What To Do When Your Partner Would Rather Watch Paint Dry
You desperately want to go to couples therapy.
Your spouse doesn’t.
What are you to do?
Your partner is scared that you are indirectly letting them know that the relationship is over.
In my last blog post, I examined this concern from the perspective that this could be your intention.
Now, I want to address it from the perspective that this is not at all your intention.
In other words, you want to improve your relationship and you have no interest in ending the relationship.
I’d start the conversation with your partner by sharing how committed you are to the relationship and that you very much enjoy your partner.
After sharing that information, it will be much easier for the partner to hear what you say next.
In other words, they’ll know that ending the relationship is off the table… which means that they likely won’t go into a fight-or-flight response.
You then acknowledge that- from your perspective– some things could be better in the relationship.
Let your significant other know that they are important enough that you want to be proactive in your relationship together.
Share your perspective that you don’t think couples therapy should be reserved for when things are dire in a relationship.
Using the metaphor of oil changes for a car could be beneficial.
Explain that you view therapy as similar to an oil change. You wouldn’t wait to get an oil change until the car literally stopped running. That would create a whole host of problems that were quite severe in nature!
Likewise, going in for a ‘tune-up’ with your relationship is ideal
Your partner is scared that couples therapy won’t work.
It’s a scary notion to go into marriage therapy/couples counseling knowing that you could come out on the other side no longer together.
However, one study found that marriage counseling/couples therapy positively impacted the vast majority of couples who chose to attend couples therapy.
Another study found that the vast majority of clients felt that their own emotional health improved over the course of couples therapy in addition to their relationship improving.
In other words, the odds are stacked in your favor that couples counseling will positively impact both your relationship and you as an individual.
The cynical partner may say that the issues are too deep-seated.
To which I say, you never know until you try.
I see couples come into my office with intense fighting and disagreements. They feel hopeless and don’t see a way out… and they leave couples counseling months later with a stronger connection and a satisfying relationship.
That stated, it is important to face the reality that couples therapy may help the couple gain clarity that the relationship is no longer what they want.
Is therapy all-for-not when this is the case?
I would argue no.
Couples counseling supports the couple where they are at.
That means it may end up being about how to healthfully work through uncoupling.
It can end up focusing on co-parenting- that is- being an intentional family that is transitioning into two separate households.
It most likely will help each person learn to individually communicate more effectively in all relationships and grow as a human being.
What are you to do if your significant other gives you a hard 'no' regarding couples therapy?
- Referring back to my previous blog, ensure that they wouldn’t be willing to have a 15-minute phone consultation with a potential therapist.
- Ask if they’d try out a couple of sessions with the agreement that after each session, they could make the decision to end therapy. (Only ask this if you are willing to follow through on the agreement.). Otherwise, you are more likely to make the relationship worse than better).
- Go for therapy alternatives.
- There are many free videos and library books that could be helpful in making your connection stronger. If you both are willing to devote your time and energy towards the relationship, this is a great choice for reluctant spouses.
Or try going to couples therapy alone.
You may be asking: “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
I assure you, no! It is not!
Here’s what you need to know about couples counseling: It isn’t about changing the other person. It’s about changing the way you interact in the relationship.
If you want a relationship to work, you only control yourself. In that sense, couples counseling is always individual counseling that is working towards bettering the relationship.
I leave this blog series with this encouragement:
Your partner’s unwillingness to attend therapy doesn’t make the relationship bound for separation.
There are lots and lots of valid reasons why people don’t want to go to therapy. If both of you are willing to work hard on the relationship, things can change for the better.
My best advice for you is that you get curious about why your partner is hesitant!
Listen for the concerns and validate them (in an authentic way).
You may find their concerns to be (mostly) silly, but respect that your partner does not! Therefore, it is critical to listen to understand and not listen to inform your partner why you’re right and they’re wrong.
Are you ready to give therapy a go?