If you are concerned about the state of your marriage, you may have considered seeking marriage counseling. However, approaching your spouse about marriage counseling can be a tricky subject. If your feel like your marriage is already on the rocks, it is important to learn how to broach the subject with diplomacy.
Types of Problems Marriage Counselors Address
It’s important to know what sorts of problems marriage counselors can address. The most common problems include issues with communication, problems resolving conflict, and sexual problems. Sometimes couples attend counseling because they have some general feelings of disconnection or difficulty getting along.
Some problems are more specific. For example, infidelity is a common problem that leads to counseling. If one partner has a psychological problem or substance abuse issue, sometimes marriage counseling can be helpful in addition to individual therapy.
Marriage counselors can’t solve every problem and they don’t address every issue. However, it makes sense to contact a marriage counselor if you are not certain. If they can’t help they may be able to refer you to a more appropriate resource. For example, if you are fighting about money, a marriage counselor may be able to help you learn how to manage your conflict. But, if you are not earning enough money to pay the bills, you may also require a referral to a financial advisor.
Acknowledge How the Marriage Could Benefit
When suggesting marriage counseling to your spouse focus on what you hope to gain from counseling. Avoid placing blame. Instead, talk about the problems in a matter of fact way. For example, say to your partner, “I hope that a counselor can help us learn how to get along better.” Use this approach versus, “You need to learn how to stop fighting with me so much.”
Discuss What You are Willing to Change
Unfortunately, many people want to have marriage counselors to prove their partner is “wrong.” A marriage counselor is not meant to be a referee. A counselor doesn’t take sides or decide who is right and who is wrong. Instead, a marriage counselor can teach you both skills and help you to reach your goals together.
Explain your personal goals to your spouse. What are you willing to do differently as a result of marriage counseling? Are you hoping to learn how to manage your anger? Do you want to know what you can do to be a better spouse? Do you want to learn how to help your spouse feel more loved? Do you want to address parenting issues?
Think of specific things you want to learn as a result of attending counseling. Focus on what you will do differently, what you want your partner to do differently. Worry about changing yourself and trust that your spouse will take responsibility for his/her own change.
This of course doesn’t mean you can’t offer input into what is addressed in treatment. However, when bringing up the subject to your spouse, it isn’t a good idea to list all of the things you want your spouse to change. This will only likely lead to defensiveness. Who would want to walk into a counselor’s office thinking your partner is going to list off all the things you do wrong?
Discuss What Would Make Your Partner More Comfortable
If your spouse is uncomfortable with the idea of marriage counseling, talk about what would be helpful. For example, if you found a counselor out of town, would that make it easier? If you found a counselor closer to your spouse’s work would that be helpful? Be willing to search for a counselor with appointment days and times that are convenient for the both of you. Many counselors offer evening hours and some even offer weekend appointments.
Check with your insurance company to learn about coverage for counseling. If you need a referral to a counselor, talk to your doctor. Most counselors accept self-referrals that will allow you to call and set up services for yourself.
What to Do if Your Spouse Refuses
If your spouse refuses counseling, avoid the temptation to nag, beg, or whine. Instead, obtain a counselor for yourself. Many problems in a marriage can be resolved with just one partner working on it. So, don’t despair if you spouse is not interested in counseling right now. Instead, attend by yourself and learn what steps you can take to improve the marriage. You may find that the changes you make improve the relationship significantly. When your spouse sees your attempts at hard work, it can be a motivator to attend counseling with you in the future.