Hi, my name is Alea DiGirolamo, and I’m a psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC. In this video, I’m going to discuss how to ask your partner to go to couples therapy.
When you hear the term “couples therapy,” what comes to mind? Partners that I’ve worked with tend to come into sessions letting me know one of two things. That either their situation has gotten that bad or that they’re just coming in for some relationship maintenance. Whatever the reason, it’s consistent that there still seems to be a stigma attached to coming to couples therapy. I think it’s important that we start there.
I want to validate and normalize any anxieties you have when thinking it’s time to start couples therapy. In general, the therapy space is vulnerable. You’re opening up your heart and your mind to someone new. When you add in bringing your partner to that space, that vulnerability and anxiety only intensifies. If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. If you’re curious about couples therapy and think it may be helpful, now’s the time to pursue it. Couples therapy is an amazing tool to utilize when things are going really well. However, it can be even more important when you feel like something needs work.
Before approaching your partner, it may be helpful to take time to journal or create a list of goals and intentions for therapy. Are you looking to resolve a conflict or to gain better communication tools? Along with discussing what needs to be worked on, it can also be helpful to talk about things that are going really well. What are some positive aspects of your relationship that you would like to continue to build on? This is a helpful way to gain clarity on things you value as an individual. Once we have the clarity on that, we can bring that to our partner, and it’s a helpful talking point.
So now you have some internal realization that you would like to go to couples therapy. You have your thoughts processed and written down on paper. Next, the biggest question is, “How do you approach this topic with your partner?” John Gottman, couples and relationship expert, says that it’s important to lay down a strong foundation for talking about attending couples therapy with your partner.
The first step to accomplishing this is to connect emotionally. This means avoid raising the topic of couples therapy during a fight when you are the most disconnected. Rather, approach this topic when you’re both feeling appreciated, cared for, and connected. Some ideas for creating this atmosphere would be doing something you enjoy together. This could include things like cooking dinner together, going on a walk, or watching a comedy show. The goal of this is to have your partner feel that they matter to you. This will establish a foundation of support and increase your partner’s receptiveness to the idea of coming to therapy. If nothing else, keep in mind that we want couples therapy to start in a positive place, not in a place of resistance and negative connotation. Setting the foundation of encouragement, love, and support is a great way to start this process together.
Propose the Conversation and Be Open to Your Partner’s Reaction
The second step is to propose the conversation and be open to your partner’s reaction. This looks like saying something along the lines of, “Hey, I would love to talk about our relationship and our dynamic. I really want to hear about things that you feel we can work on moving forward.” If you notice that your partner is resistant to talking, it may not be the time to pursue this topic. However, don’t be discouraged. I want to reiterate the importance of connection. If your partner is letting you know that they cannot connect with you at this time, it gives you an opportunity to look for a better moment when you can bring up this topic and connect better. If your partner is open and receptive to discussing your relationship, it is a great time to lean into the third element.
Be Honest and on the Same Team
The third element is being honest about your struggles, staying away from the blame game, and keeping the conversation focused on you as a team. Bridging the gap from where you are now to where you want to be is the goal for couples therapy. Again, John Gottman put this part of the conversation perfectly in asking us to keep in mind that no one likes being told what they need to fix. Instead, continue to make it clear that this is meant to be a collaborative effort. It takes two to make a relationship. This conversation is not meant to isolate, rather to bring you together in an understanding that you want the same thing. You want to be in a happy relationship. You want to feel connected, loved, and cared for. That is the goal.
Try Not to Feel Offended
The fourth thing to keep in mind is to try your best not to become offended or defensive if your partner initially rejects the idea. It is easy for us to lean into our own defenses when we feel a sense of resistance, but it’s important to stay grounded. Along with doing your best not to lean into your defenses, be sure to let your partner know that you love them. After all, we put work and effort into the things that we love the most.
It is common for some individuals to feel that couples therapy may be out of their budget or that they may not have enough time to attend weekly sessions. If this is something that your partner brings up in your conversation, I would highly encourage you to validate their feelings. Let them know that you hear their concerns. Then, bring it back into perspective that this is for the wellness of your relationship. Couples therapy is an hour a week. It is as important as taking time to go to the gym, to read a book, or to take that walk that you need after a long day of work. It is also important to know that, regarding the cost of therapy, there are many in- or out-of-network insurance benefits options. Additionally, there are often other low-cost therapy options available.
Be Clear With Your Motives and Set Goals Together
The fifth thing I would encourage someone talking to their partner about couples therapy to consider is being clear about your motives and setting goals together. This is a great opportunity to have a “state of the union” meeting about your relationship. It is also a chance to discuss the way you want to go into the therapy space as a team. Consider looking for a therapist together and discussing the criteria you would like for that individual to have. It is important that you both feel comfortable with the therapist you choose.
How did you approach discussing couples therapy with your partner? Leave your comments below!
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