Current times have caused wear and tear on many relationships, and countless couples are seeking help to recover from their issues through couples counseling.
Partners vacillate between being too exhausted to connect, or being overwhelmed by 24-7 togetherness. Divorce rates have spiked in the U.S.
Newlyweds seem to be hardest hit, as they haven’t yet built relationship skills to conquer the stress that these hard times bring.
When couples see that their relationship is entering rocky ground, they may mutually decide to pursue couples counseling and get their bond back on track.
But what happens when one partner refuses to attend couples’ counseling?
People hesitate to get counseling for many reasons. Embarrassment or shame about having difficulties often contributes to reluctance.
A partner may not want to explore their intimate life and air their “dirty laundry” with a stranger. They may be afraid they will be judged, criticized, or verbally attacked in sessions.
In society, there’s a taboo about seeing a counselor. Couples are expected to know how to conduct a healthy relationship, but aren’t taught how to cope when there are problems.
Partners also resist getting help for their relationship because they don’t have confidence that counseling will make a difference. Their parents never saw a counselor, and they are still together — perhaps in a marriage of silent suffering.
A reluctant partner may convince themselves that whatever problem exists will resolve with time and a little effort.
Finally, there is concern about the cost of couples counseling. An attempt to schedule an appointment with a counselor gets shut down when a partner says, “We can’t afford it.”
Choosing to be with a partner requires skills in communication, conflict resolution, and a willingness to create a shared vision.
The good news is that you don’t need to feel powerless when your partner puts up a fight at the suggestion of couples counseling.
Instead, discuss their reservations and summarize and validate their concerns. You can then problem-solve and work through whatever holds them back.
Here are 3 ways to nudge your hesitant partner into starting couples’ counseling.
1. Determine if they’re afraid of feeling judged.
A good therapist is trained to be impartial, doesn’t take sides, and strives to create safety so that both partners can express their thoughts.
There are no devils or angels in couples therapy, and each client’s perspective is valued. Couples counseling is not a vehicle for blaming your partner. It’s an opportunity to change patterns that are damaging to the relationship.
If your partner is afraid they’ll be judged, have them pick a counselor with you so you can be sure impartiality can be maintained.
2. Research your counselor and read reviews from prior clients.
Explain that your counselor has advanced education, training, and experience to help you deepen your connection and build skills which will help you resolve difficulties.
Look up reviews from whatever counselor you pick, so you can see success stories. You may even see some people who shared similar issues to you and your partner.
Convey confidence that whatever is troubling your relationship can be resolved as a team, and that an unbiased, outside view will help you both work through them.
3. Determine a budget you can both agree on for the therapy.
Most therapists formulate goals with their clients. Invite your partner to attend four or five sessions, and then agree to re-evaluate if you don’t see some improvement in your relationship.
Also, agree with your partner that couples’ counseling is an expense that may not be covered by insurance since the focus is on the relationship, not a diagnosable medical condition.
Remind them the cost of not attending to the problem could result in divorce: a much more expensive proposition.
Budget an amount that you can put toward the couples’ work and let your counselor know that you would like to work within that budget.
If you have a health savings account (HSA), use your HSA card to pay for counseling. You can also find affordable counseling through your church, mosque, or synagogue, a local university, or community mental health center.
Keep in mind that you chose one another and made a commitment to be together. You can invest in the relationship by getting the help you need when obstacles arise that are beyond the scope of your abilities to resolve.
By taking a “we” approach and showing up for couples counseling sessions, you both may discover that you can create a relationship that is much better than the one you were settling for.
Dr. Beth O’Brien is a licensed psychologist and PACT Level 3 couples therapist. If your relationship needs help, contact Dr. O’Brien today!