I frequently get calls from people who are unhappy in their marriage and are looking for some professional help, but their spouse just isn’t interested.
I want to address some of the most common objections people have to the idea of getting marriage counseling and offer my reactions to them.
If you are hoping to get your spouse into marriage counseling, these concerns may sound familiar to you.
However, I don’t necessarily recommend that you go and try to argue your partner down or prove them wrong; if your partner is just throwing these objections out as a front for deeper issues, trying to do that will likely just sink you further into conflict.
If, however, your spouse is genuinely stuck on one of these points, it may actually be helpful to gently respond with some of these answers. In either case it might be more effective to ask him to take a look at this page if he’s willing.
(Oops! I slipped into singular pronouns there. I must confess – I’m primarily writing this post to women. Virtually all of the calls I get about reluctant spouses are from women trying to get men into counseling. Almost never is it the other way around. So, while I’m sure there are plenty of men out there trying to get their wives to go for marriage counseling, I am going to speak to the larger audience of women trying to convince their men.)
Here we go:
1. How is marriage counseling going to help us anyway?
Marriage counseling isn’t a magic trick. We are not going to swoop in and get rid of all your problems by making you think or act or be different. What we will do is to help you better understand where things are going wrong in your marriage and what you can do differently.
We’ll identify concerns you may not have been able to voice or even put your finger on, patterns that are not working, and underlying themes that have been weighing down your relationship. Then we’ll give you skills and tools you can use at home to repair the hurts in your marriage and to bring back the love and connection you once had.
2. How will a stranger be able to help us with our personal problems?
A marriage counselor isn’t helpful because they know you and can tell you what’s wrong with you or your partner. A marriage counselor helps by spotting the patterns that are causing problems in the relationship and exploring ways those patterns can be changed. We’ll teach you ways to deal with the problems you’re facing, whatever those problems may be, and help you find ways to bring positivity back into your relationship that works for your particular situation.
It may seem more appealing to turn to a friend who already knows you and your spouse well, but a well-meaning friend may not have the training or the tools to understand what the problem is, let alone what the best approach would be to solve it. Would you go to a friend to help you deal with panic attacks, or would you go to a therapist? The therapist may not know you off the bat, but we’re here to learn about you and what makes you tick, in order to help you come to solutions that work specifically for you.
Nor does a friend have the objectivity you need to really find solutions. Is your friend going to side with you over your spouse? Is your friend making assumptions based on what they know about you already? In some ways you’re actually better off with someone who doesn’t know you at all.
3. I don’t want to share our personal problems with a stranger.
This is a totally understandable concern. It’s hard to share private details about your marital life with anyone, let alone someone you’ve never met. The problem is that if you don’t, the issue at hand usually gets worse rather than better. Nobody likes going to the doctor to talk about their private medical problems, but if you hold off, you’re probably going to experience ongoing and possibly worsening pain.
A good therapist will help you feel comfortable talking about even the most embarrassing issues. (In fact, one of the comments I personally have heard from many of my clients is that they found it easy and comfortable to talk to me about their issues from the get-go.) Is the embarrassment of sharing your personal life in front of one stranger worse than the embarrassment of losing your relationship in front of your friends and family?
4. Marriage counseling is for people who have real problems, not people like us.
Actually, marriage counseling is for people like you. It doesn’t matter if your marriage has massive, overwhelming problems, or just minor irritations, or even no issues at all – we’ve worked with all of the above to help them get more out of their marriages and their lives.
In fact, we wish more people would come to us when things are just started to go off track. When there’s a small crack, it’s much easier to patch up than when there’s a gaping chasm. Couples who come to us when things are about to crash are less likely to succeed in pulling the nose up at the last minute. It’s certainly possible – we’ve saved many marriages that were on the brink of divorce – but it’s much harder.
5. I don’t want to talk to some woman who’s already against me.
Well, we do have male counselors on staff also. But that’s not so much the point. Any good marriage counselor is coming to you with a blank slate, not looking to take sides. A female counselor who’s already looking down at the man in the relationship from the outset won’t be much help to anybody.
That said, you have to feel comfortable with your counselor, and if you prefer one gender over another, that’s totally legitimate (so long as it isn’t just being used as an excuse). Generally it’s a good option to go with the preference of the more reluctant partner, so that there are fewer barriers to getting them into therapy.
(Note: this goes for race and other attributes as well. While a competent counselor who is white can do just as good a job as anyone for a black couple, and vice versa, if a couple is more comfortable with someone from their racial or ethnic background, that is absolutely fine, and we try to accommodate that to the best of our ability.)
6. Marriage counseling is too expensive.
Divorce is a lot more expensive.
Seriously, your average lawyer charges 3-4 times more than what therapists usually charge, and will probably spend more hours on the case than a therapist. Not to mention the financial burden of splitting your assets, then paying for separate housing – if expense is an issue, you should strongly consider the cost of the alternative.
That said, let’s consider how high the cost really is. How much would you pay to save the most important relationship in your life? How much would you pay for happiness, security, and love in that relationship? If it meant ditching the Netflix subscription and cutting back on fast food for a while, would you do it? For some people it really may not be possible to pay for counseling and for food and rent at the same time. (If that’s you, try checking out The Pro Bono Counseling Project for free options.)
Yes, it’s not cheap. But what could be more worth the price than a good marriage?
These are some of the most common objections we hear. If you’ve got other objections you want to address, feel free to contact us, or put a note in the comments below!