Counseling for One? When One Person Refuses Couples Counseling

Posted by on Nov 30, 2013 in Couples Counseling For One | Comments Off on Counseling for One? When One Person Refuses Couples Counseling

Alone in a counseling session meant for two, it’s natural to be frustrated by an unwilling partner. Don’t allow your partner’s reluctance to become another obstacle between you. Be careful to avoid these common mistakes made by well-meaning partners eager for change:

Mistake #1: “Couples counseling…or else!”

Demanding that your partner participate in counseling may do more harm than good. Ultimatums can further increase resentments and power struggles. Simply attending counseling is not, in and of itself, enough to improve the relationship. 

Resist the urge to push or guilt your mate into therapy. Mandates are rarely effective and though you may long to have your partner with you, it is usually helpful to see your relationship through a broader lens. While some people benefit from an empathetic guide through the conflicts plaguing their relationship, other people are able to navigate them alone. It may be true that your partner is able to reach a place of healing and renewed affection for you without a counselor’s help.

Don’t forget, the successful future of your relationship always depends on the positive changes you and your partner make.

Mistake #2: “What’s the point? There is nothing I can do on my own…”

Understanding your role in the relationship is key. It is important to know you can still have a positive impact on your relationship, even if your partner is unwilling to come to counseling.  

It may seem counterintuitive to attend couples counseling alone, but there are very real gains that can be secured as you focus on your part in the relationship. First, recognize that one of your most compelling motivators for attempting therapy was a desire to feel better about your relationship. Time spent learning to better manage conflict and meet your own needs will help alleviate the strain in your relationship.

Likewise, by examining your own part in unhealthy interaction, you will bring fresh eyes and new hope to your relationship. You’ll see that you are not powerless. You’ll find that your relationship still contains viable options. You’ll reveal new way to be a contributing, influential partner.

Many motivated partners find that as they shift focus to their own inner work, they will start to see a shift in their spouse’s perspective. The changes your partner sees in you often encourages a softened stance towards counseling and, at the very least, reduces the power struggles and demands surrounding the issue.

Mistake #3: “If you loved me, you would go…

Don’t assume that your partner’s unwillingness to participate in counseling translates to a lack of caring about you or your relationship. There may be a variety of reasons why people are reluctant to participate in counseling.  

Time and communication may reveal that fear and uncertainty may have kept your partner away. Many people avoid couples counseling because they fear being blamed or targeted by their partner. Some people reason, “What’s the point?” fearing that the issues raised will rock the boat so violently that the relationship will sink despite their best intentions. It could be that the counseling process is so foreign to your spouse or partner, that his or her fear of the unknown is reason enough to avoid it.

Reluctance doesn’t always mean rejection. Take comfort in the fact that your partner’s desire to improve your relationship is not necessarily measured by his or her interest in therapy.

Remember, if you and your partner are committed and willing to change, fewer demands, attention to your own issues, and more consideration for your partner’s misgivings can be key factors putting you on the path to a happier, healthier relationship.


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