“I’ve asked my partner for the last two years to come to couples counseling with me, but he refuses. I don’t understand why he is so adamant.”
If we had a penny for every time we’ve heard that in the last 30 years, we’d be rich.
There are many reasons partners refuse to enter couples counseling. You may think your partner is being oppositional, lazy, stubborn or uncaring, but chances are, that is not the case. People who refuse to seek out couples counseling when their relationship is in trouble are “afraid” and they may not even know it. They make all kinds of excuses about why they won’t go, but most often it is their conscious or unconscious fear that stops them.
Though there may be many reasons that partners won’t go to couples counseling, we have identified the top three reasons partners resist and they are all based on the same feeling: fear.
1. Fear of Therapy
Anyone who has been to counseling knows the first time you come it is very uncomfortable. After all, you are meeting with a complete stranger to pour your heart out and share the deepest, darkest, most intimate details about your life. This is hard enough for the motivated person who comes to therapy, let alone the resistant one.
Aside from opening your heart, there is a fear of being judged by this stranger – you don’t know what he/she is thinking. And, “What will a stranger be able to tell me about my marriage that I have lived in for many years?” You may feel like a failure or be embarrassed that you couldn’t fix your relationship on your own. Maybe your partner does not believe in therapy and thinks it is psychobabble. And after you spill your guts, what is this person going to tell you?
2. Fear of the Outcome
People don’t usually come to counseling until their relationship is crumbling or there has been a crisis. Until that point, one way some people defend themselves is by denying there is a problem; i.e., “My partner hasn’t mentioned anything, maybe the problems are gone.” Yet it is when one partner stops trying to engage the other that there is a “letting go” – the beginning of detachment from the relationship. For the person who has been avoiding the issues, going to counseling means facing them: no more hiding, understanding the issues are real, and confronting the fact that the relationship may end.
3. Fear of Change
We are creatures of habit. Most of us don’t like change; i.e., “Even if the present state of the relationship is poor, at least I know what to expect.” People worry that, if they avail themselves of couples counseling, their partner will change or they may be asked to do work and change. “What will the relationship look like? What will be expected of me? What if I can’t meet the challenge? This is all new to me.”
If your relationship is on the rocks and your partner won’t go with you to couples counseling, there are two paths you can take:
Path 1: Think Fear
Ask yourself, “What is my partner afraid of?” and “How can I address the fear so we can move that roadblock out of the way?” Our articles on how to approach your partner and 3 practical tips to speak up in your relationship may also be helpful in the how-to of getting your partner on board.
Path 2: Go to Couples Counseling Solo
It may seem odd to say that, but it only takes one person to get the ball rolling. A good relationship counselor can make suggestions on what you can do differently. We have often seen when one partner makes changes, the other partner responds differently. At that point, the resistant partner may see the benefit of counseling or may be less scared and decide to join in.
Don’t wait. Relationships in trouble do not get better by themselves. And remember what Albert Einstein wisely said,
“You cannot attempt to solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”
We are here to support you in your relationship journey.
If you and your partner have drifted apart, call us. We are doing online therapy for Individuals and Couples. Call 410-363-2825 or email us now if your relationship is struggling.
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