| Dr. Steven
Sometimes I receive a phone call from a person who is frustrated
by serious issues in their relationship, and further frustrated
by the fact that their partner is unwilling to go to couples counseling
to try to work through their issues.
Many of these callers contact me in a state of desperation,
and most of them believe that nothing can be done to either change
their situation or persuade their resisting partner to try couples
counseling. Sadly, in some cases the caller is correct in their
belief that nothing can be done. That is, their partner's resistance
to counseling is an indication that the relationship is either over
or nearing an end.
If you believe that your partner refuses to attend couples
counseling because they have no intention of continuing the relationship,
it might be advisable to seek individual therapy to gain support
for the emotional turmoil that can accompany the ending of a relationship.
If, on the other hand, you believe that your partner wants the relationship
to continue but is simply reluctant to participate in the process
of resolving difficult issues, there are several things that you
might be able to do.
If it feels comfortable for you to do so, offer to let your
partner choose the couples counselor. By interviewing prospective
counselors on the phone, your partner might begin to feel that counseling
is a safe place to talk about difficult relationship issues. By
allowing your partner to choose the counselor, he or she might feel
more in control of a situation that is otherwise making them feel
Another option is to suggest that the two of you agree to
attend one couples counseling session so that you can talk in a
safe place about how you each feel, and about what options you might
have for your relationship.
Finally, you might want to consider telling your partner
that you intend to see a couples counselor by yourself to talk about
the relationship. This is an effective strategy that has worked
well for several of my clients. After a few individual sessions,
the counselor can contact the resistant partner to invite them into
therapy. My experience has been that, in some cases, the simple
act of one person starting couples counseling compels the other
partner to begin attending joint sessions. At other times, a phone
call or a letter from me has been a supportive form of persuasion.
In the end, however, it is important to remember that you
have no control over your partner, and there is nothing that you
or a couples counselor can do to force your partner into counseling.
So, remember to use the carrot rather than the stick to gain your
If you are in a relationship where you are being either emotionally
or physically abused, or if you are concerned that you might harm
yourself or someone else, please phone the 24-hour-per-day Crisis
Line at 503-215-7082. A trained counselor will help you through
Dr. Steven Cohn is the Director of the Portland
Couples Counseling Center. He specializes in treating couples from
all backgrounds. If you would like to schedule an appointment with
Dr. Cohn or if you would like to request a complimentary brochure,
please phone 503-282-8496