You cannot make anyone do anything. However, you can try to understand your spouse’s fears or concerns about marriage counseling and then try to address those concerns in a win-win approach in your response.
Steps you can take to increase the chances that your partner will agree to go to marriage counseling
- The first thing is to tell your partner you want to talk about something important related to your marriage or relationship — and no, it is not to blame him or her for anything. Then ask if it is a good time to talk for 5-10 minutes. If it is NOT a good time for them, try to suggest a specific time frame within the next 24 hours. This helps them not feel ambushed.
- When you sit down to talk, tell your partner that you would like him/her to listen without jumping in and then you will do the same when they respond. Tell your spouse that he/she and your marriage or relationship are very important to you, that there are some/many things that are going well. However, there are also some things bothering you that you want to fix so that you, and both of you, can be happier and more fulfilled in the marriage/relationship.
- Tell him/her that you are not interested in pointing fingers, and that you know that both of you create the quality of the relationship by everything you do, say or fail to do and say — whether you intend to or not. It’s never just one person.
- Say (if it is true), that you have tried to make things better, and maybe he/she has too, in their own way, but that you want your marriage/relationship to be more fulfilling, fun, alive, connected for both of you. You would like the two of you to go together to a marriage or relationship counselor to learn more tools and skills to help both of you make your marriage better for you both. You don’t want to feel more and more disconnected or feel like you both have to walk on eggshells (or whatever is true for you).
- Assure them that this is not about blame or shame or who’s right or wrong and counseling should not be about that either. It’s about building together a happier, alive, strong marriage that you both enjoy.
- When your partner objects or says they don’t want to go, do not interrupt or defend. Instead, be curious and listen, listen, listen.
- If they just blurt out an objection, take a breath, don’t argue and try to step into their shoes. Try to imagine why it makes perfect sense that they think or feel the way they do.
- The key is to work to make sense of what they are saying, whether or not you agree. Their concerns DO make sense, standing in their shoes. Then after you express understanding of the concern, say why it is important to you and to your relationship with this person you love – and if you have any ideas about how to meet both your concern and theirs, suggest it.
If You Can’t Persuade Your Spouse to Go to Counseling, Go by Yourself
Just because your spouse isn’t willing to go to marriage counseling doesn’t mean that you have to give up as well. Working on yourself and learning how to be a better partner can inspire your spouse to do the same. It can also break the cycle of unhappiness and make your marriage significantly better. You can learn more about marriage counseling here: Couples Counseling