When you tell your partner that you want to go to couple’s therapy, they may refuse. Below find some tips to help you overcome their resistance
If you are interested in this article, it is likely that, on the one hand, you are interested in the idea of starting couples therapy, and on the other hand, you are wondering how to convince your partner to go for it.
Perhaps you have already suggested to your partner that you should seek help from a couple therapists.
Still, they have decided against it because they do not consider your relationship’s problems alarming or do not want to expose them to a stranger, or even feel that you should be the one in therapy, not them.
Let’s be clear; there can be no relationship without conflicts.
Conflicts are useful (even if not essential) to highlight the path to follow to make the love story evolve and grow.
So, the ultimate goal is not to eliminate existing conflicts but to learn to manage them, understand their lessons to overcome them, and help develop the relationship.
But couples often lack the communication skills and resources to turn their difficulties into opportunities for relationship development.
There are, however, several resources available to help remedy this.
For example, there are many online workshops and courses on conflict resolution, books on personal and relationship development, and online and in-practice couples therapists who can help partners overcome their difficulties and establish a stable relationship conducive to their own and their relationship’s growth.
There has been a great deal of research into the effectiveness of couples therapy.
For example, William R. Shadish and Scott A. Baldwin, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis, demonstrated in a 2003 study that marital distress decreased when couples underwent couple therapy.
Yes, there is no doubt that marital therapy will help you overcome your difficulties.
But for this to happen, you and your partner must be committed and willing to face the obstacles you face together and find solutions that work for both of you with the help of a couple’s therapist.
So, if you have asked your partner if they would agree to go to couple’s therapy with you and they have said no, or if you want to talk to them about it but don’t know how to approach the subject, don’t be discouraged.
By following the advice I give you below, you should get them to think about whether or not to contact a couples therapist calmly.
Here is a plan and steps to encourage your partner to seek couple’s therapy while remaining in control of their choice.
Discover >>> The online course for positive conflict resolution called Transformative Communication for an EXTRA(ordinary) Relationship.
Couple therapy – Tip 1: Create an emotional connection with your partner.
You did try to bring up the subject during your last argument, but it was a failure.
It is not surprising because it is not in the midst of the turmoil that you can start a constructive discussion about your need for a couple’s therapist.
To say and affirm in a tone of irritation, “we need serious help” and “we won’t get out of this alone” risks going through your spouse’s ear and coming out the other way simultaneously, or even putting them off.
It would help if you were careful about when and how you approach the idea of using a couples therapist.
As you might discover in therapy, the strength of an argument and the shape of conversation do not depend on the content of the exchange but on how the topic is being discussed.
For example, when one partner starts a discussion with force, it almost always ends in anger between the two parties to the debate.
Therefore, you must establish an emotional connection with your partner and create a bridge between you before you consider discussing the topic of couples therapy.
Make them feel important to you, that you love them, that you care about them, and, why not, in a playful way!
Here are some relaxing and even amusing suggestions to follow without moderation:
Watch a video of a comedy show together.
Prepare a meal with them.
Play cards or go miniature golfing, bowling together, etc.
Make each of you list the five qualities you admire in your partner and share your results.
Also, be careful when you bring up using a couples therapist to help your partner. Your partner should be available and not about to leave for work or do something essential for them.
Avoid starting the discussion if they are anxious, stressed, or in a hurry. It is best to start when relaxed and in a calm environment.
By giving your partner attention, making them feel good, and creating an emotional connection between you, you encourage them to be relaxed, open, and receptive to discussion.
But, of course, do this in an authentic way to your feelings.
Artificial talk, based on the sole intention of the result and built from the head and not the heart, will not allow your partner to open up.
Couple therapy – Tip 2: Express your relationship expectations and needs.
When you have managed to establish an emotional connection with your partner and the context is favorable for a calm and serene exchange, express your expectations and relational needs.
Here are three examples that set the tone for the conversation:
- Honey, I’d like to talk to you about what I want from our relationship.
- Because I love having you in my life, I would like to allow our relationship to grow and evolve.
- Would you be interested in talking with me about us?
- Would you have some time this weekend to hear what is going on for me in our relationship right now?
- I need to express to you how I feel about our relationship dynamics; when would you have time to discuss this?
Whatever phrases you use to broach the subject with your partner, make sure you say them calmly, gently, and with the sole intention of sharing what you are experiencing in your relationship to help it evolve.
Be careful not to consider the facts and a list of the conflicts you have had. It would result from reactivating the emotions that led you to blame, reproaches, and judgments that generated your disputes.
