When Your Partner Won’t Go to Therapy

Uphappy woman sits on couch while her husband sits in backgroundCouples counseling can work wonders in a relationship, helping each partner to see the other’s perspective and empowering a couple to adopt love-affirming habits that meet one another’s needs. Relationship experts and therapists may recommend couples counseling for a broad variety of issues ranging from financial problems to infidelity, and some people view couples counseling as the panacea that will cure an ailing marriage.

If your spouse won’t go to marriage counseling, you might feel betrayed or unwanted, but pushing your spouse into counseling against his or her will can be just as damaging as the problems that led you to therapy in the first place. Instead, it’s best to try to work through the resistance as a couple and, if all else fails, try going by yourself.

Talking About It
If your spouse won’t go to therapy, your feelings of rejection can quickly get in the way of investigating your spouse’s feelings. Rather than assuming you know why he or she won’t go therapy, talk about the issue instead. Some people are concerned that therapy will make their marriage worse, while others feel that therapy is a stigmatizing process. Once you understand the reason your spouse won’t go, you can work through the issue together and decide whether therapy is a wise choice.

Alternatives to Therapy
Although therapy can improve your marriage, it’s not the only thing that works. Talk to your spouse and see if he or she might be willing to try an alternative approach. You might, for example, have a weekly meeting during which you talk about the state of your relationship, each resolve to do a favor for the other every day, take 10 minutes each day to listen to your spouse’s feelings, or spend the money you would spend on therapy on a romantic weekly outing. Spending quality time together and validating one another’s feelings can improve your marriage even without therapy, and are two of the skills many marriage counselors focus on.

When to Worry
There’s a big difference between refusing therapy and refusing to work on the marriage. But if your spouse refuses to make any changes, to talk about issues within your relationship, or to adopt any strategy at all designed to help your marriage, this is a problem. Refusing to make any changes at all and ignoring a spouse’s legitimate needs is a form of emotional abuse. However, it could be that your spouse is feeling down about your marriage or depressed. Whether refusing to work on the marriage is a controlling, manipulative tactic or the product of hopelessness, you can benefit from going to therapy without your spouse.

Going Alone
Marriage isn’t always equal, and there may be times when you or your spouse works harder on the relationship. If you want to improve your marriage, working on yourself—even without your spouse—can be a powerful first step. As you begin to make changes, your spouse’s behavior may also change. And in some cases, your spouse might be so curious about what happens in therapy that he or she feels compelled to go with you. Even if your spouse never goes to therapy, however, going alone can help you deal with the stress of marital problems and, if your spouse refuses to work on these problems, help you figure out your next steps.

References:

  1. Bernstein, E. (2012, March 6). Couples therapy for one: To fix a marriage, some go alone. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203458604577263303967929424.html
  2. What to do when your spouse won’t go to marriage counseling. (n.d.). Guy Stuff at CCRG. Retrieved from http://www.guystuffcenter.com/2012/03/what-to-do-when-your-spouse-wont-go-to-marriage-counseling/

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  • V Johnson

    V Johnson

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    my stubborn as a mule husband would not go to therapy. said it was for wusses. so yeah i ended up having to go by myself i learned a lot but i wish he’d have gone. I am definitely not the only one who needs to learn something but like i said he is a stubborn old goat. why are men so scared of therapy anyway.

  • Flip

    Flip

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Therapy can open up a big old can of worms. Like you have never ever seen.

    When my wife and i went to counseling you just don’t know all the stuff. I learned about her.

    I didn’t even want to know the stuff I learned about her.

    I guess you have to take. The good with the bad.

    And learn from both.

    It is hard though. To learn about stuff she went though when she was just a girl.

    But I guess it helped me understand her better. And why she does what she does.

  • Chandra

    Chandra

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Me and my husband went to therapy. I think he thought the therapist was going to say everything that was wrong was my fault. Imagine his surprise when it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, the therapist helped us both see what we needed to work on. One of us was willing to work on things and one of us wasn’t. I suppose that would be why he is now my ex-husband.

