Reasons Not To Go To Couples Therapy
(& Why They’re Flawed!)
A couple of weeks ago, I started a 3-part series on what you might want to do when your partner gives you reasons not to go to couples therapy.
When you have your heart set on going to couples therapy and your partner has their heart set on not attending couples therapy, your anxiety level may start to rise.
As I stated in my last post, if this occurs, it is super important that you get curious and not get defensive.
The fact of the matter is, if you try to persuade and argue your point, it will probably drive your partner further away from going to therapy.
Rather than thinking of a rebuttal to their refusal, try to get curious (I know, I know, harder said than done!)
Understanding their ‘why’ will likely help you gain a great deal of clarity about their resistance.
It is essential to understand the underlying ‘why’ so you can carefully consider the underlying reasons!
If after the discussion, you think it would be beneficial, here are 3 more common concerns your resistant partner may have and how you could approach them in a constructive way!
1. Your partner sees therapy as a ‘punishment’
Are you giving ultimatums?
Are you threatening your partner?
If so, they may feel forced into going to therapy. While therapy may be a great idea to improve your relationship, it may not go well if it starts out with an ultimatum.
You want your partner to give therapy 100% effort.
You want to improve your relationship.
However, it takes more than your partner showing up to therapy.
In order to be successful it takes your partner actively engaging in therapy.
Now- you may be thinking to yourself, “The only way I will attempt to stay in the marriage is if my partner goes to counseling.”
This is valid! However, how you say things is more important than what you say.
If this is the case, you may want to reframe the discussion by sharing why you want to go to therapy.
- Explain how important it is to you.
- Honestly express your doubts and concerns about the marriage.
- Reassure your partner that your goal of therapy is not to gang up on your partner.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: The counselor’s ‘client’ in couples therapy is the relationship... not the individuals that make up the relationship.
The therapist doesn’t want either person to come out of a couple’s session feeling like they are “winning” or “liked better” by the counselor.
The fact of the matter is NO ONE wins if one person feels like they are “winning.”
The point of couples therapy isn’t to win or for the therapist to side with a person.
The point of couples therapy is to improve the relationship.
If one person is “winning” and the other person is “losing,” it has become about gaining “power” not about gaining a deeper connection!
2. Your partner doesn’t “do” emotional vulnerability.
We all have defense mechanisms!
One common one that I see regularly is forgetting and avoiding.
If this is the case for your partner, there is nothing wrong with this defense mechanism per se. It is simply a way of coping with difficult things.
Is it the most ideal way?
Nope, not most of the time.
But you (and I… and everyone else on the planet) have unhelpful coping mechanisms that…
aren’t helpful most of the time…
and get in the way of better relationships.
Facing things that you have avoided or forgotten is not easy.
It means that your partner will have to be more vulnerable. Vulnerability may feel risky to your partner! Very risk! Maybe even dangerous!
So what can you do if your partner is an avoidor?
You can give try and make it a safe space to come out of their shell and share their concerns with you.
This isn’t easy… especially if your defense mechanism is to control the situation.
Here’s the closest thing you’re going to get to control the situation:
You can create an environment that welcomes vulnerability.
This means slowing down the conversation, listening to understand, and being accepting of your partner’s opinion (you may not agree with it, but it’s important to accept that they have their own reality and that it’s different from yours!
3. Your partner is scared that they will be attacked or ganged up on
This is such a valid concern!
Many individuals coming into therapy think it is all about proving how wrong their partner is.
As I stated mentioned earlier in the blog, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
If your relationship has gotten into a pattern of saying things like:
“You shouldn’t have…”
“I have done so much…”
Your partner may be worried that ‘couples therapy’ is really a code word for attacking their point-of-view… but this time with a therapist involved.
It doesn’t feel good to have your “faults” exposed and point-of-view attacked… especially in front of a stranger.
For example, your ultimate goal of couples counseling may be to have a stronger connection with less bickering.
Get clear and specific on your goals of therapy and gently share them with your partner.
Stay tuned… this blog series isn’t quite over. In the next blog, I will give 4 more reasons your significant other may refuse to go to counseling and how you can handle it!
Are you ready to give therapy a go?
Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.
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As a marriage and family therapist, I also offer: