how to talk to your spouse about counseling

I often hear, “I would love to come to counseling, but my husband/wife won’t come.” I get it. Marriage counseling is often thought of as the last thing you do before you get divorced.

There is a misconception that you should only go to marriage counseling if you are in crisis/on the verge of divorce. There are also many folks who go for a session or 2, so that they can say they “tried counseling” even though their minds were already made up and they didn’t actually try at all.

The truth is most couples wait 6 years to come to therapy after the issues begin (Gottman). That means, most people do wait until they are in crisis/make or break/verge of divorce mode.

And this is a huge problem.

Waiting too long means one person (likely the one asking for counseling 6 years ago) hasn’t felt loved in a long time, and is now on the verge of leaving or filing for divorce. At this point, the other partner finally gets it and offers counseling instead. The issue with this is that it’s too late. The spouse who hasn’t felt loved in a long time is now numb. This numbness is why marriage counseling will have less odds of being helpful. Numb folks won’t make the effort (they’ve emotionally given up) and have usually already made up their minds.

So, now that we’ve established the importance of not waiting until you’re in crisis mode…what are some tips for getting your partner to come?

  1. Bring up your desire for counseling during a time when you aren’t fighting or distracted by something else.
  1. If you get pushback, say that you want to understand his/her reasons for not wanting to go. Once you know why, you can better address the real issue with kindness and compassion.
  1. Offer a compromise. Say, “Would you be willing to come to one session? It would mean so much to me. If your fears are confirmed in the first session, we do not have to go back. If we feel as though the counselor can’t help us, we don’t have to go back. There will be no pressure, I’m just asking you to give it a chance.”
  1. Then, express why you want to go now, and not wait until you are in crisis. “If we go now, we can have a better marriage, and prevent things from getting worse and being harder to fix in the future.”

Remember, counseling can be a really scary thing for some people. Unknown things usually are. Be compassionate, but firm.

If you think you need marriage counseling, you probably do. Don’t give up! I’ve found that I can win skeptics in the first session because I have a practical plan and structure for marriage sessions and because I incorporate humor with compassion, and tough love.

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marriage planning

I am a marriage planner. Did you know that? It’s true. I am a big fan of premarital counseling! It really is fun to do prevention work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an honor and privilege to be invited to help anyone’s relationship, but I also love the opportunity to get couples before they have years of hurt and damage piled up.

Allow me to tell you a little bit about it (in case you are looking to get married one day).

I do very detailed premarital work; I use an assessment called the PREPARE (www.prepare-enrich.com) to identify the strengths and weaknesses in each relationship. I tailor the session time to each couple instead of using the same material for every couple.

I heard of the idea of doing pre-marital type counseling before getting engaged while in graduate school. It seemed a little weird at first, but soon I quickly understood the value of really making sure your relationship was ready for marriage before families and friends are told, rings are bought, venues are booked, dresses are bought, bridesmaids are excited, cake is tested…(I think you get the point).

It’s a good idea…just in case. Just in case you discover that it might not be a good idea to get married. I never hope for this of course, but it can make this reality easier to accept if it’s realized sooner rather than later.

 Here’s what pre-marital/pre-engagement counseling can offer your relationship:

  • A non-biased look at the health of your relationship

The following is a list of the areas specifically looked at:

  • conflict resolution
  • spiritual beliefs
  • communication
  • family & friends
  • financial management
  • leisure activities
  • marriage expectations
  • parenting expectations
  • partner style & habits
  • relationship roles
  • sexual expectations
  • and more!
  • No stone is left uncovered! If there are lower scores for any of these areas, we discuss them. I teach skills and educate on what to expect, what’s   “normal,” and how to cope with differing personality types/expectations/habits, etc.
  •  I use my experience as a marriage therapist to give you specific insight into the things that make a marriage fail and what it takes to make a marriage thrive.
  • Premarital counseling is usually fun and enjoyable. I consider 6 sessions to be sufficient (although we can do more or less, if needed). But 6 sessions are what you need to get a discount on your marriage license.
  • You’ll have already found a marital therapist that you know and trust in case issues arise later.

Ladies/Gentlemen: If your partner is unwilling to consider premarital counseling and isn’t willing to make the investment into making sure your relationship stays good and strong, then you may be forced to put the effort in tenfold later.  I believe this kind of unwillingness should constitute a “red flag.” If you don’t know what “red flag” means, ask a teenager. They’ll know.

Don’t make the mistake of putting more effort into the wedding than you do the marriage. The rate of divorce is so disturbingly high; it just makes good sense to do all you can to keep your relationship strong! (Ok, ok…you get the point! I’m stepping off my soapbox now).

If you’re interested in premarital/pre-engagement counseling with me, click here for my contact information. If you’d like assistance finding a therapist near you, I’m happy to help with that as well!

this couple did premarital therapy!

this couple did premarital therapy!