Although there is a slight change in the trend, women are the primary initiators of counseling. Perhaps it’s because, in our culture, women are raised to be responsible for relationships. Or maybe it’s because men see counseling as a sign of weakness and they don’t want to “talk about their feelings.” Whatever the case may be, women do call to set up more therapy sessions than men.
But, what do you do if your husband or boyfriend doesn’t want to go to couples counseling? You’re unhappy, feel the two of you could improve your communication skills and don’t like the direction the marriage is heading. Maybe you don’t feel he is hearing how serious the situation is. Whatever the reason, he just won’t go to counseling.
Here are a few tips to try and increase your chances of getting him into couples counseling:
1) Write him a letter: Sometimes putting feeling, experiences and desires down on paper helps to organize one’s thoughts and takes the intensity out of the communication. It may help to defuse the power struggle by allowing for time and distance from the initial conflict. Plus, he can read the letter on his own time and as many times as he needs to hopefully come to understand how you are feeling and being affected by the relationship.
2) Ask him at a time of no conflict. Express to him your love and desire to make your relationship with him strong and fulfilling for both of you. He may be in a better place to hear you when you are away from the fighting and not so angry.
3) Allow him to pick the therapist. Perhaps he would feel more comfortable with a male therapist because he feels a man would be more understanding of his experience and therefore not feel ganged up on. Additionally, he may want a therapist within a certain age range or of a certain religious affiliation. If he picks the therapist, he may take more responsibility in the counseling process.
4) Start therapy by yourself: Maybe by working on your own perspective of the problems will help create a better way for you to communicate the negative effect the relationship dissatisfaction is having on you and the marriage. It could also help you to see what you are contributing to the discord and once you explain your role in the struggle, make him feel more comfortable with couples counseling and that it could have real value.
5) Collaborate with a therapist. Perhaps you can find a therapist that will invite your husband into therapy initially as an observer or “Holder of fact”. Have him come into therapy as simply an expert in your life to tell the therapist his experience of you and what he thinks you have to work on. This technique, if worked well by the therapist is an excellent way to expose your husband to what counseling is really like; that it’s a safe place to express one’s experiences and have them validated. Through this initial therapy experience, he may start to see that therapy isn’t so bad and a place he can actually start to get some of his needs met too.
6) Threaten separation or divorce: This technique should only be used as a last ditch effort and can only be used once, maybe twice in a relationship. If you are going to play the divorce card, you better be ready to follow through with your threat. This approach signifies that the marriage is hanging by a thread and that thread is about to break. If you are in a dysfunctional relationship with someone who is unwilling to try and make it better, you must either resign yourself to it and stop complaining or walk away knowing you have tried all you could and that your happiness has value.
A marriage is something worth fighting for. Try everything you can to help save it; even if this means leveraging your mate into counseling. With a well thought out plan of attack and a willing therapist who recognizes the importance and value of couples counseling, you can rescue a troubled marriage. He will be glad you did.
If you would like more explanation on how to leverage your partner into therapy, please feel free to contact me through my website or blog by clicking on the links provided below.
Mark A. Kaupp, Psy.D.,
Marriage, Family Therapist, License #MFC33213.
or at my blog