Marriage counseling, or couples counseling, focuses specifically on marriages and relationships; counselors who practice couples counseling are specially trained to help couples discover the roots of their problems and brainstorm healthy solutions for them. In fact, couples counseling is one of the healthiest spaces for a relationship, as it allows for couples to work on themselves individually and on the relationship as a whole while learning to communicate their needs in healthy and appropriate ways.
There are many situations in which people can be opposed to couples counseling. Perhaps both partners in a relationship feel that they have been married for so long and know each other so well that there’s nothing a marriage counselor can add to it. Other times, in a struggling relationship, one partner could be totally on board with counseling and are finding it difficult to convince their counterpart to come along as well. People may not wish to initially attend therapy for a variety of reasons; it is possible they had a previous negative experience in therapy; maybe they are stubborn or don’t believe it will help them; or, it is possible that they are ashamed to go and face certain problems.
What can you do if your partner won’t go to counseling with you?
Have you tried to ask open-ended questions to find out more about their perspective and reluctance? Asking questions and being genuinely curious about your partner’s perspective on something as intimate as therapy is one way to show that you are not only serious about the subject yourself but that you are willing to learn more about and help your partner through their own reluctance.
Have you asked your partner if they would be willing to read a look together on couples therapy or look into online resources if they aren’t ready for in-person relationship therapy? It’s never a silly idea to begin slowly; this can start by educating yourself more on what couples therapy entails and why it’s important for your relationship.
You may also considered going to therapy by yourself, and understanding what changes you can make to potentially influence the relationship, or just have the support?
If you are continually evaluating whether counseling is a deal breaker for you, it may be important to understand your own feelings, perceptions and needs about relationships in general, your history in relationships and your role particularly in this relationship.
When you are willing to look at yourself, it may be a lot helpful in having the conversation with your partner about going to therapy?
Pick the right time: pick a time when you’re in a rational state of mind. Suggesting this mid-fight will likely feel threatening to your partner. Rather, bring it up during a calm moment when you have time to talk about it.
Talk about it from an “I” and “we” perspective: share why you believe it’s important to go to couples therapy and how you believe it will benefit the relationship. Instead of saying we need to go to couples therapy so you can be a better partner, say I want us to go to couples therapy so we can be closer.
Be willing to hear the pushback: let your partner be a part of the conversation, even if it results in a bit of pushback. Answer your partner’s questions and be curious about their concerns.
If there are no monsters in the closet, share that: people have a lot of preconceptions about what relationship therapy means, with much of it feeling scary. Your partner might think you’re going to tell them their relationship is over, admit to an affair, or bring up something they don’t know about yet.
Be flexible to have a boundary: if it’s a non-negotiable to get some outside help, let your partner know it’s something you need to do and be willing to let them have influence into when, where, how, and with who.
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