You already know that couples counselling isn’t just for those couples who are on the brink of separation. It’s for all couples! But it’s possible that your partner doesn’t know this. For whatever reason, our society has been slow to pick up on the fact that couples therapy and relationship disasters are not mutually exclusive. We are here to help. Not only do we have a team of incredibly qualified relationship counsellors ready to help you improve upon your relationship, but we also have real life tips that you can use to get your partner on board. Read on to learn the most effective, tried and true strategies for getting your partner to agree to couples therapy.
#1: Start With Yourself
For some folks out there, their opposition to therapy is based on perception. They don’t want to go to counseling because they don’t want to be associated with the perceived stigma associated with it. Well, breaking down this stigma starts with you. Model the type of behaviour that you would like your partner to associate with therapy. Everyone can benefit from counseling, so book yourself and appointment and go yourself. Talk with your partner about how much your counsellor is helping your gain perspective on your emotions and behaviours, and then translate that into your relationship.
#2: Don’t Wait Forever
If you are trying to get your partner on board for couples counselling because something is amiss in your relationship, don’t wait forever. Couples therapy should never be the last tool in your relationship improving toolbox. Instead of viewing couples counselling as a last ditch effort, start with it. Couples counselling is all about communication. Which is often exactly what you need to address the situation you are in. Think about it, there aren’t many relationship obstacles that can be surpassed by simply not talking about them.
#3: Make a Deal
Relationships are about a lot of things, and one of those things is compromise. If your partner is reluctant to couples therapy, try and strike a deal. For example, if they agree to five couples therapy sessions then you will join their book club, Fantasy Football league, host a board game night, or watch their favourite movies. If your partner feels like there’s something in it for them, they are more likely to agree to the terms. Not only will they get something in return, but knowing that they are doing you a favour will be a harmless little ego boost for them.
#4: Emphasize the Third Wheel Aspect
Couples therapy is about facilitating communication, gaining perspective, and being heard. In a lot of ways, couples counselling is like having a conversation with a really well educated, and qualified third wheel. Couples counselling doesn’t have to be scary. Emphasize the point that couples counselling is about conversation, it’s about learning to listen and being heard. That’s all. With this in mind your partner may be more willing to entertain the idea of attending couples counselling. And while the importance of couples therapy should never be underestimated, it is important that it is not viewed as an intimidating or exclusive space. Instead, view couples counselling as a conversation with the goal of improving your relationship in mind.
#5: Avoid The Blame Game
One of the skills you will learn during couples counselling is how to argue without placing blame. Chances are you weren’t late for work simply because the garbage hadn’t been taken out, there were multiple factors at play. And there always are. Your partner is going to be incredibly resistant to couples counselling if you suggest you both need it because of them. Avoid emotionally loaded language like this, and suggest that couples counselling would help both of you learn to support each other better. This can be a hard conversation to navigate. In your first few weeks and months of couples therapy you will be shocked at how quickly your communication improves.
Treat your relationship – and especially your partner – with the care and compassion it needs right now, and avoid placing blame.
#6: Make Long Term Plans
Instead of treating marriage counselling as the be-all and end-all of your relationship, treat it as just one item on a list of long term plans that you make together. These plans can be made with the health of your relationship in mind, or just as an exercise in bringing you both closer together. It is proven that couples who make long term plans are more likely to enjoy a successful, healthy relationship. To learn more about why goals are so important to have in a relationship, read this article.
#7: Treat Couples Counselling as an Activity
Couples that enjoy new activities together are more likely to enjoy a fulfilling relationship. So, instead of treating couples counselling like a medicine, treat it as an opportunity for growth as a couple! Consider couples counselling as an exciting opportunity to learn more about each other, to expand your horizons, and to challenge your conceptions about how you define your relationship. Embrace the opportunity to ask each other the difficult questions and enjoy the process of arriving at an answer. Our qualified relationship counsellors at Capital Choice Counselling are ready to facilitate your conversations.
#8: Alternate Counselling Sessions with Exciting Dates
The research shows that couples who engage in “exciting” dates are more likely to be happy than those who enjoy pleasant, casual dates. Suggest to your partner that you will alternate counselling sessions with more off the beaten path dates. For example, you could go rock climbing at one of Ottawa’s many climbing gyms, you could take a trapeze class, or head to a jazz bar on Friday night. This way, your counselling appointments won’t be considered stand alone events. Instead, they will be a complement to your exciting date nights. And who said you can’t have it all!
#9: Avoid Ultimatums
The words “or else” are rarely followed with positive results. More often than not, imposing an ultimatum on your partner about anything is bound to have an adverse affect. We don’t respond well to ultimatums. Those on the receiving ends of an ultimatum are left feeling powerless and unheard. Instead of bending to your will, your partner is more likely to lash out in other – often more passive aggressive – ways. So, do yourself a favour and just avoid the ultimatum route all together.
#10: Pick the Right Time
Your partner is only going to know that you want to attend couples counselling if you tell them. That said, telling them can be the hardest part. Approaching the topic of couples counselling can be tricky. With any luck, the tips above will have provided you with a little inspiration. But it’s also all about picking the right time. Half way through an argument about who was supposed to pick up the dry cleaning isn’t the time. Neither is right before you both head out the door for a full day of work. Pick a time when you both have the chance to actually have a conversation. Ideally, when you are alone and in the right frame of mind to be a supportive, respectful partner. Reiterate that you don’t want counselling because there is something wrong, simply because your relationship has room for improvement.
Healthy relationships are hard to define. That said, there are some factors that point to a happy, healthy relationship. Everything from how you fight to how often you fight and who unloads the dishwasher has an effect on the happiness of your relationship. One of the benefits of couples counselling is the opportunity you have as a couple to navigate everyday obstacles and opportunities as a team. Our qualified and experienced team of therapists are ready to help you take your relationship out of survival mode.