I’ve heard too many stories of one partner begging the other to accompany her to therapy. Once there, the therapist woos the reluctant one to get him on board. Meanwhile, the willing partner feels the therapist is partial to her spouse and might even be prejudiced against her. She’s justifiably miffed, perhaps even enough to put her off therapy, too. Sometimes this results in both partners being closed to the idea of therapy and chances for success significantly dwindle.
It’s a good idea to point out that it’s understandable that both partners don’t feel exactly the same about therapy. No two people feel the same about everything, even in the best of marriages. So to break the ice, the pro-therapy partner can tell the resistant one how much it means to her that he agreed to come to a session. Showing up together is a good start, demonstrating a certain amount of respect for each other and the relationship as a whole.
This is a good time to ask how the hesitant one feels about acquiescing. Does he resent it? Does he feel unable to express his needs to his partner? Does he, himself, understand where his resistance comes from? It’s a way for them both to begin thinking how the other is feeling.
When a partner is unenthusiastic about therapy, it helps to talk about anything other than the relationship, just to get them both relaxed and talking. Once they’re comfortable, and both are present on common ground, we can probe a little. What is their idea of an ideal relationship? If life were perfect, what would their relationship look like?
Again, no two people feel exactly the same about everything, and they are bound to have different answers. It helps to get their goals—a bit similar or vastly different—out in the open. Sometimes articulating what they want in a relationship surprises both parties. Once both understand what the other one wants, then we have the fundamentals on the table. We can compare and contrast where they are as a couple and where they want to be in their relationship. This gives a framework from which to work.
Changes Going Forward
The framework allows us to see what needs to change in the relationship. It’s very important that this is not a lopsided proposition, and that both partners participate in establishing what needs changing. It’s critical that no blaming take place here, tempting as it may be. Both partners must demonstrate an understanding the issues so they can go forward together without recrimination. And both should feel proud of themselves for taking this important step to move forward in a positive way.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact