How To Talk To Your Spouse About Counseling
Marriage can be a rewarding and mutually beneficial bond characterized by love, support, and respect. Like many things in life, though, it can also be challenging, and sometimes you may have trouble resolving certain conflicts on your own. If you’re considering marriage counseling, you might be wary of broaching the subject with your partner for fear of making them feel uncomfortable or hurt. Luckily, there are several ways you can foster constructive communication when it comes to a potentially sensitive topic like counseling. Below, we’re going to discuss how you can take the first step toward strengthening your marriage by having a productive, empathetic conversation about counseling with your spouse.
Before The Conversation
There are several things you can do to prepare for a discussion with your spouse about counseling. Prior to the conversation, try to look at the situation from your partner’s perspective, organize your own thoughts on the subject, and find the proper time to talk.
Consider Your Partner’s Point Of View
If you believe your partner is reluctant to attend marriage counseling, attempting to understand potential concerns they might have can be a proactive way of preparing for the conversation. Common concerns regarding counseling include:
The belief that they’ll be blamed for issues
The desire to work out problems on their own
Concerns about effectiveness
Hearing negative stories or opinions from someone else
Past experiences with counseling
Not wanting to fight in front of someone else
Disagreement about whether there are issues that need to be addressed
Even if your partner hasn’t mentioned their specific concerns regarding counseling, anticipating their misgivings can help you empathize with them when you talk.
Prepare To Explain Your Point Of View
While you may feel confident that you and your spouse would benefit from marriage counseling, you may not have taken time to pinpoint areas of concern you’d like to address. To help you effectively organize and convey your thoughts, try to identify the specific sources of tension in your relationship and how counseling can help you work through them. Common reasons people seek counseling include:
Differing parenting styles
You may also want to start counseling as a preventative measure—a way of avoiding future conflict—or as a relationship-strengthening exercise. Knowing the reasons you’d like to pursue counseling with your partner can help you explain your perspective.
Wait Until The Right Time
Bringing up counseling at an inopportune time could make it more difficult for you to have a productive conversation. You may want to avoid broaching the subject while you’re already in an argument with your spouse or either of you are busy. Choose a time when you’re both free to bring up the topic or consider allowing your spouse to choose the time by leading with, “I’d like to discuss marriage counseling with you. Please let me know when you can set aside some time for a conversation.”
During The Conversation
Once you’ve thought about your partner’s point of view, come up with your own reasons for pursuing therapy, and found a good time to talk, you’ll likely be ready to talk to your partner about counseling. There are several things to keep in mind as you start the discussion.
Avoid Assigning Blame
If your spouse feels like relationship issues will be attributed to them in therapy, they may become defensive or more resistant to the idea of counseling than they were before. There are several ways you can avoid putting your partner on the defensive during the discussion. Let them know up front that you want to work together during counseling, and that your intention isn’t to assign blame. Emphasizing the collaborative nature of counseling could put them at ease.
When you do articulate your concerns about the relationship, try using “I” statements (e.g., “I feel like we don’t communicate effectively”), as opposed to statements that may be read as assigning blame (e.g., “You don’t communicate well with me”).
You can also bring up the positive aspects of your relationship and take responsibility for your part in any conflicts. Let your partner know that you appreciate the ways they contribute to your marriage and improve your life. This can reinforce the idea that you don’t want to focus on their faults.
Explain The Potential Benefits
If your spouse is hesitant to participate in counseling, it can help to lay out some of the benefits. Explain that marriage counseling focuses on encouraging positive communication, fostering commitment, enhancing intimacy, and developing goals for your relationship. You can mention that a counselor is typically a neutral party who will not take sides. Let them know that the counselor’s role is not to force either of you to do anything but instead to provide suggestions and guidance as needed.
Sometimes people who are hesitant about attending counseling are worried that doing so is an indication of failure. They might view marriage counseling as a last resort, when, in reality, marriage counseling can be for couples in any relationship stage. Counseling can improve an already strong relationship or help couples identify concerns that may arise in the future. It does not have to signal a deficiency or a failure.
If you are looking to address specific concerns, though, you can let your partner know that counseling has a high success rate. Research shows that marriage counseling can improve relationship functioning after even a short period of time. In one study on the efficacy of couples therapy, participants reported experiencing significantly improved marital satisfaction after 8 sessions. By framing counseling in a positive light, your spouse may start to think about the idea differently.
Listen Attentively To One Another
As you discuss counseling, take turns letting each other speak and responding thoughtfully. This can help you avoid hurt feelings or counterproductive arguments. As your partner talks, try to listen without thinking of your response. Once they’ve finished talking, consider summarizing their main points and repeating them back. When you do this, you’re ensuring you understand your spouse’s perspective and signaling to them that you’re listening carefully.
You can then address your partner’s concerns and bring up points of your own. While you talk, try to empathize with your spouse so that they feel heard (e.g., “I understand and appreciate that you’d rather work things out on our own. I also want us to address our concerns on our own time, and I think that counseling might help us do that in a more effective way.”).