  • Vernon

    Vernon

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    My wife was definitely one who thought it was going to make us look bad to go to therapy she was scared to death someone was going to find out. I told her that therapists have rules about not telling anyone anything about who they see but that just wasn’t good enough for her.
    I kept wondering who was going to find out if she didn’t tell anybody I didn’t tell anybody and the therapist didn’t tell anybody well I found out.
    Her boyfriend would find out, that’s who.

  • Cal

    Cal

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    I really think you gave a great idea: to go on a romantic date instead of spending money on therapy but here is the problem my husband won’t do either and I really can’t stand him so much that I don’t even want to spend any time wiht him I’d rather smoke weed by myself in my bedroom and he can do whatever it is or look at whatever wants to i don’t really think either of us wants to change i think we both think nothing is wrong with ourselves and everthing is wrong with the other person well i sure can tell you a bunch of stuff that is wrong with him anyway i think we just need to go our separate ways

  • Jessie

    Jessie

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Great idea to just go to counseling by yourself if your spouse won’t go-sometimes that’s all you need.

  • EVAN

    EVAN

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    THAT’S TRUE ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE BEING CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN THERAPY. THE CURIOUSITY ABOUT KILLED MY WIFE. I WOULDN’T TELL HER NOTHING ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON SINCE SHE WOULDN’T GO WTIH ME. FINALLY SHE GAVE IN AND WENT JUST SO SHE COULD SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS WAS ABOUT.

  • YT Abrams

    YT Abrams

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Our lawyer of all people told us we should go to counseling. Said he’d been in the business long enough to spot people who really didn’t need to get a divorce a mile a way. Didn’t even charge us for his services. Kind of restored my faith in lawyers truth be told.

  • Ryanne

    Ryanne

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    I cannot recommend couple’s therapy enough. Both my partner and I were reluctant to go. We had a hectic schedule trying to get my two kids from a previous marriage where they needed to go plus working full time and running the house. But, we knew something needed to change in order for us to stay together. So, off to counseling we went. We were both shocked at how closer we became and how much better we worked together within just a few sessions. I think the message that we sent to each other about the importance of our relationship set a really good tone. Our therapist was really great-she has built her practice on working with same sex couples so it really was a great environment for us. We only go once a month now as maintenance. And, truth be told, I miss it!

  • Parker

    Parker

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Having trouble? Get ye to counseling! I promise it will be worth it!!!!!!!!!

  • Jen

    Jen

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    I really like the message this article sends: just b/c your spouse won’t go to counseling doesn’t mean that your marriage is going to end. There are plenty of ways you can work thorugh your problems without going to a marriage counselor. The bottom line is: if you and your spouse are both willing to do the work, the results can be just as positive as if you had gone to a counselor.

  • Brannon

    Brannon

    May 23rd, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    If someone really wants to make a go at it then they will make the commitment to do the hard work and get into therpay with you.

    If they aren’t willing to do this and you are habing problems then I have to admit that this would be a deal breaker for me. That to me shows that you don’t value what we have together enough to go the distance.

  • madeline

    madeline

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    growing up my parents had a lot of conflict.mom decided to go for therapy but dad just wasn’t ready.he would resist and even be enraged whenever therapy was mentioned.this affected my mom too and she did not go in individually.they never got through their problems but somehow stayed together mainly because of me.I definitely wish things were better in their marriage.

  • R Johnstone

    R Johnstone

    May 24th, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    Marriage is like anything else in life, it ebbs and flows. And there will be times when you feel like you are working harder on it and there are times when it feels that your spouse is working harder.
    This is just kind of the way it is with any relationship. You just have to be willing to stick it out, and if you want to improve yourself, then go ahead start therapy on your own and maybe seeing all of the benefits that you are getting from it will encourage your partner to start the process with you later on.

  • h cutts

    h cutts

    May 25th, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    when one does not want to go to therapy isn’t it obvious that he or she does not recognize its benefits?also chances of that person sitting down to talk with his or her partner are very low in my opinion.merely talking to someone about how there is a problem is not going to help if that person has such a mental block.

