When One Partner Refuses Counseling

“You can’t make me go!”

That’s something you’d expect to hear from your toddler not your spouse, yet I hear it all the time. Rather, I hear that’s what my client hears all the time.   I hear other things like, “I will not go because I don’t want to have you and someone else gang up on me.”  “Things aren’t that bad.”  “We can work it out on our own.”  “I don’t need therapy YOU need therapy.”  “I don’t know if couples counseling will really help.”  

Couples TherapyIf we take a moment to dissect what your spouse was saying, we’ll actually find the root of the discomfort many men and women feel when the idea of couples counseling is brought up: they’re going to be ganged up on by two others. What they’ve done wrong is going to be the focus of the session and ultimately, one person will lose amongst many other preconceived notions about couples counseling.  

For those of you that may be reading this at the begrudging request of your spouse, let me set the record straight: while couples counseling may be the idea of one person in the relationship, the end results are to benefit both people. My client is not your spouse, nor is it you. My client is your relationship. The goals you chose to focus on will not be solely those of your spouse and neither will they be entirely your goals. The goals will be those that you decide on together in session with my help and guidance.

I am always so sad to hear how long couples struggle before they actually get into couples or marriage counseling.  Couples often wait 6 years to get some type of help when one party requests it.  Imagine if you had a fracture in your arm.  It might not hurt that bad, but you decide to ignore it in hopes that it will get better.  Then you try to use your arm, it hurts, it is sore, but yet you refuse to see the doctor.  Now, imagine you go along that way for 6 months, a year, 2 years, up until 6 years.  Ouch!!! There is no need to wait so long to get into couples counseling.  I tell the couples I work with to think of it as “couples coaching” because that is exactly what I do with couples is coach and guide them in different skills, techniques, and activities to help them have a better relationship.  

Couples need to be concerned with choosing the right therapist.  There are 3 major models of couples counseling.  They are: Gottman Method, Imago, and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).  I would highly recommend seeking out a therapist trained in one of these models.  I am a Level III Gottman trained clinician and also have attended several EFT trainings.  Furthermore, you are the consumer of a service.  If it isn’t working for you search out another therapist that you feel fits with you.  

I posted an infographic from Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S on “How Couples Therapy Can Strengthen Your Relationship”. The infographic outlines some of the common myths surrounding couples counseling and its benefits. In her podcast on Love, Happiness and Success, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby reviews the anxiety some individuals feel when faced with the decision to go through marriage counseling. It’s important to keep in mind your partner’s feelings when approaching the subject of counseling; just like you want your partner to be open to the idea of counseling, you also need to be open to your partner’s feelings about why they’re hesitant to counseling.

Just because it may be difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a reluctant spouse or partner into therapy. In my experience with the couples I work with, the person who was most adamant against seeing a marriage counselor is often the one who requests the next session. That original, “You can’t make me go!” is suddenly, “When do we go again?” The change in your partner’s attitude comes in large part from your marriage therapist’s competence and expertise. With the right marriage counselor, you and your partner will feel open, honest, and safe while discussing difficult topics. With the right marriage counselor you and your partner will be taught communication techniques to use. With the right marriage counselor you and your partner will begin to not only feel better about your relationship but develop and nurture a stronger and healthier relationship, increase your love, friendship, and intimacy.
If you’re ready to make to make a change and improve the quality of your relationship, I’m always here to chat. After all, your relationship deserves it. – Katie