I sometimes get calls from individuals who want to come in for couples counseling, but their partner is hesitant, or totally unwilling, to make that first appointment. Oftentimes the partner who is resistant to therapy feels like they will be blamed for everything wrong in the relationship; he or she might feel uncomfortable speaking about personal problems, or may have had negative experiences in therapy in the past. But, couples counseling is still an option. As counterintuitive as it may seem, couples counseling for one can be extremely beneficial to creating a healthy, functional relationship.
Therapy is the perfect place to explore the best ways to communicate with your partner… even if your partner isn’t present in the therapy office. It is not always easy to know the right way to talk about a sensitive topic without starting an argument or hurting the other person. I’ve worked with clients – individually – to first, fine-tune the message they’d like to express to their partner, and then, to find the most meaningful way to clearly communicate this message.
Couples counseling for one provides an opportunity to understand the role you’ve been playing in the relationship troubles. Your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are undoubtedly having an impact on your relationship. Therapy gives you the opportunity to gain insight into your own patterns, to learn new ways to cope with your thoughts and feelings, and to work through pain from past relationships (or current relationships).
Therapy provides the forum to identify and discuss what a healthy, functional relationship looks like to you. This may mean learning to set boundaries, learning to clearly express your needs, or understanding the different ways partners show and receive love.
Sometimes all it takes is one partner gaining some insight and making positive changes to stop the negative cycles and to shake up the whole relationship. And maybe, sharing what you’ve learned with your partner might influence him or her to join you in therapy.
Victoria Elf Raymond, PhD, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Sexologist