Among couples seeking a divorce, one third report that they did not go to marriage counseling because their spouse was unwilling to go.
Among couples who schedule therapy, many wait as many as six years--and then only choose to go as a last resort, sometimes even after one partner has made the decision to leave.
That's a whole lot of heartache and suffering for two people, or a whole family if kids are involved, to go through.
We know from years of research that couples counseling can work for up to 75% of couples.
If you're convinced, but your partner isn't, there are still options.
Reasons Partners are reluctant to start therapy
- The counselor take sides and blame me.
- Going to counseling will make me look weak.
- Couples counseling won't work for us and will just be a waste of time and money.
- If the relationship changes, things might just get worse.
- If I go, I might loose of control of myself or the relationship.
- Sharing relationship details feels too intimate and personal.
In fact, none of these fears are likely to take place in therapy with a qualified counselor.
A good therapist recognizes that relationships are a system. Both partners unwittingly create a negative communication cycle that damages feelings and hurst the relationship.
Finding out those patterns and correcting them means being a little vulnerable, but I see a willingness to be vulnerable as a sign of strength, not weakness. Yes, discussing relationships is personal, but I'll never force anyone to talk about things they don't want to share.
What can i do if my Partner is not Ready for couples counseling?
If you are ready to see a couples therapist, but your partner isn't there yet, here are a few options you can consider.
- Ask your partner to explain his or her reluctance. Your partner may be concerned about the effectiveness of therapy or may be worried about sharing personal information with a therapist. Knowing the real concern and responding with compassion may help your partner understand the benefits or upsides of seeing a therapist.
- Suggest letting your partner find or help choose a therapist. Having a say in the decision allows your partner to find someone she or he is comfortable with and provides more involvement in the decision.
- Schedule a one-time meeting with a therapist. If one or both of you find a therapist you think you might like to work with, then you can schedule a one-time appointment where you can express your hesitation and concerns. You can then get a sense of if the therapist is someone you can both work with and trust.
- Try working through a self-help book first. In my practice I am influenced by the research and practices of Sue Johnson and John Gottman. Each has written several good books that couples can work through together as a way of starting to work on problems. Examples include Hold Me Tight and The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work.
- Try a weekend workshop. There are several therapists who hold weekend workshops for couples. In these workshops, you get a taste of what couples counseling is all about. The investment is reasonable, and if you don't like what you see, then there is no commitment to go further. Two Atlanta workshops I highly recommend are Hold Me Tight Weekends and The Seven Principles Couples Workshop.
- Consider solo therapy. Even if only one person attempts therapy, the relationship will change. Marriage and families are systems, and each of us tends to take on a particular role within that system. Even if only one person in the relationship changes, the whole relationship will experience changes. If you and your partner see benefits, then he or she may be more encouraged to help with the effort.
It can be frustrating when our spouse refuses to attend couples counseling. You're likely tired of the arguments, tired of the hurt, and tired of feeling alone. You may wonder if it's even possible to improve the relationship if you partner just won't try.
As hard as it sounds, have a little respect for how hard it is for some people to open themselves up to therapy or overcome doubts about counseling. Sometimes, a little understanding goes a long way.
Try telling your partner, "Yes, I understand that you're reluctant or afraid to start therapy. It's a hard decision for me, too. I did some research and found some other options. Do any of these sound worth trying?"
You can contact me with questions at (404) 786-0415 (phone & text) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Revised and updated June, 2017