There are many reasons you might be thinking couples therapy would be a good idea.
- challenges in communication
- sexual issues
- difficulties managing together and alone time
You may be ready to give couples therapy a shot, but your partner might be anything but ready. So what do you do?
We all know that forcing anything is usually not a good idea. Resistance may be a sign of underlying fears. It can be helpful to think about what might be contributing to that big ole “no.”
The importance of couples therapy
It’s important to remember that we live in a digital age where the bulk of communication is often done through our devices. Even if it is FaceTime, it is not face-to-face time. The prospect of an entire 50 minutes discussing feelings associated with the relationship might seem intimidating. This may stem from concerns such as:
- Worries that the therapist may blame them or that the two of you will gang up on them;
- An assumption that therapy is painful and difficult (especially among first-timers;
- Fear of finally having to address feelings of contempt, a lack of attraction (most likely due to resentment), or a lack respect for your opinions.
Three ways to approach the difficult conversation around couples therapy.
1. Begin with the end in mind.
How do you imagine therapy might be helpful for the relationship? Share that with your partner. We get ourselves to where we want to be. Take some time to think about what you want the relationship to look and feel like. Be specific and realistic. Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” offers a reminder to begin “with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” This technique can also be used for the conversation about therapy itself. How do you want to feel at the end of the conversation? How do you want your partner to feel? Begin with that in mind.
2. Let your partner know how important the relationship is for you, and share what you are willing to work on both personally and in the relationship.
This is very different from fighting, pleading and giving ultimatums that do not work. Forcing someone into therapy typically results in them coming to session closed off, unavailable and resentful. Not the best setup to get your needs met. Take responsibility for your part in the problems, or at least express openness to learning what your role might be. This can also help alleviate the fear of being ganged up, on because you are taking the reins on what you may be doing to contribute to the challenges.
Couples therapy is not easy, but neither is anything else that is important. By allowing yourself to be vulnerable and sharing why this is important to you, you might connect more fully with your partner. In “The Power of Vulnerability,” author Brene Brown shares, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.”
3. Timing is everything.
Marsha Linehan, founder of dialectical behavioral therapy, a second wave version of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), developed a set of skills around interpersonal effectiveness. This includes how we ask for things, make requests and initiate discussions. That hot spot in the middle of a big fight? Yeah, not the best time to bring up the couples therapy discussion.
Emotions often get in the way of our ability to act effectively. We are more apt to feel heard and get what we want when we have an easy manner. Wait for a time when you are both free of tension or anger and there can be some lightheartedness around the topic. Linehan’s skill of “GIVE,” (Gentle, Interested in what each has to say, Validating the other, and having an Easy manner) can help you be more effective when communicating.
But what if my partner thinks therapy is only for people who are “crazy”?
Unfortunately, stigma surrounding therapy still exists. Fears are typically quelled when you take a moment to look around the waiting room and see people of all walks of life waiting for their session.
But what if my partner thinks therapy will take forever?
Depending on the situation and the therapist you see, you can achieve good results in just a few months. Have hope, be skillful about how you approach the conversation, and make no more buts about it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ali Psiuk is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) at Well Clinic who strives to assist others in creating a life worth living and to lessen suffering.
According to Ali, “We are all naturally equipped with a drive towards health and wellness but sometimes we get stuck and need to reach for outside support. Never lose hope. Psychotherapy can help.”