is impacted, many have it way worse. My elderly parent died two months ago and I wasn't able to go home but had I been there I wouldn't have been allowed to visit, so maybe that would have been more heartbreaking to be right there and not say goodbye as is the case for so many.

I can relate to your relationship with your son, our daughter has never known me in my former role as a working professional, and sees me as a housewife (although I am in graduate school right now) and an outsider, not a native like she and her father. It's sad sometimes. Double continent families have unresolvable problems and unless one person is eagerly desiring to live in the other country, it seems like it's just a conflict to continuously manage. Perspective helps (could be worse, this needs to be a daily reminder), finding a fulfilling passion helps, and setting up something that allows you to spend more time in your home country, and maybe longer periods when your kids are older helps - but definitely a husband who acknowledges the sacrifice you have made is essential! Wish you luck in getting him to see this and a big hug!


Wow, even if you could have managed without therapy, I myself would need therapy after reading that slew of responses!!!  Take a deep breath (or 50) and pat yourself on the back for being so vulnerable as to ask for help on a social platform like this. I myself am struggling with marital issues, and my opinion after several months-long stretches of couples therapy is that real transformative change takes desire, tenacity and commitment from BOTH spouses. Yet even without our spouse on board, we can do our own work to get clear and learn to communicate ourselves better (and aren't those usually the hardest parts?). Of course you can find a therapist on this site who can help! The therapist doesn't have to be perfect. You just need to be able to progress in communication with your husband to the point that you can take clear actions.

We've had strong breakthroughs in our communication and intimacy in working with Ken Seider, PhD: (510) 548-6015. Ken helps reduce the inflammation we feel and keeps leading us back to the work of listening and adjusting behavior -- always helping us understand our own position and each other better. 

I also want to recommend an incredible book, recommended to me by a friend: "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step by Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship" by Mira Kirshenbaum. Her thesis is that lots of us have a tendency to remain in ambivalence rather than make change. She leads you through a very clear process of evaluating your relationship, with the goal of removing ambivalence. It's actually fun, in a weird way -- maybe relief is a better word! Nothing bad can come of getting CLEARER, right?

Wishing you comfort and PROGRESS!