Do you want to start couples counseling but fear your partner may be turned off by the idea?
A common statement heard in a therapist’s office is, “We need help, but my partner is hesitant about couples counseling”.
If you feel this way about your partner, know you aren’t alone! There are ways to help encourage a positive conversation with your partner about the benefits of doing couples counseling together.
Keep in mind, all relationships have ebbs and flows so starting couples counseling doesn’t mean you have a bad relationship. You may have experienced some bumps and hiccups along the way that could use additional help, guidance and insight.
Couples counseling can give partners a safe place to work through the conflict with a third party. Convincing your partner to see a counselor can feel like you are crossing tricky territory. You don’t want therapy talk to turn into an argument, yet you understand all of the benefits associated with meeting with someone who can help you improve your relationship.
So you may wonder how to bring up the topic without your partner immediately dismissing the idea?
The good news is, I’m here to help provide you with some tips on how to have a healthy conversation about the idea with your partner so they can look at couples counseling through a different lens.
Below is a list of 9 ways to help influence your partner to go to couples counseling:
1.) Be honest about your struggles
Open and honest communication is the first step in creating a healthy relationship. Sometimes, we try to convince ourselves that certain things aren’t a big deal. We don’t want to start a fight or look like we’re irrational, so we let it slide.
But sometimes, those things tend to build up causing huge communication blocks. We go months without telling them what’s wrong because we feel like it’s been too long for it to matter. There can be the worry that if we suggest therapy; our partner will feel like we aren’t happy with them at all anymore. Quite often your partner knows that your relationship is not ideal. Being honest about your struggles can help open the door to healing.
2.) Nobody’s relationship is perfect, so refrain from playing the “Blame Game”
This is the time to reassure your spouse that you want things to get better, and that talking about issues will not result in finger pointing, but open the door to healing.
3.) Let them know you love them
Often partners think that suggesting counseling means you don’t love them anymore. Reassure your partner that first and foremost you love them and that you think therapy would be beneficial.
4.) Move Past the Stigma of Counseling
For all of its benefits, “counseling” is still a dirty word to a lot of people. It is getting better, but for some it’s still seen as a negative thing, that one is ‘badly broken’ or something is terribly wrong with them. Similarly, if they need a couple’s counselor, there’s something wrong with their relationship.
What’s incredibly important to know is that a marriage counselor can be a preventative measure. They can help give you the tools to offer emotional support for both parties, so you can avoid bigger problems later on. Tell your partner of some strong couples you may know who went to couples counseling. Help them see that it’s not just for broken relationships. Counseling can be used to strengthen what you already have.
5.) Don’t Get Defensive When They Get Defensive
Partners quite often get defensive when counseling is suggested. They may have heightened anxiety about telling someone else about your problems/issues. This is normal.
They might feel like you’re trying to blame them for not having a good relationship.
They may be projecting experiences from the failed relationships they’ve previously been in or seen around them, onto you. As much as you want to defend yourself from their accusations, don’t do it.
Getting defensive back at them can intensify communication problems and escalate the conflict unnecessarily. Do your best to stay calm and keep things from getting heated.
6.) Be Clear, and Concise With Your Motives
Some people feel like the only way they can get their partner to counseling is to trick them. They might say they’re going to meet with friends, only to ambush them in a counselor’s office.
As desperate as things get, DO NOT do that. If there are any underlying trust issues in the relationship, doing this will only make it worse.
7.) Set Clear Goals
One of the biggest reasons people quit therapy is because they don’t feel like it’s getting anywhere or accomplishing anything. You’re still fighting about the same issues – so really, what’s the point? Why are we wasting all this money?
Progress is not straight, point-blank. Especially when you’re dealing with therapy. Couples counseling is not a cure-all to fix your relationship instantly. It’s a way to get the tools you need to work through conflicts together. Even when we know that going into it, that doesn’t always help us from feeling like counseling is ineffective.
Set clear goals with your partner of what you want out of counseling. Decide on some goals and criteria that you can point out to prove that things are getting better. It might be days without a fight, durations of fights, frequency of physical intimacy or any other criteria/unit of measure you choose. It’s very important to set these goals with your partner.
8.) Choose A Counselor Together
It’s not unusual for one spouse to want to see a counselor before the other. But this can create a dynamic with the reluctant partner that they’re just doing it to avoid another fight. They’re just going along with it. This method of communication going into the counselors office sets the precedence that you are not on the same page about going.
Give your partner the ability to have as much say in the process when choosing a counselor. If you choose a counselor on your own, it could feel like you and your counselor are ganging up on your spouse which does not make for a good start towards healing.
9.) Let Them Make the Decision For Themselves
If your partner is reluctant to go to counseling, they might agree to go to appease you. But that doesn’t mean that they actually have any interest in examining the relationship themselves. No matter how much you want to go to couples counseling, make sure to communicate with your partner that they don’t have to do it. Let them make their own decision. It’s much better to see a counselor together after they have had some thought about it than to go when your partner may be defiant or stubborn.
I hope these 9 tips are helpful when speaking with your partner. Suggesting couples counseling may seem intimidating, however remember why you feel it is important, and do not let fear prevent you from suggesting it to help your relationship.
There is no order in which to use these tips that will garner the best success. Sometimes a mixture of them will help open your partner’s eyes to why it’s important to you. Ultimately, being candid about your needs is important and couples counseling is a great way to help identify new ways to keep your relationship as healthy as it can be.
Remember, starting couples counseling does not mean that you have a bad relationship. Wanting what’s best for you and your partner shows you want to help gain the tools needed so when conflict inevitably arises you are both prepared on how to best deal with it.
Once you and your partner are on the same page with starting couples counseling, Solid Foundations Therapy is here to help! Learn more at solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!