Approaching Online Couples Therapy
Research shows that online therapy can help couples open up and strengthen their relationship. A 2020 study showed that couples who participated in online therapy were able to establish a strong alliance with their therapist and found the process of videoconferencing more comfortable than in-person therapy. Participants reported feeling less intimidated and more in control of sessions without having to talk to someone face to face in an unfamiliar office.
With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, counseling is remote, allowing you to talk about relationship conflicts or similar mental health-related concerns from the comfort of home. And because there are no office expenses or other forms of overhead, online therapy is often more affordable than in-person counseling. BetterHelp memberships start at $60 per week (billed every 4 weeks), and you can cancel anytime. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp professionals from those who have sought therapy in the past.
“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.”
While it may feel daunting, bringing up the topic of marriage counseling can be the first step toward developing a closer bond with your spouse. If you’d like help communicating with your partner or addressing similar concerns, consider talking with a licensed therapist online. With the right support, you can strengthen your connection with your significant other and continue building a happy, healthy marriage.
Commonly Asked Questions About This Topic
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What do you do when your partner refuses to get help?
What is the Gottman Method?
How do you tell someone they need help?
How do you convince someone to go to counseling?
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do I talk to my husband about therapy?
Bringing up the topic of couples therapy with a partner can be daunting. But this communication is essential if you and your partner are having problems in your relationship and don’t know how to fix them on your own.
The important thing is to approach the subject of therapy in such a way that you are not blaming them for the issues you are experiencing. You want to be honest, but frame the concerns in a way that shows that you want to strengthen the relationship.Focus on the benefits of couples counseling and tell your spouse that you want this because you love them not because you are blaming them for anything. You are more likely to persuade your partner by focusing on all the positives and how the relationship can heal and blossom with therapy.
It is also important to stay calm throughout the entire discussion, especially if they become defensive at the suggestion. Chances are that your partner might not be totally on-board when you suggest therapy the first time. This topic may require multiple conversations before you both are on the same page. And if they ultimately decide against couples therapy, respect their decision.
Can a marriage be saved with counseling?
Yes, a marriage or committed relationship can be saved by couples counseling. However, couples counseling itself is not a miracle cure. Throughout counseling, you and your partner will be able to address your concerns, develop better conflict resolution and communication skills, and dig to the root of your conflict and problems. This requires a lot of work and effort and will probably not be easy. So if you want to save your marriage or relationship, you should consider counseling, but keep in mind you will have to work hard to find solutions to your concerns and create a better relationship.
Should you tell your spouse what you talk about in therapy?
If you are in individual therapy, you are not obligated to talk to your partner about what you discuss with your therapist. However, if you and your therapist primarily discuss your relationship, then you may want to have a discussion with your partner about any issues or concerns you have. For example, if you believe you have communication problems or often fight about money, you can utilize the advice and tools you receive in therapy to discuss these concerns with your partner.
What percentage of marriages survive after counseling?
Multiple sources claim that couples counseling has a success rate of anywhere from 70% to 98%. However, that doesn’t mean that couples counseling is a miracle cure for your marriage problems. Couples counseling requires a lot of work to improve the relationship; just going to the counselor’s office is not enough. A couples therapist will provide you and your partner with tips, tools, and skills to repair your marriage, but it is up to you and your partner to utilize them.
Furthermore, couples counseling offers a safe space for you to gain an understanding of your partner’s perspective on the marriage. However, you must be willing to listen and respond with empathy and not be quick to shame your partner for their actions or feelings. So, in summary, the chances of a marriage surviving after counseling are completely dependent on how willing both partners are to put in the necessary work.
Do counselors tell you to leave your partner?
If you are considering couples therapy, or want to discuss your relationship in individual therapy, you may fear that your therapist will tell you to leave your partner. However, this rarely happens. Counselors will rarely advise ending relationships, especially if they only work with one partner and don’t have the other partner’s perspective.
However, if there is a situation where you’re life's in danger or your quality of life is significantly lowered by being with your partner, they may advise you to leave your partner for your safety and well-being.
Can couples therapy make things worse?
In most cases, couples therapy leads to a better relationship. That’s because couples therapy helps both partners gain new skills, tips, tools, and ideas that they can utilize to improve their relationship. Success in couples therapy ultimately is determined by how much each person wants to be a better partner to their other half and how honest they are with each other.
Still, there are a few situations where couples therapy can make things worse. For example, many couples feel their relationship worsens very soon after starting couples therapy. But this is usually temporary. This is because there is finally honesty and open communication about how you and your partner feel. If either of you have been holding back about your feelings or thoughts, bringing them out for the first time can be hard for couples to handle and process. However, through consistent work and improved communication, many couples are able to get past this period and see improvements in their relationship.
However, another scenario is that you get a counselor who isn’t up to the task. Maybe they are inexperienced or are more interested in discussing individual concerns rather than issues in relationships. Or maybe they are biased towards one partner’s point of view and do not respond with compassion or understanding when the other speaks. Whatever the case, if a counselor is not up to the task of repairing your relationship, you may find that things get worse instead.
Though these scenarios are uncommon, it’s understandable to have this fear. The important thing is to identify quickly when an issue is with the therapist and not with you and your partner. If you both believe the therapist is not a good fit, then you need to start the process of finding another counselor as soon as possible.
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