What If My Partner (or Spouse) Refuses to Go to Counseling?
This is the 3rd blog post in a series on how to handle it when your spouse or partner refuses to go to couples counseling.
So, what do I say when I get the question: “What if my partner (or spouse) refuses to go to counseling?”
My first question would be to find out why.
There are common reasons that I often hear from the hesitant partner.
So what are common excuses?
…or keep on reading as I will be providing several more reasons I hear about why someone may be hesitant to come into couples counseling.
What If My Partner (or Spouse) Refuses to Go to Counseling:
The therapist is going to take sides… and it won’t be mine!
I think I would never want to go to counseling either if this were the case.
There is a misconception about the purpose of marriage counseling.
The goal of couples counseling is all about improving the relationship.
Blaming each other isn’t going to inspire you to grow closer. Quite the opposite, of course!
Therefore, that won’t be what the therapist is out to accomplish (If blaming others would actually work, my job would be a cakewalk!)
I won’t lie, as the therapist, it can be tricky to ensure that each person feels respected and validated. However, we are trained to do just that!
Therapists know that the way to change is when a person feels safe enough to open up and share their authentic self.
We also know that it is important that each person feels heard and understood.
Therefore, therapists want both people to feel safe and show up authentically.
Rest assured, therapists are more interested in the patterns of behavior than the contents of any given argument.
What this means is that we know the argument isn’t really about who is “right” about a given situation.
In other words, when you and your partner have a blow-up about whether to go to Subway or Chipotle, that’s not the real issue.
The underlying issue is the dynamics between the couple. The patterns keep them stuck about decisions (in this case, of where to go out to dinner).
Therapists have been trained to quickly pinpoint the patterns that keep you stuck and they can help you find new ‘exit ramps’ to get you out of the stuck patterns.
2. Your partner reluctantly agrees to go… and the therapist actually does side with the partner!
What are you to do when you feel like you aren’t being understood by the therapist?
Talk to the therapist ASAP!
A therapist wants to hear your feedback.
A therapist wants to understand how you feel and address the concerns you have!
The only way the therapist can do that is if you speak up and share your thoughts.
Most likely, it will lead to a very productive conversation.
If you don’t feel heard or if you feel dismissed, consider going elsewhere!
3. Couples counseling is too expensive!
Yep! I get it. Therapy is not cheap… even if you have insurance.
Here are some ways to reduce the overall cost of therapy:
- Ask for homework at the end of each session! The more you can do on your own, the better it will be for your relationship and your wallet.
- Find out if the therapist is comfortable going every other week or monthly for sessions.
It is ideal to go to therapy weekly for the first few sessions so you can make some traction.
- After the first few sessions (and especially if you are getting homework), the decreasing frequency could be discussed.
- Shop around! Not all therapists have the same rates. In fact, the rates can vary widely.
- Marriage workshops are great alternatives to couples therapy… plus, they will likely normalize your own relational experience.
- Does your employer offer an employee assistance program (EAP)? If so, that may be ideal for you. The sessions tend to be free. The only downside is that EAP programs are short-term. A
4. Your partner had a bad experience in the past
If you or your partner has had a bad experience in the past, it can be difficult to return to a similar experience.
Heck, when I’ve had a bad experience going to a gym, I’m not quick to return to any gym.
It makes sense when your partner had a bad experience that sharing their vulnerabilities and raw emotions would cause some hesitation or trepidation on their part!
What can you do if this is the case?
Before you start therapy with a new therapist, ask for a free phone consultation. Almost all therapists offer a free phone consultation!
Before the phone consultation, think about what was it about the last therapy experience that made you/your partner unhappy/uncomfortable/uneasy.
Then formulate questions around how the potential new therapist handles situations similar to the issue you had in the past.
Be upfront about your concerns about therapy. See how the therapist addresses your concerns.
After you have a conversation with the potential therapist, you’ll have clue if the therapist is a terrible fit or potentially a really good fit. Follow your gut!
Don’t stop at one phone consultation, talk with several different therapists!
5. Your partner is scared that you are indirectly letting them know that the relationship is over.
Let’s say this is the case.
Be upfront and honest about why you want to go to therapy.
You can let your partner know that regardless if you go to therapy or not, the fact remains the same: You’re not sure that you want to stay in the relationship.
You can let them know that you think regardless of the outcome, couples counseling can help you both communicate more effectively and kindly to each other… which will likely help your relationship.
It will also help you in being able to communicate better in future relationships (if the decision to break up does occur).
Hopefully, if you are feeling anxious or depressed, you’re ready to give therapy a go!