How Do I Get My Husband to Go to Therapy?

I've been married for seven years to a man I love. We get along fine, most of the time. No arguing or fighting, but sometimes my husband feels withdrawn, and I don't feel the same spark between us that we used to have. I found a therapist we could see, but my husband doesn't want to go. He won't tell me why and doesn't want to talk about it. I'm frustrated and sad and feeling helpless... Not sure we can make things better without talking. How can I get him to go to therapy with me? —Dragging Him to Therapy
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Dear Dragging Him to Therapy,

I’m glad you’re acknowledging your feelings rather than avoiding them, as avoidance often leads to unhappiness. I agree that talking with each other is essential to reconnecting with your husband. While he doesn’t want to discuss seeing a therapist, he may be more responsive to a discussion about your feelings.

I suggest approaching your husband when you’re getting along well. Reassure him that you love him, then find a kind way to share your needs. Focus not on what’s wrong, but on what you want to feel. The emotional intimacy, physical attraction, closeness, and spark you used to have—you miss those things. Hopefully, he’ll connect with those feelings and open up. If so, therapy may not even be necessary. A good heart-to-heart goes a long way.

If you’re still not connecting, then I do think you two could benefit from marriage counseling. Be honest with your husband that without improved communication, the relationship may not last. If he resists, remind him weekly of how important it is to you. It may help to write him a letter so he can react in his own time, or let him choose the therapist himself. But always be gentle. Coercing, pressuring, blaming, and highlighting the negative will only make him feel forced or defensive. Instead focus on your feelings, your need for closeness, and your desire get the love back—together.

Hopefully he’ll come around soon. If not, tell him you’re going to your own therapy… and then go. If he’s intrigued and asks what you’re discussing in therapy, be honest. Let him know how you feel about the relationship and its future if he keeps refusing marriage counseling. Be persistent, but do give him some time. If he still refuses more than six months later, you may have a tough decision to make. But talk about it with your therapist, as your therapist will have more details than me about your situation.

Also, although you clearly state that the relationship involves no fighting, I do not recommend the above for readers in physically abusive relationships. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, it could be dangerous to ask your spouse to seek therapy. Instead I recommend finding support individually, such as through the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE).

Kind regards,
Noah

Noah Rubinstein
Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, is the founder and CEO of GoodTherapy.org. He has worked with individuals, couples, and families for more than 20 years in various social service, counseling, and consultation roles within different communities, including mental health clinics, residential treatment centers, emergency shelters, hospice organizations, home-based therapy programs, summer camps, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in private practice.
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  • Chad

    Chad

    June 19th, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Wow reading this brings back so many memories of my wife and I’s relationship prior to going to therapy. Except for the fact that the roles were completely reversed. I felt something needed to happen and she thought that everything was just fine.

    The way we eventually came to terms and started our sessions involved my understanding that she needed to process the decision on her own terms and not through my request and suggestions. Maybe provide some literature to outline the situation and begin the discussions.

  • Cynthia

    Cynthia

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    I wish that I had as understanding a husband as you Chad. Mine simply turns his nose up every time that I mention we potentially go to the therapist as a couple.

    I am thinking of requesting a seperation as I simply do not feel that connection with him. We used to have a wonderful caring relationship. How can I get that relationship back.

  • Sam k

    Sam k

    July 2nd, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    I don’t understand where the fear of therapy originates from, to me people have always had therapy whether good or bad. Going back for as long as can be known men have congregated and talked about their issues with other men. Many times this is thought of as recreation. Whether it be the hunt club, the golf club, the tennis club, or the racetrack. Men are always chatting with one another and devising solutions to their myriad different issues.

    Hence the reason that I just can’t understand why men would mind going into a therapist to talk. Especially if there is an acknowledged issue occurring with their families.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    December 25th, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    Many therapists betray secrets to their “golf buddies” or family members (especially spouses) or may be biased due to their own personal views. Additionally, not everyone wants to deal with a complete stranger meddling in their relationship. It could do more harm than good to push the issue, especially if they find the idea offensive or trust-breaking. Ask…then if the answer is, “No.”, respect it and back off. There are alternative therapies that don’t include therapists.

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