It affects absolutely every part of his character.
For the purposes of clarity, and speaking for myself only, it was not that being an ACoA affected every part of my character - it WAS every part of my character. I was who I was and behaved as I did not because I was being influenced, but because this was how I knew to behave towards others. I'm sure to an outsider, this mode of living has got to be not only overwhelming but probably completely insane. To those of us trying to change who we are at our core fundamentals, it is a very familiar thing.
Has anyone else's marriage been destroyed by a spouse's ACOA?
Mine almost was, except that *I* was the ACoA spouse. I didn't know how to set boundaries, I expected my husband to read my mind, instead of screaming matches, both of us would go silent, sometimes for 2 - 3 days because both of us were walking on eggshells.
We went to marriage counseling. I had to learn to say no. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. See, ACoA's aren't allowed to say no. So if we don't want to do something, we have no way of voicing it. So we say "yes", we do it, we get mad because the other person "made" us do it (even though we didn't say 'no'), the anger builds and builds until it explodes over some weird thing that baffles the more healthy partner, who then gets scared to say anything at all.
Our counseling was as you describe. Every session was me griping about 'everything he'd done wrong'. The counselor let this continue so that she could get a better idea of what was really happening. Then one day she "turned on me" (that's what it felt like). Suddenly there was a lot of "why don't you say no?" and "if you don't tell him what you want, how can he know?". The first 6 months of counseling was us airing all our grievances, with some input and homework from the counselor. The next 18 months was almost entirely work on me. THAT was a wakeup call.
My husband believes to this day that the only reason our marriage is still together (and now healthy and happy) is that we're both too stubborn to admit we made a mistake in getting married. So both of us worked very hard.
It has been 4 years since we last saw our counselor - we still occasionally have to use some of the tools she gave us to get through sticky spots.
One of the things that helped our marriage counseling the most was that we had a schedule where I met with the counselor separately, then we'd meet together, then he'd meet with her on his own, then together again. So each of us got one session without the other one there to say whatever we wanted and work on whatever without fear of things spilling over outside.
As for your husband's therapy, is he seeing someone trained in cognitive behavioral therapy? If he can find someone like that, I Highly recommend it. I also suggest that he take in the 13 common characteristics of ACoAs stickied at the top of this and give them to his therapist, with all that apply to him circled. This will help the therapist know what tack to take with the therapy and what he's dealing with.
I have been in individual therapy for 4 years straight now, 3 with a cognitive behavioral therapist. Best decision I ever made was to try out CBT (it sounds hokey online when you read about it, but it works really really well).
I wish you luck. The best piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you take care of yourself during this time, whatever decision you make. If you feel that seeing the marriage counselor "one off/one on" like we did, bring it up. I know it's hard to make your voice heard at home, but in the therapists office, you should be able to (at least if the therapist is any good - they'll control the situation to allow you to speak your mind).