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What to do if your partner won’t go to couples therapy

“Hello, Relationship Solutions. Can I help you?……… Hello?”

I can hear noise on the other end of the phone but, I can’t make out what it is. After a few seconds I realize it’s a woman’s voice on the other end. She’s tearfully explaining that her marriage is in real trouble. Both she and her partner agree that things cannot go on the way they have been. It’s been bad for a while, they sleep in separate beds. sex is rare and affection is even more rare. But, even though they agree things need to be fixed her husband won’t come to couples counseling.

This scenario is all too familiar; one person wants to try marriage therapy and the other isn’t really open to it. Frustrated, hurt and confused the woman on the phone wants to know “ So… what can I do?”

1.) Start individual therapy. Just because your partner isn’t interested in therapy doesn’t mean you can’t pursue it yourself. Getting clarity on what you’re doing in the relationship and possible ways that your behaviors are contributing to destructive patterns can really go a long way. When one person changes it impacts the system (relationship), which inevitably changes the relationship itself.

2.) Consider more of a “self help” route for your relationship. This will require studying/reading and experimenting with new techniques in your relationship. There are some great books out there to help guide you. I would recommend Terrance Real’s “ New Rules of Marriage,” Patricia Love’s “ How to improve your marriage without talking about it,” and John Gottman’s “ The Seven principles for making marriage work.” If you can get your partner to read any of these with your, all the better.

3.) Let your partner know how important it is to you that couples therapy is at least attempted. Request that she/he attend one session with you just to give it a try and if she/he doesn’t find it to be helpful then you will not push the issue. This will get her/him in the door and at least open to the idea of couples counseling even if for only 50-60 minutes. If you do this, be sure to find a therapist that you think will be a great fit for you as a couple, this will make a tremendous difference in how well you both relate to the therapist, feel about the over all process., and ultimately how helpful coming to couples counseling is.

While you will never be able to make decisions for your partner or make her/him go to couples therapy, you can work on yourself. The better you feel about your role in the relationship the more likely things are to improve for you, the faster you can determine what your options are and move toward a more loving relationship.

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