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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

My partner doesn't want to come to counselling with me - what can I do about it?

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My partner doesn't want to come to counselling with me - what can I do about it?

One of the things we often hear at Relate is: ‘I really want to try relationship counselling,
but I don’t know how to get my partner to come with me.’
It can be difficult to know how to broach the topic of Relationship Counselling.
You may be worried about how your partner will react:
whether they’ll be upset, or angry – or even just confused.
Here are some of the most common concerns people have about talking to their partner
about counselling and some suggestions on how to deal with them.

I don’t want to hurt their feelings
It can be hard if you're not entirely happy with your relationship,
but are worried talking to your partner about getting help will upset them.
Perhaps you already tried to broach the subject in the past and your partner reacted so badly
that instead of being able to discuss things, you ended up having to appease and reassure them.
The danger here is that if you don’t have those conversations, nothing will change
and there’s the risk that you’ll eventually lose hope of ever being fulfilled in your partnership.
In this case, I would be very gentle with your partner and explain that counselling would provide
a safe space for you both to have open and honest discussions about how
you could have the best relationship possible.
Reassure them that you want to go to counselling because you want the relationship to work out and that seeing a counsellor could help you to know each other better.

I’m scared they will get angry
If your partner getting angry is something you struggle with in your relationship,
the idea of suggesting counselling can be pretty scary.
But the worst thing you can do is just keep still in order not to rock the boat.
In my experience, most people that come to counselling are aware that they need to
manage their feelings better, but just don’t know how to do it.
It might be the case that in your relationship your partner is also struggling
to make sense of things and you are not the only one feeling frustrated and insecure.
I often explain to high conflict couples that having a third party present can soften the intensity
of arguments - and ensures you both have a chance to speak and feel heard.
Suggest the idea sensitively but directly. Let them know that you love and care for them
and want to make the relationship work, but that sometimes you don’t know what to do and think you need some support.

My partner doesn’t think there is anything wrong with our relationship
If your partner is apparently happy with you and the way things are,
you may worry that they won’t see any point in counselling and may dismiss the idea outright.
Or you may be anticipating that they’ll see it’s important to you and agree to attend,
but not really be all that invested.
I have worked with couples in both scenarios and it’s interesting to see what comes out
throughout the sessions. Often, just having the time and space to talk about
and reflect on your relationship opens up conversations you never saw yourself having.
In the same way you take your car for an MOT each year, it can’t hurt to have a check up
on your relationship too. Frozen star Kristen Bell recently shared that she and her husband
have been attending couple therapy since the start of their relationship
and compared it to having a trainer in the gym or a recipe when cooking.
You don’t have to go to therapy because there are major issues – it can just be a chance for you
to prioritise your relationship and make what you already have even better.

My partner doesn’t believe in counselling
In this instance, it can help to understand why your partner doesn’t feel counselling
will be of any use. It might be that they have had bad experiences with counselling service
in the past, that they don’t feel comfortable talking in front of a stranger,
or they subscribe to the commonly-held idea that if the relationship is ‘meant to be’
then it won’t need support.
Once you understand their reasoning, you can begin to challenge their assumptions
and encourage them to open their minds up to different possibilities for your relationship.
If your partner is still very anxious or skeptical about counselling,
you could suggest you just try it together once and see how it feels as an experiment.
Or you could try talking to one of our counsellors together on Live Chat 
our free online counselling service - as a way to just dip a toe in the water!

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