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A man and a woman sitting on a park bench in a park in Oregon. The woman is refusing to go to couples therapy, and the man is wondering what he can to do to convince her it is important for their relationship.

What to Do When Your Partner Refuses Couples’ Therapy

It’s a common scenario: one partner wants to go to couples’ therapy and the other refuses. It can be a frustrating and confusing situation.  So, what do you do when your partner refuses couples’ therapy?

There are a few things you can do to try and convince your partner to give therapy a chance

First, try to have an honest conversation with him/her about why you think therapy would be beneficial. Explain how you’re feeling and why you think therapy could help. If your partner is still resistant, try to find out what their specific concerns are about therapy. Maybe s/he is worried about what it will be like, or s/he is afraid it won’t work. Once you know their concerns, you can address them directly.

If your partner is still unwilling to go to therapy, you may have to make the decision to go without him/her.  Additionally, it’s critical to know that if this does end up being the case, there is an immense amount of work you and your therapist can do to help the relationship (even without your partner present).  

This can be difficult, though, but it’s important to remember that you’re doing this for yourself.  You may also want to consider individual therapy, which can help you work through your own issues even if your partner isn’t willing to participate.

No matter what you decide to do, it’s important to keep communication open with your partner. Let him/her know that you’re still interested in working on your relationship, even if s/he is not ready for therapy right now. With understanding and patience, you can weather this difficult situation and come out stronger as a couple.

A couple in San Diego arguing about whether couples counseling will help them. The woman is refusing couples' therapy, though the man thinks it is critical to their relationship.Understanding Your Partner’s Reaction

There are a few common reasons why your partner may not want to start couples’ therapy. S/he may believe that therapy is only for “serious” problems. Or s/he may think that therapy means admitting that the relationship is in trouble. Additionally, s/he may worry that therapy will be expensive or that it will take up a lot of time.

It’s important to talk to your partner about their concerns. Only then can you start to address them. It may be helpful to explain that therapy is not just for “serious” problems. It can be helpful for any couple who wants to improve their relationship. It’s also important to reassure your partner that therapy is confidential. Anything said in therapy stays between the therapist and the clients.

If cost is a concern, there are many ways to make therapy more affordable. At Stress Solutions, for example, with specific clients, we offer 8-session package deals, which substantially reduce the overall cost.  In addition, it’s critical to know that, in my experience as a couples’ therapist, on average, most couples who are generally invested in improving their relationship, report large transformations by, at latest, the 6th-8th session.  So, while therapy can be expensive, it often isn’t a long process, and it can drastically transform one’s relationship forever.

As for time, couples’ therapy usually requires a commitment of 1-2 hours per week. This may seem like a lot, but it’s a small investment for the potential benefits of therapy.

Respect Your Partner’s Needs and Feelings

We all want to be respected, and we all want to feel like our needs and feelings matter to our partner. When we don’t feel respected, it can be hurtful, frustrating, and even angering.

If you’re feeling like your partner doesn’t respect your needs and feelings, it’s important to communicate this to them. It’s possible that s/he is not even aware that s/he is doing anything wrong. But if s/he is aware and still refuses to try to change or improve the situation, then you might need to rethink the relationship.

Sometimes, couples’ therapy can be helpful in these situations. If your partner is unwilling to go to therapy with you, it might be a sign that s/he is not as invested in the relationship as you are. And that’s not something you can force him/her to change.

If you’re feeling like your partner doesn’t respect your needs and feelings, the most important thing you can do is communicate with them about it. Try to be honest, calm, and understanding. And if s/he is unwilling to try to improve the situation, you might need to reconsider whether this is the right relationship for you.

Find a Therapist with whom You Both Feel Comfortable 

There are a lot of different therapists out there, so it’s important to find one with which you both feel comfortable. You both need to feel like you can trust the therapist and that s/he deeply understands your relationship.  You also need to feel like the therapist is respectful of your relationship and is willing to work with you to help you understand and resolve your issues.

If you both concentrate on working as a team to find a therapist with whom you both like, it can drastically reduce your partner’s resistance to the therapeutic process. 

A couple stands together on a beach in Florida looking loving. after they have come together. The man's partner no longer refuses couples' therapy. Be Willing to Rock the Boat

One of the best couples’ therapists alive, Terry Real, regularly speaks about the need to rock the boat.  He believes that, in order for us to get what we want and deserve in life and in our relationships, we have to be ready and willing to fight for it.  

So, if your partner is resistant to the idea of therapy, and you feel it is absolutely critical you two engage in therapy to have any shot at a future together, you must be willing to work up the courage to rock the boat.  Specifically, you must be willing to say to yourself and your partner that couples’ therapy is non-negotiable for your relationship’s future.  You want to state this firmly and kindly.  Additionally, it can often be quite helpful to state the request in terms of a “positive, future, request” versus a “negative, past, criticism” and with specific details.

So, it’s much better to say to your reluctant partner: “I need us to go to couples’ therapy by next Tuesday at 5pm”, instead of “I can’t stand the way you treated me last Tuesday, this past month, and this past year.”  The former helps empower our partner to get what we deserve, while the latter is discouraging, critical, and non-specific, all of which makes it much more likely our partner becomes defensive, shuts down, doesn’t hear us, and doesn’t follow through. 

Furthermore, know that you may need to regularly state your request for couples’ therapy in this kind and firm way.  Oftentimes, we need to hear things a handful of times to really digest them and take them seriously.  So, be prepared to remind your partner several days in a row potentially before s/he ultimately comes around.

Know and Harness the Power of Influence

If, at the end of the day, your partner still refuses couples’ therapy, one final piece can help: the power of influence.  Specifically, if you choose to go to individual therapy and then regularly share with your partner the positive impact of the therapeutic experience on you and your life, this could change your partner’s perspective.  We cannot control anyone and nobody likes to be told what to do, but influence often has the most potential in changing someone’s perspective and actions. 

Begin Working with A San Diego Couples Therapist

To understand more about what to do if your partner refuses couples’ therapy, schedule a free consultation with a couples therapist in San Diego, California.  We are committed to helping you learn the best ways to influence your partner to want to transform his/her relationship alongside you.  

Other Services Offered with My Stress Solutions

Couples therapy is not the only service our team provides.  Some of the other services we provide at Stress Solutions include therapy for men, stress, anxiety, and trauma.  We are thrilled to help support both men and couples through in-person and online therapy.  Reach out today to learn more!

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