  • gibreckum

    gibreckum

    February 24th, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    I’ve been in therapy for myself for a couple of months to work on some issues (mostly around childhood problems) and find it great. My girlfriend suggested I do it. However, I now want to go to couples counselling, as I feel we still have a lot of problems in the relationship, and I seem to always be the one to back down and apologise whenever we disagree. However she is unwilling to go, which is very frustrating. She says she tried therapy before and didn’t like it, and she has more things to do then spend her time on that. I was really hoping to be able to discuss issues with a neutral third party (not my therapist) as I feel out discussions lead nowhere.

  • Mark

    Mark

    March 26th, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    Quite frankly I am tired of almost every website saying it’s the guy who is at fault or refuses to go to therapy. It’s the wife that veered off and became distant since starting new job. I am ready to do anything and yet she refuses to talk. She is defensive and secretive about her activities. It’s been months if not more since she said I love you. She avoids any intimacy and flat out said STOP.

  • Matt

    Matt

    October 23rd, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    Sounds like my wife got hired at the same company! Since the day she started the new job, life seemed to take a new and unimproved path. Every week that went by, she drifted further from me. Then around the end of July, I saw a chance in her that happened so quickly that I couldn’t ignore anymore. I would ask what’s wrong, if it’s me, and how I can help. She would get defensive and say she was just depressed and unhappy with work. To get to the point, yes she was unhappy with her place in the company, but the big change was her guilt from having an affair with a coworker. I consumed myself in investigating and confronted her. What she admitted to was far more involved than what I thought. The day I busted her, she said she “ended” 3 weeks ago. Well she still talks to AP and will lie that she is tired and can’t stop by to talk to me about what steps we can take to save the marriage by going to AP house. I know, why am I trying… So after all that rambling, what the hell happens to our spouses at the workplace? I go to the office to work and make money. I don’t see my office as a club or place to hook up. Since the day I met my wife 10ys ago, still to today, I have had no desire to look at another women in that way. It sucks to feel so in love with your wife and she decides to make a one sided choice on how the marriage will go. I know there should have been better communication, but every time I mentioned that we should work on it, I was ignored.

  • jjack

    jjack

    January 26th, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    Im in a relationship where i tried to talk to my partner about the issues and he ignores me fully I want to go to counselor but he refuses to what to do

  • Dogg

    Dogg

    June 10th, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    good idea, but the Marriage is about, from & for BOTH Spouses; always best for BOTH to go – if not at the beginning, then almost immediately, eventually….

    **to Mark: Sorry, Dude. Your wife is cheating on you with someone at, or thru, her job place. my Wife did this with an emotional affair I know of (could be more that didn’t work out so great for her, i don’t know); can’t prove she got sexual with him. but all the SAME, EXACT SIGNS YOU SPEAK OF ARE THE SAME FROM MY WIFE! by now, I am sure you already found out… So sorry for you…

  • Quain

    Quain

    June 11th, 2015 at 5:18 PM

    I am trying couples counseling now and my wife doesn’t want to do it with me either. She says that talking doesn’t help and maintains a bias against therapist because of an bad experience she had with one while she was young. I am going through it myself and I have to say it’s atleast helping me through my problems I didn’t even know I had. Seeing that she won’t come kinda puts the nail in the coffen for me. Can’t change someone if they don’t wanna change

    @Mark – my wife was doing the exact same thing. The signs dint change. She has found another lover and it’s better for you to pack your stuff and leave or pit her out of the house. She is actively looking for if not already found another lover. My wife was doing the same thing and I caught her. Those things always come to light. I hope everything goes as well as it can man. Save all the evidence you can. :)

  • Aiden

    Aiden

    June 26th, 2015 at 10:16 PM

    I went to therapy at Mr ex-partner’s insistence that it would be the only way he’d see me as “trying” to work things out. Since psychology is bullshit anyway, I asked two conditions be met: male and a psychiatrist. He found a female “sex therapist” that was useless. All she asked was, “how do you feel?” We never came to any useful conclusions or solutions, just pointless emotional nonsense. Point being, if your partner won’t go, get over it and go yourself. If they’re willing to try, you have to meet their conditions as best as you can.

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