Her Mentor Center: Can I Make My Spouse Go to Therapy?
Saving your Marriage: We’re Considering Divorce. Can I Make Him Get Counseling?
Q: My husband and I are trying to decide whether or not to call it quits. I would like us to get some counseling before we make a final decision but he says, ‘What’s the point if we’re getting divorced anyway?’ What can I do to make him go to counseling with me?
A: Absolutely nothing. If he doesn’t want to see a counselor, making him go — kicking and screaming — won’t be productive for either of you. You could encourage him by pointing out the reason you want to see a psychologist or marriage counselor. Be sure to use your own thoughts and ideas but here’s an example of what you might say: “This is a very big, life-changing decision and it’s helpful to get a disinterested third-person’s professional perspective.”
If your spouse is resistant, it may help to speak to other couples who have been through counseling. Many will have positive things to say about the process, even if their marriages ended in divorce. For starters, most therapists will teach you better communication skills that will help you whether you decide to stay together or to split up and have a more amicable divorce. Learning how to talk with your spouse without attacking or blaming one another is crucial to your success no matter what the end result. Sending I-messages and becoming an active listener are two means of acknowledging that you value your partner. Another is giving active, constructive responses to the communications you receive from each other. All of these reflect the respect that you each deserve.
You may decide to see a counselor yourself, even if your husband won’t go with you. A professional will help you recognize and develop your strengths as well as learn more about the resources you can draw upon during this difficult period in your life. Therapy will provide you a safe place to deal with your emotional turmoil. You can bring up and talk through any feelings of failure, guilt or lack of trust that may have developed as a result of the turbulence in your marriage. If your self-esteem has suffered a direct hit, counseling can help you gain the confidence that you need to move forward, with or without your spouse.