Every so often, I get calls from someone who says that are keen to work on their relationship, but their partner is unwilling or reluctant to join them. In fact, this week I got two calls (both from young women) whose partners encouraged them to go to a counsellor, but stated that they (their wives) are the problem, not them and that they should attend counselling to “fix themselves” and the relationship will then fix itself.
Their partners hear alarm bells when asked to join the counselling session – often feeling anxious about divulging their feelings, fear of being found out when engaged in an affair, and feel disinclined to discuss emotions and deep feelings with a perfect stranger.
As a therapist, I find it very difficult to work on a relationship when the other partner is not in the room. One can assist the lone partner to deal with the issues (as they perceive them), but this methodology is often one sided and lacks authenticity. Both partners’ voices need to be heard when working on a relationship
How can you convince your partner to go to therapy with you?
- Explain to your partner that “the client” in relationship therapy is the relationship that sits between them. Couples therapists do not blame or take sides.
- Address their fears by asking: “What concerns you about going to therapy”?
- Get them interested by forwarding articles or videos about couples counselling and ask their opinion on the article or video.
- Look at the therapy from your partner’s perspective. What do you think that they will get out of the therapy? And try to highlight these benefits.
- Describe the benefits of therapy – for example, be honest about what you want to achieve in the therapeutic environment, using terms like “strengthening our understanding of each other” , “decrease our arguing” and gaining new conflict resolution skills.
- As a therapist, I often use a coaching model – putting the focus on learning new techniques and skills – almost turning the therapy into couple education sessions. This can only be achieved if any deep emotional issues have been examined first. I usually spend two sessions on addressing the negative issues – and then immediately move on to the positive, asking “How can we work together to make this relationship better”?
- Try to persuade your partner to try it just once – and promise if he/she does not want to go back, you will accept it. Often I find that husbands are virtually dragged into the counselling session, only to find that by the end of the session, they want to carry on talking and have to be encouraged to leave.
- Carol Nader
- Registered Counsellor
- Practice No: 0460125
- HPCSA Registration N0: PRC0016977