There’s no shame in having couples therapy, but it can be seen as a sign of failure in a marriage.
Seeing a relationship counsellor to work things through with a spouse happens more often than you might think, but the taboo attitudes around it can mean one partner is less keen on trying it than the other.
How do you raise the fact that you think your marriage could benefit from counselling to your husband or wife, especially if they’re likely to be resistant?
When to bring it up
Prevention is better than cure.
Ness Cooper, a clinical sexologist and relationship therapist, says: ‘It can be difficult to raise the subject of marriage counselling to a partner, but doing it as soon as you start noticing the need for it is important.
‘Many couples leave it until things have got to a very challenging point where often there are multiple things that have layered on top of each other that need discussing and working through, rather than only few problems that need resolving if they’d come to therapy when things started to become noticeable.’
How to start the conversation
You know your partner best, so it’s good to step back and think logically about how they like to be approached.
While it might be an emotionally fraught situation, coming at it with that energy could bring their defenses up.
‘When bringing it up with a partner avoid nagging as it can just add to
the layers of negativities that already need resolving,’ Ness advises.
It’s good to also consider how their general attitude towards therapy and counselling anyway.
Ness adds: ‘Forcing a partner to attend counselling generally isn’t very successful,
so always give your partner the choice.
‘To make them even more involved too, you can ask them to help select a therapist together.
‘Use eye contact when bringing up the subject. It helps to make your partner be aware that you are present with them and going to work through this with them rather than against them.
‘Explain what goals you want to achieve from couples or marriage counselling.
‘It can be easy to suggest that it’d help both of you, but also taking the time to explain why and what you wish for as an outcome can avoid confusion, self-blame, or avoidance.
‘Avoid talking about it during an argument as this can make things worse.
‘Don’t forget to mention the positives, as to why you think it’s worthwhile for you to make the relationship work and how you are looking forward to how marriage counselling can help achieve a more positive relationship.’
Don’t focus on the negatives and be inclusive in your body language too by doing things such as a simple hand hold.
Responding to resistance
If they’re still not on board, give it time.
Ness says: ‘It’s easy for a partner to respond in a defensive way if a suggestion like this occurs during an argument, and then this can lead to you responding negatively or defensive too, and essentially you just add more fuel to the fire and keep the argument burning longer than needed.
‘Allow your partner time to process the possibility of marriage counselling.
‘It’s likely they may not have noticed things have gotten to that point, and need a moment to think about the concerns you’ve raised that you feel marriage counselling is needed.
‘Not only are they processing those, but it’s likely they may become aware of emotions that they need to explore before even agreeing to marriage or couples
‘It can take a while as there’s a lot to work out before agreeing to marriage counselling, so time can be helpful.
‘Don’t discount their reaction with blame, shame or stigma.
‘Their reaction may not be what you want to hear but it can be very important
to listen to and empathise with too.’
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