Also, avoid expressing all your thoughts, everything your heart tells you to say, in one go. Instead, say one sentence, two, maximum of three, and then let your partner express himself.
And if there is silence, listen to it. An anxious person tends to speak in one go, for 10 minutes or more, and repeat themselves repeatedly.
It ruins their chance of getting their partner to listen, as they may feel overwhelmed and excluded from what seems to be a one-way discussion. So avoid any monologue.
What to do if your partner tries to avoid discussions about your relationship?
You can choose to write them a letter. It will allow them to think and move forward at their own pace.
But be careful; your letter must be free of all blame and settling scores. Instead, talk about your concerns, feelings, and what you want.
Then, with this letter, invite your partner to exchange with you.
Couple therapy – Tip 3: Positively affirm your desire to move the relationship forward.
Always staying present and maintaining your emotional connection with your partner, tell them what you would like your relationship to be.
Please share with your partner what you would like to experience with them.
Above all, refrain from any judgment or criticism of what your relationship is today to express what you want.
Here are some examples of negative wording that you should not follow:
- I wish you would stop deciding what is good for me.
- I wish you wouldn’t take our friends’ sides all the time in discussions.
- I’d like you to stop leaving everything lying around the house.
- We’re not a couple anymore; you work all the time, we never see each other.
- You stay up too late every night, which doesn’t suit me.
- You don’t organize anything for our weekends, so we don’t do anything.
- You’ve got into the habit of drinking too much with your friends, and I can’t stand that.
Instead, approach these topics in a positive and inspiring way:
- I would like to feel free to decide what is suitable for me.
- I need to feel supported when we talk to our friends.
- I need more orders in the house and for us to share household chores.
- I would like us to share more time.
- I’d like us to fall asleep together more often and have some privacy.
- I would like it if you would plan a weekend outing for us from time to time.
- I would like you to take care of yourself and your health.
By expressing yourself positively about the changes you would like to see in your relationship, your partner can, in turn, tell their possible desire to change your relationship.
The atmosphere is then conducive to dialogue.
Tip 4: Ask your partner what they would like to improve in your relationship.
It is essential to remain curious about what is going on with your partner. After affirming the need for change in your relationship, take the time to question your partner and find out what they would like to improve in your relationship.
Here are some examples of questions you could ask:
- Honey, what do you think our relationship would be like if everything was OK?
- What should we be doing better?
- What would we need to move away from to make our relationship more peaceful
- What should we change so that our endless conflicts stop?
- And so on.
As a result of such questioning, your partner will probably bring you back into conflict, without intending to do so, but by saying things like this:
- I want you to stop causing all these arguments.
- You’re always complaining, you’re never satisfied; I want you to recognize how lucky you are to have…
- If you could leave me alone and stop controlling me.
- Be less jealous, and everything will be better!
Of course, such blaming cannot satisfy your need to move on. But as Dr. Gottman, an American psychology researcher, and clinician, explains, behind your partner’s reproaches lie emotions that they struggle to express and often camouflage an unfulfilled need.
It is common for people in pain to inflict pain on others instead of sharing their feelings with them.
So, in this case, maintain the connection between you by focusing on non-judgmental, empathetic listening and asking about your partner’s feelings, about what they are feeling.
Ask open-ended questions to understand better what is going on for them.
Respond to their accusations in a friendly tone and with an inquiring mind. For example, say and bounce back like this:
- I hear what you’re saying. I, too, am annoyed by our arguments. How do you imagine our relationship would be if we could solve our problems and not keep arguing?
- I realize how exhausting all these arguments are for you. What do you think will stop us from having less conflicts?
- I understand what you are saying. What do you think stops us from having a calm discussion about all this and moving towards an agreement?
To have such a conversation, be very present in the moment. Listen to your partner without being defensive. Their perception of the situation may differ from yours, but it is no less real.
Don’t hesitate to ask additional questions to understand better what is going on for them. Above all, always remain curious about what they are experiencing and feeling, with authenticity.
Couple therapy – Tip 5: Make your partner aware of the opportunity to be accompanied.
You have taken stock of what you want from each other in your relationship, and now you want to bridge the gap between your current situation and the kind of relationship you and your partner want.
To move towards a joint decision to seek couple therapy, continue to talk about your relationship by maintaining an intimate connection.
To do this, focus on how you want to improve your relationship rather than on changing your partner. No one likes to hear from the other person that they need to “change” or “fix” themselves.
Besides, problems in the relationship usually have little to do with the other person, but with the interaction pattern the couple has set up.
So instead of telling your partner that they have problems and need help, tell them that you both have created habits that are damaging your relationship and that therapy would help you change them.
