How To Talk To Your Spouse About Online Marriage Counseling
By: Patricia Oelze
Updated November 20, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
“The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding.” — Unknown
Marriages can be challenging, and sometimes problems surface that you can't or don't want to deal with on your own. Online marriage counseling is a convenient way for couples to work through their problems, improve communication, and work on developing a healthy relationship. On the flipside, it can also be intimidating if you've never used therapy services. Many people are scared to bring up the topic of online marriage counseling with their spouse for fear of making them feel uncomfortable, hurt, or angry, but there are plenty of gentle, tactful ways you can bring up the topic.
Think about the reasons why counseling may want to be avoided.
If you are already under the assumption that your request to attend online marriage counseling will not be met with an abundance of enthusiasm, take a step back and think about some potential reasons why your spouse may not want to. Most likely, it is not because they don’t love you or want to save the marriage. Some common reasons a spouse may not want to attend marital counseling can include:
- They think they will be blamed for everything wrong in the marriage or sided against during the session.
- Believing couples should be able to work out their own problems
- Assuming it won’t help
- Hearing negative stories or opinions from someone else
- You’ve already given it a shot and it didn’t seem to help
- Not wanting to fight in front of someone else
- They don’t agree there are problems in the marriage, or the think the problems are not so bad
- They attribute the problems to you and think that you are the one who needs help
Explain to your partner why you are interested in online marriage counseling.
In most cases, when people are considering online marriage counseling, that means there are issues within the marriage. Of course, those issues vary and affect everyone at differing levels. There is no one cause or situation that automatically or inherently leads to seeking the help of a counselor. If you believe that you and your spouse would benefit from online marriage counseling, then you'll definitely want to explain to them why you feel this way.
When you are explaining the reason why you believe online marriage counseling is needed, it's important to speak objectively. Instead of assigning blame, make sure that you focus on the issue itself and not the perceived faults of your spouse. Discussing potential areas of improvement can come later, when they can be navigated by a therapist. If you feel as if your spouse may be reluctant to hear out your suggestion or request, be sure to ease them into the idea gently, at an opportune time. It may not be received well if you bring up this topic while your spouse is engrossed in a task, during the middle of a family dinner, or mid-television show (yes, even if the couple on tv is in the middle of a heated argument). Consider allowing your spouse to choose the time by leading with, “There’s something important I’d like to discuss with you. Let me know when you are able to set aside some time for a conversation.”
Make it clear that this is not their fault.
Many people don't like the idea of marriage counseling because they feel attacked or uncomfortable when the topic is brought up. When people feel attacked, they have a tendency to become defensive. Before posing the question, tell your spouse that you are concerned about your relationship in general, but the problems aren't anyone's fault. This will help them feel less defensive and more open to what you have to say.
Even if it is not your intent, your spouse may interpret your desire to go to therapy as anger or placement of blame. It's so important for your spouse to know that you are not blaming or attacking them for issues that may exist in your marriage. Another important thing to consider is that your spouse may not have had exposure with online marriage counseling or other forms of therapy. When someone doesn't have exposure to therapy and counseling, being asked to partake in it can easily be interpreted as a personal criticism, especially because there is sometimes a negative stigma associated with counseling. After all, most people seek help from a counselor when something is wrong, right?
If this is the case, discuss some positive benefits you think online counseling will provide. For example, maybe one or both of you can’t seem to find the right words to get across what you’re feeling. Maybe what starts off as a discussion turns escalates quickly into a full-blown argument. Or, possibly, one of you can’t seem to move forward from something that eroded trust. Maybe one or both of you resorts to the silent treatment, creating unwanted distance and not resolving anything. If any of these situations or similar are familiar, perhaps you could say, “I noticed we have a tendency to (fill-in-the-blank). A counselor may be able to help us adopt healthier patterns of communicating that don’t leave us both feeling so frustrated or down.”
Remind them how much you love and care about them.
It never hurts to remind your spouse how much you care for them, and this is particularly important before bringing up the topic of online marriage counseling. If you approach the conversation from the angle of wanting to improve your relationship because you care about your spouse, all of a sudden, the concept of therapy and counseling seems much more positive.
