How to ask your partner to go to couples therapy in 8 steps
Asking your partner to go to couples therapy
You’ve been thinking about couples therapy and know that you and your significant other could benefit from having a space to talk through some problems and reconnect. But you aren’t sure what your partner would think about it. And the idea of broaching the topic is scary and unsettling.
Couples therapy is a form of mental health therapy that focuses on how individuals function in relationships. Instead of zooming in on mental health diagnoses, couples therapists zoom out to look at the patterns of communication in relationships. And help you identify where you and your partner keep getting stuck.
Whether disconnection, conflict, infidelity, or outside stressors are getting in the way of you and your partner having peace in your relationship, couples therapy can do wonders in getting you and your partner back on track.
There are plenty of negative views about therapy in general. And the idea of letting a third party observer into your relationship might feel scary or intrusive. You may even wonder if you really need a professional therapist, or if you can just try to figure things out on your own.
Contrary to what you might think, therapy is not only for couples who are on the brink of divorce.
Therapy can help couples with things like:
- Help you understand your relationship dynamic
- Develop better communication skills
- Get clear on your shared values
- Reconnect and strengthen your bond
Working on these goals, all of which are crucial for the strength of your relationship, requires intention and certain interventions or techniques. Because you and your partner are so close to each other, you have a huge impact on each other emotionally. Which can make it hard to see the places you are getting stuck or are operating ineffectively.
A neutral, trained couples therapist will offer a nonjudgemental ear to help you look closely at what isn’t going right. They will also offer evidenced-based strategies and techniques to help you build to where you want to go.
As human beings, we are hard-wired to connect with other people on a deep level. The strength of our close relationships becomes one of the greatest assets to support us through the challenges we all will face in this lifetime.
Likewise, when things aren’t going well in our close relationships, we suffer in our families, work, and places as well. Couples therapy works to nurture this bond that supports each of you through the phases of your life.
The success of a therapy session and on couples counseling overall rides on each partner’s commitment and involvement in the process. The idea of asking your partner about going to therapy might feel intimidating and scary.
Today, we are going to share a guide and tried-and-true tips to support you in asking your partner to go to couples therapy. And in taking this transformational step in your relationship and your life.
How to ask your partner to go to couples therapy
Be intentional with your timing
The way and the time that you bring up the idea of couples therapy is important. If you think the idea of going to couples therapy might face fear or resistance from your partner, you want to make sure that you do not broach the topic at a time when their defenses are already up, like, right after or in the middle of a fight. If they are feeling defensive, they will be less likely to consider or take in new information or ideas.
Ask your partner to go to couples therapy at a time when things are calm. Wait for high emotions to settle after a fight. If it feels like life is too crazy and you can’t figure out where that moment of conflict is, share with your partner that you’d like to talk with them and work together to find a time that works for you both.
Make sure you are regulated and calm when you approach this topic. Just like we don’t want your partner to be already emotionally activated when having this conversation, we don’t want you to be either!
If you feel like you and your partner could benefit for couples therapy, and you are thinking about asking them about it, I have a feeling you are open to trying to do things in a new way. If you normally try to problem solve when you are upset, suggesting something like therapy during a fight, make a decision to do something different, and not react when you are upset.
Plus, if you use couples therapy as a demand when you are upset, it becomes more of something your partner will feel like they have to do, versus something you both decide, together, will be good for you. The conversation of couples therapy is sacred for your relationship and should be approached when you are thinking clearly.
Don’t put it off
Couples counseling can support you wherever you are in your relationship and level of conflict, as long as both partners are willing to give it a try. While of course seeking out therapy is beneficial if you managing a big issue, (for example, can a marriage survive infidelity). Often times when situations in relationships feel like they are falling apart, they have actually been starting to show symptoms of breaking for quite some time.
The earlier you sense disconnection or disruption in your relationship that feels out of your norm, you should start getting ready to broach the topic with your partner. If the idea of couples therapy has come into your mind, I can almost guarantee you’ll benefit from diving into the work wherever you are.
