Taking the dive into couples counseling is not easy. It can be difficult enough to convince yourself you need this, let alone convincing another person who has their own emotions and opinions of counseling to do this. Whether you feel this will be an easy conversation or an extremely difficult one, here are some ways to make this conversation easier.
1.) Timing is everything
The timing of this conversation is just as important if not more important than the words you say. Like many people in this situation, you are likely frustrated with the direction your relationship is headed and it will be difficult to not address this topic in anger. It is critical to avoid having this conversation in the middle of a fight, this will only cause your significant other to recoil and become defensive about the topic. It’s best to find a time when you are getting along with your partner and to come from a place of calm. Your partner will hear you and process the conversation if it is coming from a place of love and vulnerability.
2.) It takes two to tango/Own up to your own issues
The relationship likely did not get to this point because of one person in the relationship. It is important to own up to your side of the relationship issues and not place all the blame on your partner. Let your partner know that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, that you want to do this to make the relationship better.
3.) Make them feel loved
When you decide to have the talk make your partner feel loved rather than telling them all the things they need to fix about themselves. You don’t want to make your partner feel broken, you want to make them feel loved. Starting the conversation with “I love you” and listing things you love about your relationship then move into issues you feel need to be resolved to improve the longevity of the relationship.
4.) Educate your partner
There tends to be a stigma associated with the words “counseling” or “therapy”. It is important to educate your partner and help them get beyond that stigma. Some people may think that counselors take sides or that a counselor is a last resort. But counseling does not have to be a last resort, it is a tool to help prevent bigger issues in the future. A quality couples counselor will avoid taking sides, they will try to find each couples winning qualities and show them ways to use that strength to solve problems. Many couples go through this issue, if you are able to reach out to friends or family who have been through this successfully and share their story with your partner it may normalize it for your partner.
5.) Set goals
Let your partner know you want to go into this with clear end goals. Many couples tend to give up on couples counseling because they feel it isn’t improving anything, you need to set measurable goals to see success. Your goal could be measuring how many days go between your fights or how often you are intimate or maybe simply hours slept at night. Whatever your goals maybe it is important to set them so you are able to see progress.
6.) Choose the counselor together
Allow your partner to feel involved in this decision. It is important to sit down and choose a counselor together. Your partner may have strong opinions on if you see a male vs. female or maybe they have a recommendation from a friend, whatever their preferences are it is important to make this decision together.
7.) Start with a trial
If your partner is extremely hesitant about seeking professional help, let them know it can start out as a trial. Start with three weeks of counseling and if your partner doesn’t see an improvement that perhaps you take a break from it. Chances are though, you will start seeing improvement and your relationship can start to heal.
Before You Get Started With Couples Counseling
Beyond these seven tips, the most important thing is to come together and agree that things in your relationship are not as they could be, agree that you both want your relationship to be better, and that you haven’t been able to figure that out on your own and that it may be time to bring on a neutral party to help bring your relationship to the next level.
And remember, seeing a therapist in person or online is not a quick fix, they are simply there to help the two of you let your guards down and communicate with each other clearly, calmly, and with as little baggage & triggering as possible.