In most marriage counseling cases, one partner will be more open to the idea of therapy than the other. What’s more, often, one person will see the benefit and need to go to marriage counseling but will hold back from taking it further because of their partner’s reluctance.
Suppose you have brought up the idea of couples counseling with your spouse, only to have it ignored or immediately shut down. In that case, you may be feeling frustrated and unheard. In fact, one partner’s unwillingness to do marriage counseling can actually worsen the communication problems between you.
5 reasons a spouse may resist counseling
At our couples counseling New City center, we find there is usually one of five main reasons a partner may feel hesitant towards marriage therapy. These are:
Many people do not know any other way to deal with their problems other than to pretend the issue does not exist. Unfortunately, this is also the case in relationships, and denial of marriage problems often leads to even more conflict.
A healthy basis of any relationship is honesty. Therefore, if your partner will not be honest with themselves or you about how they feel, you can be left feeling very lonely and isolated.
2. Unaccepting of help
Another common belief is that you have to figure out your problems for yourself and that involving another in your conflict will not make a difference. This can also be combined with denial. For example, one party may believe their relationship issues are not big enough to require a therapist, even if you have been struggling for years.
Marriage counseling can seem scary, and many people will avoid going to a therapist because of this. They fear that they will be made to feel guilty and put down for their actions and behaviors. No one wants to feel judged, and the belief that they will be “ripped to pieces” by the therapist creates a common roadblock to starting therapy with your spouse.
There is a lot of stigma around marriage therapy. At our couples counseling New City center, we see many couples turn up to their first session feeling shameful about being there. People will avoid starting sessions for fear of other people finding out and gossiping about them and the intense levels of shame that will bring.
5. Avoiding responsibility
Sometimes, a person may immediately dismiss the idea of marriage counseling because they simply do not want to take responsibility for their problems. However, dealing with relationship issues takes time and effort and involves opening up honestly about how you feel. Some people will claim that they are too busy to deal with it right now. However, in reality, they are just hoping the problems will solve themselves without them having to take any responsibility or action.
Common hesitations when approaching your partner about therapy
Even if you know that you and your other half need marriage counseling to move forward, it’s natural to feel hesitant to bring it up with your partner. This is because the thought of doing so can create scary stories in your head, such as the following.
“They might end the relationship if I suggest we get help.”
It’s normal to think that bringing up counseling with your other half will come as a huge shock and cause the relationship to end. However, your partner is undoubtedly thinking about ways to fix the relationship and may also be pondering on couples counseling.
“There’s no way they will agree to it, so why bother?”
We can easily talk ourselves out of having the talk by assuming we know our partner’s response. However, there is no way to know your other half’s feelings towards counseling without starting a conversation about it. Who knows, they may surprise you and be more open to it than you expect. Or, if not, at least you are communicating about your relationship problems, which is the first step to moving forward.
“I shouldn’t be the one to make the first move.”
Suppose you feel the cause of your relationship problems is due to the fault of your partner. In that case, you may feel resistant to suggest counseling as you believe your partner should be taking the initiative. However, even if your partner did something to damage the relationship, it’s both of your responsibilities to repair and restore it. Making the first move to fix your marriage shows courage and forgiveness, which your partner is bound to respect.
Top tips for convincing your spouse
So, what can you do if your partner is not open to counseling? At our couples counseling New City office, we’ve learned that in most cases, it requires some time, research, and patience for them to come around to the idea. So, here are our top tips on how best to confront the subject with your other half.
1. Choose the right time and place
Like with any important conversation, there is a right time and place for talking about marriage counseling. Don’t bring it up at a time when you know your partner is busy or stressed.
Instead, mention to your spouse in the morning that you would like to take some time to talk this evening. This way, they have at least some expectations of the conversation, and they have the whole day to prepare themselves for what you might say.
Make sure you have the talk in a calm environment, too, with no one else around and no potential distractions. By choosing the right time and setting, there is less chance they will get angry or dismiss the idea without any consideration.
2. Research the counseling process beforehand
Your spouse will indeed have a lot of questions going through their mind when you mention therapy. Therefore, it helps to understand the process fully yourself first to explain and educate them on what to expect and hopefully break their false beliefs.
This is also an ideal opportunity to address the stigma around marriage counseling. If you know of any couples who have successfully been through therapy and now have stronger relationships, tell your spouse their story. Sometimes, all it takes is to realize that therapy is a normal thing that ordinary people do. It does not mean there is something wrong with them or that they are a failure in any way.
3. Involve them in the process
No one likes to be told what to do or feel like they are being pushed into something they are unsure about. Therefore, try to involve your partner in the process by suggesting you look for and choose a counselor together.
Involving your other half will make them feel like they are making the decision, rather than being forced into it. Plus, just the act of working together could start to bring you a little closer together and make you feel like a team, rather than enemies.
4. Don’t blame them
If you’re at the point of turning to couple counseling, you are probably in a state of heightened emotions. However, don’t allow the talk to turn into another argument by blaming your partner for all the problems. Remember that your intention is to take the first step towards fixing the relationship, which might mean you have to bite your tongue.
5. Avoid getting defensive
If your spouse gets defensive and says that you are the one at fault, avoid retaliating. Instead, tell them that you don’t care whose fault it is, and all you are concerned about is finding a solution. Try your best to remain calm, and if things get heated, you might want to end the conversation and revisit it another time.
6. Be honest about your feelings
Asking your partner to go to couples counseling with you will require you to open up with them. The more honest you are about your feelings, the more likely your partner will take your request seriously. So explain that you have been struggling and don’t want things to get worse.
Furthermore, let your partner know that you are asking because you love them and want to fix the relationship. A common misinterpretation that people make about therapy is that their partner suggests it because they no longer love them or want a divorce. Ensure they know that this is not the case.
Having that initial conversation with your spouse about partner therapy can be scary and difficult. However, by following the above tips, you’ll have a better chance of a successful response.
Even so, if your partner is still not sure, give them time to think it over rather than hassling or pressuring them. They will come round to the idea in their own time, and later is better than never!
We’re here to help
If you want to learn more about how marriage counseling works, get in touch with our couples counseling New City therapists. Our experienced counselors will walk you through the process and give you further advice on convincing your partner to agree.