How to Encourage Your Partner to Attend Sex or Relationship Therapy?
At least a few times a month, I get contacted by someone wanting to begin sex therapy or couple therapy, but their partner is not on the same page. They are desperate to know what they can do and how they can convince their partner to attend therapy.
I understand that we still live in a society that stigmatizes going to sex therapy or marriage counselling. There are still myths surrounding couple therapy. You only go if you have an affair or are about to get a divorce or separate from your partner. Even though these are some of the main motivating factors for some couples to attend therapy, the majority of couples contact me when;
- They have communication difficulties,
- The relationship lacks intimacy, desire, or affection,
- They want to enhance the quality of their sex life,
- They want to enhance their emotional intimacy,
- They want to better the overall quality of their relationship,
- They want to work on family-related issues (i.e., parenting, in-laws, etc.),
- They want to resolve conflicts surrounding their finances,
- They struggle to make big life decisions,
- They want to have more fun together,
- They want to be able to increase trust in their partner.
What if your partner does not believe in couple therapy?
It would be great if your partner believed in therapy as much as you did or enthusiastically wanted to be there with you. However, those factors are not essential for couple therapy to work. Your partner can be in therapy reluctantly, and most competent therapists can engage your partner by creating an empathic, warm, and safe space with clear therapeutic goals and ways to achieve them. During this process, your partner will feel heard and understood instead of feeling blamed for the relationship’s shortcomings.
What can you do if your partner refuses to attend?
First, remember to present the idea of therapy when you both are calm and not in the middle of an argument or just after a big fight. The idea of going to couple therapy might feel like “I have failed” to your partner. So, try to reassure them that it is not because you see the relationship problems as a reflection of your partner’s failure.
Sometimes, it takes a while for people to come around and agree to attend couple therapy. You might need to give your partner some time to warm up to the idea. After a while, raise the idea again and see if they have changed their mind.
Second, be curious, ask your partner why they are hesitant to come to couples therapy, and listen to their concerns and worries. You can tell them that you feel distressed that your attempts at solving your relationship difficulties have not been successful. Let your partner know you care about them and want to work on your relationship. You can then ask them what they think the two of you should do next and that you are open to trying any new ideas.
Sometimes the conversation around what we should do next leads to many people suggesting therapy themselves. This might not necessarily happen the first time you talk about this. But if your partner offers couple therapy without your instigation, validate your partner’s idea and avoid saying, “I’ve been saying that for months!”. Instead, you can suggest looking for a therapist together. It is essential to find a therapist you both feel comfortable with and can connect to.
The third is to invite your partner to couple therapy because you want to do better in the relationship. This will demonstrate accountability and that you do not see the relationship’s issues as your partner’s fault. Sometimes, you also raise your voice, struggle to understand your partner or storm out of the room. For you to be/do better in the relationship, you might need a therapist to help/support you in learning new ways of relating to your partner.
It is essential to express a desire for change without blame. You can explore your partner’s concerns about going to therapy, ask for new suggestions and take personal accountability for the change you would like to achieve in the relationship.
I wish you all the best!