What if Your Partner Refuses to Go to Couples Therapy?

This is a very common question. There is trouble brewing in the relationship and you’re ready to reach out for help or you’ve been thinking about getting help for a long time. You’ve finally made the decision to act on it, but your partner refuses.  This can lead to tremendous frustration, depression, despair and even a sense of failure.

Many people have a strong resistance to the idea of therapy.  Maybe there is a fear of being vulnerable or a fear of being exposed in front of a therapist. But the solution isn’t badgering your partner into coming or giving him or her an ultimatum.  Couples therapy may not even be the right answer. 

First you must face the disappointment you feel when your partner refuses your call to make a partnership more conscious.  You may feel let down, rejected, devalued, and even abandoned in the relationship. But you can’t change if you keep circling back to the idea that the only way forward is coming to couples therapy.

It’s easy and justifiable to feel angry and resentful, but ultimately, it’s disempowering for you. When we move from a position of victimhood, we lose our sense of agency when we allow ourselves to be driven by despair.  And despair stems from a sense that the possibility of change is a closed door to you.

But when you decide to do individual therapy —it’s a step out of a habitual sense of powerlessness.  It’s the beginning of a new process and it can open up a completely different kind of conversation. Beyond the circular fixation around the conflict—and perhaps the illusion of control that we can fix it through sheer will power —we have to anchor the discussion in the light of the fact that any radical change will come from you.

Couples therapists often say that if you alter your behavior and your actions, you will inevitably change the relationship.  The relational dynamic will shift into more tension or more harmony.  Either way it will change.

The bigger question is how you can show up for yourself despite the resistance you encounter. How can you stay true to yourself in your pursuit of a more conscious way of relating? If the conflict has obscured and diminished your sense of worthiness, how can you strengthen your inherent capacity for love and belonging? 

You can think of the grief, disappointment and stuckness you feel-- as a call to reclaim yourself,  re-assert your sense of agency, and an opportunity to rekindle the parts of yourself that have become buried in the relationship.