You’re convinced. You’ve done the research, and you’ve visited all the local websites. You’re desperate to see a change in your marriage, and you believe the perspective and experience of a clinical psychologist will help. Your partner, on the other hand, scoffs every time the word “therapist” is even mentioned.
We know how frustrating it is for someone who wants to see a counselor but can’t get their spouse to come along. That’s why we’ve created this list of the most effective ways to address your therapy-resistant partner.
First Things First: Have You Asked Your Spouse About Attending Counseling?
This may seem like a silly question. But you’d be surprised. Many people that are adamant their partner will hate the idea haven’t even asked them! That’s why the first step we recommend to counseling hopefuls is to sit down with your spouse one-on-one and simply ask them, “Will you go to marriage counseling with me?”.
It’s important to approach your partner calmly and without any preconceived expectations. Express clearly why you want counseling and what you hope to gain from it. Try to keep your outlook positive. For example, if you’re looking to increase communication in your relationship, you might say, “I hope that a counselor can give us communication tools to be more open and understand each other better”, instead of, “I need you to start talking to me more”. Make sure to tell them that the reason you want counseling is because you love them and want to make things work.
You might not expect your partner’s response! If this is the first time you’ve broached the topic, your spouse might not have even known you were struggling. Honestly and respectfully expressing your desire to seek professional help is always the number one approach.
What to Do if Your Spouse Refuses Marriage Counseling
So, your spouse rejected the idea. Don’t give up just yet. Besides, one of the first things that marriage counseling will teach you is that it’s essential to understand your partner’s perspective. In this case, you need to understand the reasoning behind their reservations.
Maintaining your calm demeanor, simply ask your partner why. Remember: your spouse’s feelings are valid—make sure to listen attentively, even if you disagree. Try to listen actively. For example, when your partner has finished speaking, give a summary of what they’ve said, and then ask if you’ve understood correctly. If they disagree, ask them to expound some more to clarify what it is you misinterpreted. This communication strategy ensures your spouse feels heard and understood.
Making Counseling as Accessible as Possible Through Compromise
Sometimes, you’ll find your partner’s refusal has a straightforward solution. Maybe your husband doesn’t want anyone in your hometown to see you going in or coming out of a therapist’s clinic. You could suggest visiting a psychologist that works out of town! Or perhaps your wife is feeling overwhelmed with work and kids and can’t bear the thought of cramming something else into her already-full schedule. Offer to help with some “to-do” list tasks that will lighten the burden. Look for counselors with flexible appointment times, so she doesn’t have to skip important social or work events.
If finances are an issue, read through your insurance policy a second time. Sometimes there are allowances for professional counseling services you’re not even aware of.
The point is, hearing your spouse’s reasoning is necessary if you’re going to continue asking them to come to counseling with you and expect to make progress. And occasionally, you might find that with a little compromise on your part, your spouse’s downright refusal can quickly turn into a “maybe we could give it a try.”
When the Answer to Therapy is Still No
You’ve resisted the urge to beg. You’ve politely asked your partner and tried your best to make the idea as painless and accessible as possible. None of it made a difference. Your partner absolutely refuses to go with you.
When you’ve done everything you can, and the answer is still no, it might be worthwhile to see a counselor on your own. Yes, working directly with your significant other is ideal for relationship growth. But we promise working on yourself will be a huge help! An individual counselor can help you navigate the issues behind your unhelpful reactions and attitudes towards your spouse. They’ll give you new tools to deal with bad habits and change your behavior.
What’s more, if your partner notices the change (maybe you’ve mastered active listening or have become more vocal about your appreciation and admiration for your spouse), they may change their mind! Witnessing the results first-hand can inspire your reluctant spouse to reconsider therapy down the line.
Committing Yourself to Self-Improvement and Positive Change
“And they lived happily ever after.” Everyone knows this cliché turn of the phrase only belongs in fairytales. But somehow our society has adopted the assumption that after your wedding day comes nothing but a string of blissful weeks, months and years of a life spent in harmonious unison.
What the storytellers fail to mention is the myriad of daily frustrations that slowly seep their way into the foundation of your relationship. And the campfire story circle certainly doesn’t say anything about working through bigger traumas, like infidelity and addictions that threaten your ability to cohabitate peacefully. While marriage is undoubtedly a beautiful blending of two lives into one, you can’t expect smooth sailing for “ever after.” Successful marriages require work. Professional assistance can help you understand what the “work” is, and how to go about it.
But when your spouse is dead set against the notion, all is not lost, and you’re certainly not alone. We recommend sitting down with your partner in a composed, non-judgmental manner to express your wishes. Then, actively listen to understand your significant other’s opposing opinions and compromise, when possible, to make counseling as accessible as it can be. When the answer is still an unshakeable no, know when to press pause— you can’t force marriage counseling against someone’s will. But you can still benefit from attending therapy on your own. The important thing is that you’re committed to self-development and positive change.