Going to couples therapy can help you repair your weakened bond, improve your relationship and regain the intimacy that used to cement your relationship.
Tip 6: Formulate your invitation to couple therapy.
You’ve reached the final stage – hurrah! It’s time for action by talking with an open and empathetic mind and genuine interest in what is going on for your partner.
Therefore, it is time to ask your partner openly if they would like to do couple therapy with you, but above all, without putting pressure on them.
Do not force or coerce them to go through this process, and do not give any ultimatums. Instead, inspire them, and invite them, rather than forcing them to join you in this process.
If your partner feels at risk of reprisals and feels trapped between submitting or rebelling, your request is not an invitation but a demand.
So make your intention clear and offer your partner the option of adhering to your suggestion or not.
Here are some examples of constructive invitations:
- I sincerely believe that we could learn to communicate better if a therapist guided us. Can I organize this for both of us?
- If we do couple therapy, we will have less conflict, be happier together, and regain intimacy. Do you have a preference between a male or female therapist?
- Our relationship is essential for me. Couples therapy could help us stop fighting and become closer and happier together. I would love it if we could try this together. What do you feel about this idea?
- I am determined that we can be better partners for each other. Do you agree that I should start the process of getting couple’s therapy?
- Our friends have been seeing an excellent therapist for some time, and it seems to be doing them much good. So I was thinking of contacting her for us. Is that OK with you?
I want to clarify that it is OK, even necessary, to turn your request to see a couple’s therapist into an ultimatum if your situation is critical and you are suffering.
Not the kind of injunction that would be blackmailed to break up if nothing changes or improves, but the one to move forward and start a couple of therapy to continue your relationship.
Tip 7: Manage your partner’s decision.
If you have so far maintained the bond between you and your partner and calmly discussed the idea of starting couple therapy, you have already taken a big step towards a better understanding between you two. And this is true regardless of your partner’s willingness to commit to it.
If you have achieved this, you will also be able to do so in your following conversation.
If your partner does not feel ready to start therapy, do not blame them for this, nor take it as a definitive refusal. Instead, remain calm and positive and express your gratitude for having had this conversation with you.
If your shared time has calmed or reassured you, say so. You can even invite your partner to express the reasons for their refusal without judging them and keeping the dialogue open.
Here are some formulations to help you:
- Can you explain to me what happens to you when I make such a request?
- Do you need more information about the therapist before you decide?
- Is there another reason why you don’t want to try?
- Is there anything I can do to help you overcome this limitation?
- What might make you change your mind?
- What other solutions do you see for our relationship to get better? What do you suggest?
- Do you have any resistance to couple therapy in general? Can you share them with me?
- What if we go through a first session? That would give us an idea of what to expect. What do you think of that idea?
- Are you concerned about the expense of this? How about I pay for the first session, and then we’ll see if it’s right for you?
- Is there a therapist you’d rather see than I suggested?
Above all, ask your partner to take time to reflect, free themself from whatever is preventing them from moving in this direction before making a decision (current stress, problems at work, etc.), and invite them to reconsider the idea later.
If they ask you to find out more about marital therapy before deciding, offer to do some research together or send them links to articles on the subject and give them time to integrate the information.
Also, tell them that meeting with a therapist can provide answers to their questions.
Let them know that you accept their decision but want to continue this process with them to lead your relationship towards the best.
To do this, inform them that you will start individual therapy on your side.
I recommend this because the transformation of a couple always involves a personal change, and taking the lead may inspire your partner.
Finally, if your partner agrees to start couple therapy with you, that’s wonderful!
Make sure to express your gratitude and joy that you will be learning individually and together for your fulfillment and that of your couple.
And above all, don’t wait a month before making your first appointment…Please do it now while your partner feels inspired!
The start of an extraordinary relationship.
Often, couples turn to a marital therapist as a last resort rather than a preventive measure.
According to Dr. John M. Gottman, they “usually wait six years before seeking treatment for their relationship problems.
Of course, in this case, when one of the spouses has already emotionally withdrawn from the relationship, it is more challenging to get them to seek therapy. And if they resign themselves to it, the work may be less effective.
But there is still hope for couples who take this route. Dr. Gottman said, “even a marriage ready to hit rock bottom can be saved with the proper intervention.”
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the fear of losing love when your relationship is in conflict or going through a critical moment.
This fear could lead you to settle for what you have and miss out on possible solutions to access the infinite potential of your relationship.
Love is a basic need. It is the oxygen of life. It is what we all need and want most. For when we love and are loved, we feel alive.