Because it's so important for your spouse to know that you love and care for them, the timing in which you choose to bring up online marriage counseling is so important. Bringing up the talk during a positive and happy time is much better than starting the conversation during an argument or at a time when you or your spouse are busy. In order to increase the likelihood of the conversation going positively, both you and your partner need to be in a good and open state of mind. Consider highlighting what you both seem to do right, or what you perceive are your strengths as a couple, prior to bringing up what you’d like to work on. For example, “We are able to weigh the pros and cons of decision making so well together when it comes to the kids. I’d like to be able to do the same when we talk about finances. We haven’t seemed to be able to get there on our own, so I was thinking maybe a counselor could help us.”
Ask them to listen, and then reciprocate when it's their turn to speak.
Before starting the conversation, ask your spouse to listen to what you have to say without interrupting or walking away. Be sure to do this in a calm, soothing manner to alleviate some of the tension that your spouse likely feels in this moment. Once you're done explaining things from your point of view, let your spouse express their feelings and ask questions without interrupting them. If they feel like their point of view is heard, it will be easier for you to have a constructive conversation about marriage counseling
Another important thing to be aware of is that your spouse may not initially be open to online marriage counseling. This is particularly plausible if they simply haven't had much exposure to therapy or counseling. For these reasons, when you bring up the subject, being very attentive to your spouse's feedback and thoughts on the matter is very important. Take note of your spouse's reactions and how they appear to feel about it. This can provide a lot of insight to their state of mind. They may not be ready to provide and answer or feedback and request time to think about it.
It's important to remember that in order for online marriage counseling to be effective, both you and your spouse have to be on board and open to the feedback and suggestions of the counselor. This is why listening to your spouse and reciprocating when it's their turn to speak is so critical.
Explain some of the benefits of online marriage counseling.
If you calmly explain your desire for counseling to your spouse and they seem skeptical, talk to them about some of the benefits of online marriage counseling. Talking to someone online can be much less intimidating than seeing a counselor in person, and it also allows you to plan the sessions around your schedules. Your spouse may be more willing to attend sessions if they don’t even have to leave the house to do it. Explain that marriage counseling focuses on encouraging positive communication and working through problems together instead of placing blame or pointing fingers. Mention that the counselor is a neutral party who will not “take sides.” By framing the concept in a positive light, your spouse may start to think about the idea a bit differently.
When you and your spouse attend online marriage counseling sessions, you both can heal and grow as a couple. This is another important benefit worth discussing with your spouse. Sometimes people who are hesitant about attending counseling or therapy feel this way because they are worried that doing so may indicate the failure or end of something. Maybe they view marriage counseling as a “last resort,” when, in reality, online marriage counseling can actually help couples heal and have a better life together. When you and your spouse are both on the same page about marriage counseling and its potential benefits, then it increases the likelihood of a positive experience and allows you to reap the best possible results as a couple.
Approaching Online Marriage Counseling
If you are struggling with your marriage, try online counseling through BetterHelp. You and your spouse can work with certified counselors and therapists online to resolve the various issues negatively impacting your marriage. A 2020 study showed that couples who participated in online marriage counseling were able to establish positive connections and experience beneficial, positive results. Another perk of online counseling is that it is typically less expensive than traditional face-to-face sessions.
Although online marriage counseling can require time, patience, and personal reflection for both you and your spouse, at the end of the day, you will both be able to improve your relationship and reap the benefits of a happy life together. Read below to see what couples have to say about their experience with BetterHelp.
“Dr. Harrell was there for me and helped me get to the issues of my problems and triggers. I am a much better person and feel like a new person. I am pursuing a dream that I never thought would be possible to achieve. Me and my wife are again on speaking terms with a small glimmer of hope. I honestly wouldn't be where I am now without her support.”
“Robin is amazing. This is my first time ever doing counselling and I was paired up with Robin. I have no regrets. I was going thought major changes with my family and Robin really help me to put everything in perspective and help me see things in a new light. she is very easy to talk to and work with. I’m really grateful to have met her as she have taught me so much. Thank you Robin. Both my husband and I really appreciate everything you do for us.”
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