When Your Spouse Won’t Go To Marriage Counseling
You’ve finally experienced all the pain you’re willing to put up with and are ready to seek help. But your spouse won’t even consider marriage counseling.
So what can you do?
Don’t give up on the idea of marriage counseling. After 38 years of marriage and 36 years of providing marriage counseling I’ve found that people often give up too quickly when it comes to marital therapy. I believe you can make positive changes in your marriage with - or without - your spouse actively participating in marriage counseling.
First, it helps to understand the “why” behind the refusal. Here are the five most common reasons I hear for not going to marriage counseling.
Next, talk with your spouse. Don’t argue. Don’t cajole. Don’t threaten. Ask, talk, and most importantly, listen. Below are 5 questions to ask your reluctant husband or wife.
- We can’t afford it. It’s true that marriage counseling is expensive and is usually not covered by health insurance. But it is affordable. Consider this: USA Today estimates the cost of a typical wedding in Oklahoma is $21,475. The most expensive counseling in town won’t cost anywhere near that much.
- I’ll be told it’s all my fault. I find that a lot of people (particularly men) won't go to marriage counseling because they’ve been. And, it was a bad experience. They felt like the counselor with ganging up with their wife in order to blame them for the problems in the relationship. A skilled marital therapist doesn’t take sides.
- It’s not my fault: you’re the one with the problem so why should I have to go? Rather than argue about how much each is to blame, invite your spouse to go so they can give their side of the story.
- We’ve tried it and it didn’t work. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Or the right therapist.
- I don’t have time. Some spouses do have legitimate scheduling issues. “I can’t take off work” is sometimes true. Skipping out on counseling MIGHT mean the end of the marriage; too small a paycheck will DEFINITELY mean foreclosure, repossession, or utilities being cut off. Many therapists offer after-hours (evenings and/or weekends) appointments.
One last thought. Always keep the goal in mind: it isn’t to make your spouse change. The goal is to understand the dynamic of the marriage and to gain insight into your role in the repeated dysfunctional behavior patterns. After 36 years of providing marriage counseling I am convinced of two things: it is never all one person’s fault and it is rarely ever 50/50.
- Ask them why they don’t want to go to marriage counseling. Is it one of the reasons above? See if there are any of their objections that you can address.
- Ask if they’d be willing to look at a few therapist websites. Many marriage counselors will have a blog where they write about their approach to counseling.
- Ask them if they’d be willing to talk to a couple of therapists on the phone.
- Ask them if they’d be willing to go in for a get-acquainted session with a therapist. Encourage them to try just one session before making up their mind.
- Tell them how much it would mean to you if they did go. Don’t focus on how frustrated, mad, or disappointed you will be if they don’t go. Tell them how much better it might make you feel.
A Lasting Promise
I probably recommend A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage more than any other book on marriage. Written by Dr. Scott Stanley and his team, it reflects both a Christ-centered worldview and solid research into what makes a healthy, godly marriage. (If faith-based books don't appeal to you, I can recommend Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markman and Scott Stanley.)
From the publisher: "For more than fifteen years, Scott Stanley's A Lasting Promise has offered solutions to common problems—facing conflicts, problem solving, improving communication, and dealing with core issues—within a Christian framework. Thoroughly revised and updated, this new edition is filled with sacred teachings of scripture, the latest research on marriage, and clear examples from the lives of couples. The book's strategies are designed to help couples improve communication, understand commitment, bring more fun into their relationship, and enhance their sex lives.
This important book offers an invaluable resource for all couples who want to honor and preserve the holy sacrament of their union."
- Lead author Scott Stanley is co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and coauthor of Fighting for Your Marriage, which has sold more than a million copies.
- Offers reflections on how to enhance anyone's marriage over the long term and avoid divorce.
- Covers recent cultural shifts, such as dealing with the endless technological distraction and issues with social networking.
- New themes include the chemistry of love, the life-long implications of having bodies, and how to support one another emotionally.
- Uses illustrative examples from couples’ lives and rich integration of insights from scripture