Every now and then, I hear from someone who is super motivated to start couples counseling, but feels stuck because his or her partner is resistant to the idea. Talk about feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place! No matter what your reasons are, if you want to go, and your partner is resistant, that can lead to feelings of confusion, hurt, isolation, anger, and even resentment. So, what do you do?
- Check Your Approach. Are you bringing this up in the middle of a fight? At 2:00AM? In front of friends or family? Are you using criticism, shame, or blame as a means of persuasion? When you approach your partner, remember to remain mindful of your timing, your words, and your demeanor. A harsh approach (yelling, criticism, etc.) will likely make your partner feel defensive (and therefore resistant).
- Be Curious. What is behind your partner’s resistance? The next time your partner says “no”, try to set aside your initial reaction, and gently inquire about their resistance. Did they have a bad experience with a counselor in the past? Are they concerned about the potential cost of couples counseling? Do they have doubts about the potential benefits? Is there perhaps an element of fear, anxiety, or embarrassment at the thought of stepping into a therapy office?
- Be Complimentary and Confident rather than critical and pessimistic. Remember, you are making a significant request of your partner, and how you approach them is absolutely going to influence their response.
- Mention Your Motivation to Make Change. Sometimes the resistance comes from the worry about getting blamed for everything. When you take ownership over your contribution to the dynamic, you providing reassurance that you both are in this together.
- Start Individual Counseling. At the end of the day, in order for couples counseling to be successful, both partners need to be open and committed to the process. If you want to start counseling, please do so. Hopefully, your partner will soon warm up to the idea!
Having trouble picturing what this would look like? Here is an example:
“Hey Cory, do you have a minute? (Cory says yes.) Well, I wanted to talk to you about something that has been on my mind lately. I am so proud of you for diving headfirst into your new job, taking on a whole slew of new responsibilities, and I know you’re going to be great! At the same time, I know we have had a harder time communicating with one another lately. On my part, I know I need help learning how to be more patient and flexible. I realized how often I have been snapping at you lately, and that isn’t how I want to treat you. I really think couples counseling could help us learn how to better communicate and support one another. What are your thoughts?”
Please note that this content is for informational purposes, and not a substitute for treatment. If you are in need of mental health treatment, please seek out a provider in your area.