How Do I Talk To My Partner About Marriage Counseling?
I receive a lot of emails where people ask, "my partner wants to reconcile but they aren't ready for counseling. How do I convince them that we need to do marriage counseling now." You know you need it, you want it, but someone just gets cold feet...it's not unusual! There are a few things you can do to help them take the important healing step for your relationship.
Sometimes people are afraid to ask their partner to come to marriage counseling. They've assumed up front that the answer is no.
Maybe you're afraid of hearing that the relationship is not that important to them...so you just avoid asking all together. Sometimes you have asked but the answer was "I'm not ready" or simply "no"....what can you do?
First, it helps to realize that they probably know the relationship needs help. They may be unsure of what to do. They may not be ready to end an affair and know that they will need to end the affair for reconciliation to be possible.
If you approach the situation with humility and you own your part of the problems without blaming them or criticizing them for their part...in fact don't bring up their part at all...that will help you a lot.
Many times people are afraid that they will be labeled a bad guy and counseling will cause fighting. This is not the case in our sessions but it's still a really valid fear.
So when you ask for marriage counseling first let them know that you care about the relationship and most of all you care about them. You want them to be happy and you want to do your part to help them find happiness.
If your partner is burnt out of the relationship and leaning out wanting to leave then you will want to let them know that no matter what they decide, you will accept their choice. You don't plan to beg them, nag them, or corner them in counseling.
You only want to do your part to help them heal from the hurts you've caused. Even if they want to leave you...you will respect their choice...even though it's not necessarily what you want (be clear here that you don't want things to end). You recognize that you've caused tremendous pain...but you also have children together and a history and you don't want to give that up without a fight. That is why marriage counseling is important to you.
Strategy: Make the appointment. Then let them know that you made the appointment. "Here is the date and here is the time. I chose a time that should work with your schedule. I hope you will be there." Then you attend the session with or without them. You will be helped on what to do from there. But you have to ask.
For many people they begin to look at counseling as the last effort to make a change in the relationship before they give up and leave.
In an ideal world couples are seeking marriage help long before things are messy or need fixing...but for many there's a belief that marriage counseling is the last ditch effort.
People put a lot of weight on it...but don't worry it's okay because we're used to it. But their partner doesn't understand the gravity of the situation.
They don't realize how burnt out their partner really is. It's like they think nothing could ever happen. I (Morgan) am always puzzled by people when they say, "I don't know...she just left me..." they're in total shock but then you dig a little and you see that their partner had been complaining and asking for something to change for years. They just didn't believe them.
Strategy: Let them know how dire the situation really is. This could be you saying very clearly that if they don't come to counseling with you then there will be "x" consequence because you can't continue to let them cheat on you...or xyz example scenario can no longer occur.
Sometimes people need a little motivation. It's only fair to both of you for you to be clear and honest about how you feel and what you will and will not tohlerate.
Be prepared to uphold your word. If you give xyz as the consequence to not doing marriage therapy then be prepared to do xyz.
This means it's important to think it through. What can you live with? What can you not live with? In the case of infidelity, are you willing to live another year with them cheating on you...while they think about coming to counseling?
Sometimes when someone is still with the affair partner and they're still wanting to be with you they don't know how to cut off the affair. That is something marriage counseling helps them to do.
If you let them know that the therapist will help both of you to heal and finally cut off the affair partner and they refuse...then more than likely they are wanting both worlds to magically work out.
A part of them hopes that they can keep the fantasy world alive and somehow you will ride along with them while they continue to hurt you. But this is not acceptable.
Strategy: Be firm but kind. Draw a line on what you can accept. Make it time bound. "I will give you 2 weeks to think about doing marriage counseling with me and if you refuse then I will need to do ____."
When Is Enough, Enough? When Should I Leave Them?
It is not fair for us to say "leave" in this post because we don't know you or your situation. Sometimes people choose to have their partner sleep in another room and that is enough "leaving" for them. It completely depends on your situation and your relationship.
That is also why it is important to set an appointment with one of us so we can consider your specific and unique situation. You can do virtual coaching, in person counseling, an online program, or a personalized intensive retreat. Call us at 918-281-6060 or 405-237-9697 for information and to set an appointment.
Also, check out this blog post called How Long Should I Try To Work On The Marriage If My Partner Is Unwilling To Try?