Experiencing the frustration of needing couples counseling while your partner refuses to join can be an immensely isolating and disheartening ordeal. You might not know exactly how to get your partner to go to couples counseling. It can leave you grappling with a sense of helplessness, as you recognize the importance of seeking professional guidance to mend your relationship but find yourself facing resistance from the very person you wish to reconnect with. This situation often leads to feelings of vulnerability, as you confront the stark reality that you cannot unilaterally address the issues at hand, further deepening the divide within the relationship. Coping with this challenge requires patience and perseverance, as well as seeking support from friends, family, or individual counseling to navigate the emotional turmoil and hopefully, eventually, find a path towards reconciliation or resolution.
It’s important to remember that you can’t force them to go, but you can try to understand their reasons for not wanting to go. They may be afraid of change or having the marriage end, and they may be worried about money or the time it takes away from the family. There are many reasons why someone may not want to go to therapy, so your first step is to figure out why they don’t want to go to couples counseling. Be curious.
Then, you will want to share your concerns. When you start the conversation about going to couples therapy, you want to make it clear, non-attacking, and encouraging. Here are some tips for talking to your partner about counseling:
- Be tender, yet honest. Get in close with your partner, be soft and tender, yet be honest about your experience in the relationship, Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re hoping to get out of counseling.
- Be respectful. Even if you don’t agree with your partner’s reasons for not wanting to go to counseling, it’s important to respect their feelings. They need to know that how they feel matters just as much as your feelings matter.
- Be willing to compromise. If your partner is not willing to go to counseling, you might be able to compromise by agreeing to go to counseling on your own first. This can help you to better understand your own feelings and to develop strategies for coping with the situation. By taking the first step to therapy, they may be open to going after hearing about your experience and seeing you respond differently.
- Be patient. It may take some time for your partner to come around to the idea of counseling. Be patient and supportive, and don’t give up.
But really, what are the main steps on how to get your partner to go to couples counseling? Here is the nitty-gritty on what steps you should take. As therapists. we see it all and this is our feedback on what to do if your partner has their foot in the ground and saying no.
- Share your money plan: Finances might be tight and counseling can be expensive. Share your money plan on how you can budget for the therapy, such as cutting back on Starbucks and bringing lunch to work.
- Be honest about your struggles. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re struggling with. Be specific about the severity of the issue, what you need from them, and what you think would help the relationship.
- Ask for 3 Sessions. Ask your partner to try it out for 3 sessions. They need to know that they can say no, but they should try it out for 3 sessions first. If they don’t want to continue, they have the right to say no (and you have to respect that decision!).
- Don’t play the blame game. Partners do not want to go to counseling to hear how they get it wrong. Couples therapy is not about assigning blame or pointing fingers. It’s about working together to find solutions to problems. Reassure your partner that you are seeking counseling to work on your side of the street and hopefully, they will do the same for you.
- Let them know you love them. Reassure that you are a team. Let your partner know that you love them and that you want to work on the relationship. Confirm with them that your goal is to help grow more connection, intimacy, and resolution.
- Move past the stigma. There is a stigma attached to couples therapy, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a sign of weakness. Remind your partner that counseling is a sign that you’re willing to work on your relationship and make things better.
- Don’t get defensive when they get defensive. If your partner gets defensive when you bring up couples therapy, try to be understanding. They may be feeling scared or threatened.
- Reassure. People can be afraid of what might change if they go to therapy. They might be afraid of losing their relationships, their jobs, or their sense of self.
- Provide times. Call and find a therapist who works evenings or on the weekends (we do here at Estes Therapy!) and share with your partner the plans with childcare. The more you make counseling easy for them, the more willing they will be to go. Make it seamless for them.
- Acknowledge the history and validate the fear. Acknowledge the history of fighting and validate the fear of talking about the relationship. It can be very scary to talk to a complete stranger about the most intimate issues. Let them know it is okay to feel cautious about going to therapy.
- Avoid the threats. You may feel like there is no other way than to waive the exit card in their face, but that will only make it worse. Don’t do the “if we don’t, then things won’t work out” type of talk. This is a hard no. It is basically sharing that you are out and that is not creating safety for counseling.
If you are thinking about going to counseling, it is important to remember that there is no shame in asking for help. Therapy can be a great way to improve your life and to learn how to cope with difficult situations. Counseling is a two-way street. Both partners need to be willing to work together in order for it to be successful. If your partner is not willing to put in the effort, then counseling may not be the right solution for your relationship.