Have you been trying to get your spouse or partner to attend couples therapy with you? Maybe you’ve been trying to make it happen for years and your spouse still won’t go. At this point you may have reached the end of your rope and don’t know what to do next.
You are not alone.
When working with relationships, it’s common to see a pattern in which one partner is dissatisfied with the marriage and wants to make changes. Meanwhile, the other partner may see nothing wrong or is reluctant to take the step of actually scheduling a therapy session.
Why is this happening? Why are some individuals so reluctant to go to couples therapy with their spouses?
There are a number of different reasons people may be reluctant to take the step of getting help for their relationships. Here are a few beliefs I’ve heard from those who could benefit from couples therapy, yet seem to have a hard time getting there. And my thoughts and feedback on those opinions.
I don’t want someone poking around in our relationship.
I understand. Intimate relationships are private. We all have areas of our lives we don’t want to expose to others. There is definitely a concern among many couples about “airing dirty laundry.” While you may not want to confide in your friend or neighbor about your marriage problems, I invite you to view therapy as a different process. Therapists are trained to listen without judgment to all kinds of presenting concerns. We are also bound by laws of confidentiality – what you say in the therapy room stays there. Finally, you don’t have to open up all at once – it takes time to build trust and you should respect your own feelings about what you’d like to share, or not.
We’ve only been dating/married for a short time. It’s too soon to go to couples therapy.
In my view it’s never too soon for couples therapy. We all have previous life experiences that affect the way we behave in relationships, for better or for worse. For instance, our parents’ relationship often has a big impact on how we behave in our own intimate relationships. Did your parents fight frequently or distance from one another? You may carry those patterns into your own marriage. Seeking help for your relationship does not make you a failure. In fact it can provide you with understanding about how to have a better marriage.
I’m going to get blamed.
This is a big fear. Research shows that by the time most couples make it into therapy, they have had 6 -7 years of conflict and dissatisfaction. Destructive patterns are likely to have set in. If most of your arguments revolve around blaming one another, of course it makes sense to be concerned that will also happen in therapy. Yet a good couples therapist is usually trained in utilizing family systems theories. This means we understand that most relationship dynamics (good or bad) are the result of two people interacting. Both parties contribute to the marriage and thus share responsibility for what happens. Side note: this does not apply in cases of abuse – the perpetrator must take full responsibility for abusive behavior.
I don’t want to sit around and talk about feelings.
While emotions are very important in therapy, so are concrete skills and strategies to improve your relationship. In addition to identifying areas of your marriage that don’t feel good, we will also work on ways to make it better. And the wonderful thing is, you can always offer feedback to your therapist. If you don’t like the way the process of therapy is going – please say so and we can adjust.
It costs too much.
The services of a good therapist cost money – it’s true. I invite you to view couples therapy as an investment in your life and your marriage. Even the strongest of marriages go through tough times. We all need help during challenging times to get back on track. It’s important to address relationship concerns now so you can have years of happiness and satisfaction ahead.
So what are some reasons to go to couples therapy?
Research shows that couples therapy benefits couples in significant ways.
- According to a study from the American Association of Marriage and Family therapy, 97% of surveyed therapy clients said they “got the kind of help they desired,” and 98% “rated services good or excellent.”
- When using emotionally-focused couples therapy, “70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvements.”
- The benefits of marriage counseling can be long term. A 2010 study found that five years after couples therapy had ended, 48% of couples reported a dramatic improvement in their relationships.
- Break free of destructive cycles of conflict
- Learn to calmly discuss differences
- Understand each other better
- Increase respect, connection, and intimacy with one another
- Maintain your improvements after therapy is over
In order for couples to benefit from therapy, it is crucial for both spouses to be engaged with the process and be willing to make changes in the relationship.
Now that you have all the information, what can you do? First, show this article to your spouse. Then ask if he or she would be open to committing to several sessions of couples therapy. If you have any questions at this point consider scheduling a phone consultation with a therapist. You and your spouse can talk through your concerns together, and get any questions answered.
What if your partner still doesn’t want to go? As much as we might want to, we can’t make someone take an action they don’t want to. It’s a difficult situation – yet you can find peace for yourself. I invite you to make an appointment to attend therapy by yourself. You deserve a safe and accepting space to express all your feelings and frustrations. Individual therapy can help you focus on yourself and gain more clarity about the relationship, and your role in it. Finally, it’s possible that eventually your spouse may decide to join you.
Katrina Taylor, LMFT-Associate. 512-270-9002
Disclaimer: The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. Reading articles and content on this website does not constitute a therapeutic relationship.