A common scenario among couples is that both are aware that they have a hard time communicating about certain things – be it finances, in-laws, decisions around parenting, and numerous others in which people tend to have strong opinions, however, one person in the couple thinks couples therapy might be a good way to improve communication, while the other person would rather have a root canal that subject themselves to a therapy session. How does the person interested in couples therapy get the other to at least give it a try? Here are a few ideas on ways you might get your partner in the door to see a couples therapist:
1. Sell it as a win-win situation
Think about what you and your partner stand to gain by coming to couples therapy, and pitch it from this angle. A great example is something along the lines of, “I’ve been having trouble understanding your side of our issues, and I think couples therapy will help me listen to you in a better way.” Remember that whatever you want from your partner, you have to be willing to give them too, and this is an almost irresistble proposition!
2. Be clear about your intentions
Don’t assume your partner knows why you are suggesting couples therapy, and be sure to state your intentions in positive terms. “I care about you and our relationship, and I want to take steps to take care of our relationship and I think we need some help to know how to do that”, for example.
3. Ask about your partner’s resistance to couples therapy
Show interest in why your partner may be reluctant, “can you help me understand why you are reluctant to try couples therapy?” A common fear is that couples only go to couples therapy because their relationship is “really bad” or “in trouble”. If this is one of your partner’s fears, you can share with your partner that couples therapy works best when couples come in for check-ups (just like a yearly visit to the doctor) to head off or prevent issues from becoming major problems.
4. Invite your partner to research options for a couples therapist
Choosing a couples therapist can be daunting, and you and your partner may want to discuss qualities, characteristics, or areas of expertise that might be important to you in a therapist. Would you feel more comfortable with a woman or a man? Does age matter to you? Do you want a therapist who specializes in a certain area of practice (in addition to couples therapy)? Your partner may or may not end up being involved in choosing a therapist, but showing interest in their preferences and what will make them most comfortable will go a long way towards making the whole process feel like a joint effort rather than something that is being forced on them.
5. Be willing to go to therapy on your own.
Worst case scenario, your partner may choose not to join you in coming to therapy. If that is the case, be open to coming to see a therapist on your own and share with your partner that you are going to therapy to understand your own role in the problems you are having together. Make sure to keep the door open for them to come if they change their mind. At the end of the day, good couples therapy helps each partner to take responsibility for their side of the issues and if you are open to doing this, it can have a positive impact on your relationship. A change in one person, creates the possibility of change in another. Often when someone begins their own therapy, and starts practicing new ways of relating at home, their partner will get curious enough that they will eventually come in too to see what all this change is about!
Would you add any ideas to this list?
Thanks for reading, and as always, your questions, comments, and/or experiences with bringing your partner into couples therapy are welcomed!