What if my husband (or wife) refuses to go to couples therapy?
This guy: “Therapy? What? You’ve got to be kidding.”
It is very common for one partner to have more interest in attending therapy than the other. (If you must attend alone, you will derive some benefit from doing so. However, I highly suggest that both partners attend in order for a more fulfilling and effective experience.) This is what I suggest:
- Do everything within your power to make it clear that you view your partner as part of the solution and not part of the problem. The last thing you (and I) want is for your partner to feel like they’re being called into the principal’s office. I try to make your experience with me as different from that image as possible and it helps if you are working on that too.
- To increase the chances that your partner will have a non-shaming experience, I encourage you to start to take unconditional responsibility for your part of the relationship issues. This isn’t easy because doing this increases your vulnerability before you have seen that your partner will reciprocate; trust that I will help your partner stretch to take responsibility in his/her own way.
- Don’t use “poisonous short-cuts” like threats, coercion or manipulation to get your partner to come to therapy. These are tempting because they can produce quick results but are always short-term and make the problem worse later.
- Think of it as your (temporary) job to make it as easy as possible for your partner to come with you to therapy. Your partner will notice even little shifts away from criticism and you will have my help later to make sure your partner is doing just as much work as you.
- Do some of the leg-work before you bring it up to your spouse. As in, check out some therapist’s websites and reviews, and have the names of two or three therapists in your area that you think would be a good fit.
- A final suggestion: If it is your husband that is hesitant to attend therapy, make sure you emphasize that the therapist you have found is “solution focused” and “will let us both know what to do differently” because, in general (according to research and my experience), men are less intimidated by an approach which is focused on solutions and behaviors rather than emotions.
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