Here's a Hint: You can't nag someone into wanting change
Marriage counseling only works if both parties are really commited to change, but sometimes one partner might be more accepting of the idea of therapy than the other. If you find yourself in a position where you really want to gets some outside help but your husband is resistant, being really aggressive about seeking a counselor might backfire. He may shut down altogether, which is no good because you need to enter counseling as a team.
Get your husband to start counseling…with strategy
Even if your partner remains skeptical at the first session, it’s important that you’re both at least open to working on the relationship. Here are some tips for how to get your husband to successfully start couples counseling.
Reassure Him It Won’t Be a Bashing Session
Make sure he knows that counseling isn’t going to be a bashing session of what he had done wrong or failed at. Talk about why you feel that you’re becoming disconnected and how much it would mean to you to get the spark back. Don’t say “Well, you’re making this marriage miserable and we need to go to counseling so you can straighten out.” Reassure him that it takes two to tango and that you also need to learn how to communicate more effectively in the relationship. You’ll get much farther by talking about why you see a benefit in counseling for BOTH of you than by attacking him with insults or ultimatums.
Give Him a Time Frame
Your husband will need some sort of time frame that gives him a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Ask him to commit to 3 sessions and if he still doesn’t want to do therapy, you two can stop. This gives him an emotional container for that period of time to get through the counseling.
When you approach your husband about going to a counselor, let your guard down. Your husband needs to know what your core feelings are. By that, I mean what is beyond the anger and frustration. Yelling and being vocal about your discontent won’t necessarily want to make him sit down in a room with you and work things out. Address the hurt, fear, or anxiety that you are feeling underneath. Talk about how you are fearful that the marriage is on the wrong track and be vulnerable about the underlying emotions, not just the surface ones.
Own Your Part
Any marriage is a two-way street. Make sure your husband understands that you know you have a part to play in the problems you’re experiencing. Counseling isn’t about “fixing” one person, just making your bond better and stronger. When you’re explaining why you want to go to counseling, make sure that you are open and honest about the areas where you need to grow, not the the areas where you think he could improve. By showing that you don’t consider yourself perfect, your husband can see that you’re not suggesting counseling just to punish him in some way.
Calm His Fears
Let your husband talk about what’s holding him back from counseling. By talking through why he’s hesitant, you can hopefully quell some of his fears. For instance, many people feel uncomfortable about bringing their personal relationship problems before a total stranger — your counselor. Talk through all of your husband’s fears or negative perceptions about counseling. Just by giving him a forum to talk through why he’s objected, he can get out some of his anxiety. This also gives you a chance to continue to emphasis the benefits of counseling and assure him that everything is confidential.
You want to learn how to get your husband to start counseling, but what happens if he still doesn’t budge? If he won’t go to therapy, then you may need to seek out professional help to figure out where to go from here. He may not be necessarily done with the relationship, so you will need to learn how to be with him different.
If you have ideas on how to get your husband to start counseling, share them below.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653