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My Partner Won't Go To Couples Counseling!
by Steven M. Cohn, PhD

Dr. Steven Cohn

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 uncomfortable.

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 partner's cooperation.

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 your crisis.

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

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