Like anything else, the longer you wait to let things get worse and try and fix them on your own, the harder (and longer, and more expensive) it will be to heal your relationship in therapy.
A lot of times, couples going to therapy view therapy as a way to fix one of the partners. You might be so sure that your partner is the problem. And that if they could only [insert thing you want them to do differently], your relationship would be fine.
This approach is sure to be met with defensiveness and resistance. Instead, be open to the idea that both you and your partner contribute to the dynamic that you have. And that together, you can both be part of the solution.
While you can talk with an individual therapist about couples issues, that approach will only get you so far. Having your partner involved in the treatment and changes that are happening in therapy are huge for the sustainability and success of treatment. Share with them how important they are to you and how much you want to grow in this space together.
Approach couples counseling as a team
Typically, people are in committed relationships because they have the belief, conscious or not, that life is better managed with the support of a partner than without. When you and your partner can turn toward each other instead of turn away from each other when life gets tough, you are so much better equipped to face whatever life throws your way.
Approach the start of relationship counseling as another one of those parts of life. Instead of turning away from each other when things feel tough in your relationship, maybe by going to therapy on your own or trying to ignore all your problems, start making the first move to turn toward your partner. Talk about the start of marriage counseling as a way that you want to work through your issues, together, as a united front- not as a way that you want to work against them or prove to a couples therapist that you are right.
Speak about your own experience
Relationship counseling is super vulnerable. And asking your partner to go to marriage counseling with you is asking them to expose themselves to a therapist, and to you. Offer that vulnerability back to your partner. And share with them how you are feeling, what you want out of couples counseling, and why this is important to you.
It’s incredibly important when speaking vulnerably that you aren’t coming from a place of anger. That will be met with more defensiveness. Instead, show them your soft side and invite them to do the same. Speak from your own experience and perspective, and avoid telling them all the reasons you think they need to change. Tell them what you hope to get out of a therapy session.
Honor their hesitations and give time
Couples therapy can be a really scary idea. Especially for people who aren’t used to talking to others about how they feel. Try to hear them out if they are hesitant.
Create a safe space for the vulnerabilities they bring to you by letting however they feel to be okay. If you react to resistance with a stronger push, you are only going to guide them to put their defensive wall up.
There can also be cultural factors and stigmas when approaching therapy. You want this conversation to be approachable. As you will likely need to revisit it a few times before you get started.
Choose a couples therapist together
Your choice of therapist (and more importantly, the therapeutic model that therapist uses in treatment) are crucial in your success. Research shows that the factor that most predicts whether therapy is successful is the trust and rapport between client and therapist.
In couples counseling, you and your partner are both the client. So, it is of utmost importance that you both feel trust with your clinician. A great way to get on the right foot is to start the process of finding a therapist together. So you can discuss qualities in the provider that are important to you.
Most therapists offer free introduction calls to make sure you are a good fit before you schedule an intake. Schedule this call at a time you and your partner can both join and see if you both vibe with them. Your partner is way more likely to buy into the process if they also feel connected to and understood by your therapist.
(If you are located in Florida, we offer Marriage Counseling in Naples, FL– virtual services- reach out to inquire about availability.)
How to find a couples therapist
A google search for a provider in your area (for marriage counseling, couples counseling, relationship counseling, or couples therapist) or an online directory like Psychology Today are great places to start your search. Once you set up your intro call (if offered), here are some questions you can ask the therapist:
- How do you view problems in couples?
- What is your approach to treatment in couples work?
- How will we know if we are getting better?
- How long does treatment usually last?
- What can I expect in a typical session?
You don’t have to be an expert on these areas. But the therapist should make you both feel safe about the space they will offer and clear about the next steps.
Asking your partner to go to couples therapy is hugely brave of you. We are confident that with these steps in mind, you will broach the topic with a productive energy that will be much more likely to have them agreeing to treatment.
While we focused on the topic of couples in this post, you can use the same steps and strategies to ask a parent or family member to attend therapy with you.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to pin this post for future reference and share it with your loved ones.