Our Marriage Is In Trouble But My Spouse Won’t Go to Marriage Counseling: 7 Reasons Why Your Spouse May Resist Counseling
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The idea of marriage counseling is usually brought up and pursued by one partner, initially. The possibility of marriage counseling is often an ongoing debate or discussion for sometime before couples actually find their way to the counselor’s office. There are a number of reasons why one partner would be resistant to couples counseling:
1) they are happy with the way that things are (regardless of whether the partner is happy).
2) they are satisfied with the their amounts and types of power in the relationship and are concerned that counseling may alter those.
3) they have fear about topics, issues, feelings, or events that may come up in counseling
4) they believe that “the problem” is solely the problem of the partner
5) they have detached to the point where they are just physically present and do not want to invest emotionally in the relationship.
6) they believe that the counselor will take the other partner’s side and that counseling will turn into being an opportunity for the spouse to have help in lecturing, scolding, ridiculing, or emotionally beating them up.
7) they have no desire to change anything about themselves.
Despite all the discussion and negotiation about couples counseling, it is worth it to try to get your spouse in couples counseling. As a marriage counselor, I frequently observe that one partner has been communicating in all kinds of ways to get their needs met, to ask for change, to regain closeness, or to seek “fairness”. The other spouse has been stonewalling, ignoring, evading, or any other manner of refusing to engage or to problem solve. Eventually the one who has been trying to connect and restore a sense of “us” or a sense of being “important” to the spouse, just gives up, detaches, and quits asking or trying to engage their partner. The other party believes that everything is ok, now that the “nagging” has stopped. This disengaged spouse is often quite shocked when faced with discovering that his/her partner has been having an affair or wants a divorce. The one that seems to have been indifferent or not engaged in the relationship, will wake up, and say, “What happened? I thought we were happy!”
When someone quits complaining about conditions in a relationship, it does not necessarily mean that the problem is fixed. So if one person in the relationship is not happy with it, the relationship has a problem.
Good marriage counseling should have a kind of neutrality and a systemic perspective. A good marriage counselor does not approach couples counseling with “who is right or wrong” or “more right/more wrong”. They look at the relationship systemically — what the problems are, what the couple is doing to solve those problems, and how it is/is not working. They help the couple learn communication and problem solving skills, and help them create a safe environment. Difficult issues and feelings need a safe environment so that they can be discussed in a constructive manner that allows for hurt feelings to be worked through and resolved.
A marriage counselor cannot fix your marriage, but s/he will teach you how to, if you are willing to do the work.
Couples often come into counseling with one partner believing that the other partner is the only one needing “to do the work”. They quickly discover that each has their own work to do, to heal the relationship. Once they get to the counseling office and discover the counselor’s neutrality, and absence of finger pointing, it makes it safer and more conducive for each person to own their own part of the problem and the solution.