How to Talk About Recommending Therapy in a Relationship
Relationships are not perfect. No matter how perfect they appear on social media, it’s normal to have some conflict. You can be crazy about someone and still have things you’re working on together. Maybe you disagree on how you spend money, or one of you is a workaholic. A relationship issue doesn’t need to be the end of the relationship. Suggesting therapy in a relationship doesn’t give it the kiss of death; it’s the opposite. But how you approach the conversation is key for hopefully getting a positive outcome.
Suggesting Therapy in a Relationship
Sometimes when you think of couples therapy, you think of it as a response to something bad. Maybe there’s infidelity or conflict in the relationship you’re struggling to get through. There’s a misconception around couples therapy that it’s something you do as a last-ditch effort to save the relationship. That going to therapy is a sign of something wrong. But this isn’t the case.
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York, says, “there can still be a stigma associated with therapy. Often people think that therapy is only used when you’re not doing well and on the brink of separating, and it is way more versatile. The person may also see that as an indication that they are the problem in some contexts.”
Ultimately, couples therapy aims to strengthen the relationship, reconnect you, and give you the tools to move forward. Many couples use therapy as a way to check in on the relationship with the help of a non-bias third party.
Whether you’re hoping to work on something specific, want to communicate your needs more effectively, or want to improve your relationship, couples therapy can offer major benefits to both parties.
If you’re reading this, we probably don’t have to convince you why couples therapy is beneficial. However, when one party wants to recommend therapy, it can be a tough conversation to have. You don’t know the outcome or how your partner will react. Because therapy is often thought of as the last step in the relationship, they may even think you’re breaking up with them. The reality is that this isn’t true, but therapy can be a hard sell.
7 Tips for Recommending Couples Therapy to Your Partner
In the best possible scenario, two people in a healthy relationship would have regular check-ups to keep everything ticking over. Unfortunately, there is some stigma surrounding couples therapy. So, if you’re recommending couples therapy to your partner, how you approach it is important.
1. Set Up a Time to Speak with No Distractions
Start by arranging a time to bring up the conversation with no distractions. Avoid any overly stressful times, like after a long day at work. Try to choose a time where you’re both relaxed and can have a calm discussion.
Don’t recommend therapy during an argument, as when emotions are heated, it’s difficult to get across how you feel in a collected manner. Couples therapy isn’t a threat; it’s a way to strengthen your bond and move in a positive direction.
2. Focus on the Benefits of Couples Therapy
“Show excitement and appreciation for therapy. If you are engaged in therapy and the therapeutic process, there is a lower chance that your partner will be offended by the recommendation,”
Ask them and sell them your reasoning for suggesting therapy. No one wants to be told to do something they weren’t expecting to do,” says Dr. Tirrel De Gannes.
When you open the conversation, try to focus on the benefits of couples therapy. Explain how you think therapy could help your relationship. Avoid being negative or focusing on the bad parts of the relationship. Try using the following phrases:
- I feel couples therapy will help us work as a team
- I think therapy will help us feel more connected
- I think it can help us communicate better
3. Be Honest
Without getting into an argument or blaming your partner, be honest about why you want to go to couples therapy together. Try to explain your reasons in a way that your partner can understand. Don’t forget to mention what you will be working on so your partner doesn’t feel like they are the only one that needs to change.
4. Avoid Blaming Your Partner
Keep your language hopeful and joyful. Think about phrasing the conversation in a way that’s solution-orientated. Try not to blame your partner or put a negative focus on their actions or personality. Continue to be gentle and loving in your approach to recommending therapy. Without careful thinking and tact, the conversation may not go how you want it to.
“Don’t blame your partner, don’t make their hesitance into an argument, don’t use name-calling or judgmental terms, don’t make it seem as if this is the only way things will improve and make it an ultimatum,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
5. Talk About What’s Working in the Relationship
Frame the discussion around your strengths as a couple and how you would like to learn to make the relationship better. It’s not about finding who is at fault but coming up with a solution together. Again, try to lean on the positive and avoid blaming your partner. Even if there is something specific you want to work on, the conversation you have about suggesting couples therapy should be a calm one.
6. Be Ready to Compromise
There is a likelihood that you may have to compromise, so be ready for that. Relationships are generally about compromise and meeting somewhere in the middle. You find a solution that may not be exactly what you want, but somewhere close.
For instance, maybe your partner would like to choose the therapist and only promises to go once. That’s still showing an openness to the idea. Your partner might prefer an online therapist rather than face to face. This is something else you can consider.
7. Give Your Partner Space
Bringing up couples therapy for the first time can be quite an intense conversation. Your partner may feel a bit shocked and need to process. At this time, take a step back and give your partner space to think about the conversation.
“Don’t take ‘No’ as an excuse to fight. People need to be coerced into change, and sometimes a no means not yet, but a no will always be a no if you become too pushy,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
Make sure your partner feels some control and that the decision is a joint one. Perhaps suggest they do their own research to gain a better understanding. Breaking down the process into what will happen during a therapy session could make them feel more at ease.
What to Do If Your Partner Refuses Couples Therapy
Sometimes, your partner may outright refuse to attend couples therapy. There is always a chance that the conversation can go this way, and you may have to go alone.
If this happens to you, “see your own therapist to address the concerns coming up for you. Bring the progress to the relationship and show the value of the work from your experience(s),” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
If you think your relationship could benefit from couples therapy, speak to one of our experts from the team at The Thriving Center of Psychology. We can help you check in on your relationship or give you the tools to navigate a challenging situation.