“I’ve asked my husband for the last two years to come to couples counseling, but he refuses. I don’t understand why he is so adamant.”
It’s certainly not unusual for people to resist going to therapy. I guess it’s similar to people not wanting to go to the dentist. They are afraid it is going to hurt.
Digging more deeply, there are many reasons some people avoid counseling. Though you may think your spouse is being oppositional, lazy, stubborn or uncaring, chances are that is not the case.
Partners who refuse to seek out couples counseling when their relationship is in trouble are “afraid” and may not even know it. They make all kinds of excuses about why they won’t go.
- There’s not enough time.
- It’s too expensive.
- I don’t want to share personal information.
- Therapy is only for people with serious mental health problems.
- Therapy is just psychobabble.
- We can deal with our issues ourselves.
Though people give these reasons for their reluctance, we believe it’s actually conscious or unconscious fear that stops them.
Fear of what, you ask.
Fear of Opening Up
Anyone who has been to counseling knows the first appointment is uncomfortable. After all, you are meeting with a complete stranger to pour your heart out and share your deepest, most intimate secrets about yourself. It is hard enough for the motivated person who comes to therapy, let alone the resistant one.
Fear of Judgment, Embarrassment or Shame
There may be a fear of being judged. What will the therapist think of me or of my situation? Will my partner say things that will embarrass, criticize or shame me? What if we have to talk about sex?
Fear of Facing the Problem
Often people deny there is a problem or underestimate how significant it is. Going to counseling means facing it and understanding it’s real.
Fear of the Outcome
People don’t usually come to therapy until the problems are deep or there is a crisis. What if the therapist tells us our marriage is over or she can’t help us?
Fear of Change
We are creatures of habit. Most of us don’t like change. Even if the present state of the relationship is poor, at least you know what to expect. People worry that counseling will change their partner or their relationship. They wonder what will be expected of them. Will I meet the challenge?
So, then, what do you do when your partner refuses couples counseling?
1) Ask them more about the resistance.
What are their concerns? What makes them anxious about it? Address those fears with your partner to see if you can move the roadblocks out of the way.
2) Go to couples counseling solo.
It only takes one person to make changes. A relationship counselor can make suggestions about what you can do differently. We have often seen when one partner makes changes, the other partner responds differently. Dynamics may shift. At that point, a partner may see the benefit of counseling and decide to join in.
3) Ask your partner to attend one session.
We often see the hardest part of getting a resistant partner to come to therapy is getting them in the door. Once they get past that first session, often partners feel more comfortable, realize therapy is the “non-judgment zone,” and actually want to continue.
If you have a resistant partner and want to speak to us about your specific situation, call or email us. We are here to help.
Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.
Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit KatarzynaBialasiewicz on Canva