Navigating Therapy Without Your Spouse On Board
I'm pleased to share my article that was posted on the incredibly resourceful OK Clarity platform. OK Clarity services the frum community, offering different therapies provided by frum health and mental health professionals.
“We need to talk.”
“Oh no, here we go.”
“I think we need to go to couple’s therapy.”
You want to go for therapy to work out the kinks in your marriage and the struggles you’re facing in life. When your spouse refuses to join, you are first surprised and then really disappointed. How do you navigate therapy when your life partner is not on board? If the following verses sound familiar, it’s because others have crossed this path and we’re here to help you cross yours.
Deciding to go to therapy can be a difficult choice to begin with. When we feel therapy as a couple is either crucial or beneficial to our marriage and our spouse is uninterested at best and adamant at worst, we can feel helpless and overwhelmed.
Before we decide on the best course of action to deal with this disparity it is important to respect our spouse’s right to his or her own preference. Just like we each have very unique reasons for wanting therapy, our spouses can have equally unique reasons for not wanting to partake in counseling. Most likely they are not fully aware of all the reasons behind our preferences, while we are not aware of the reasons supporting theirs.
In my practice I find that there are a number of common reasons spouses decline treatment. These include but are not limited to:
fear of vulnerability
fear of the unknown
distrust in authority figures
prior negative therapy experiences
feeling like the relationship cannot be helped
misconceptions about therapy – thinking that the therapist will: side with one person, tell the couple to stay married or get divorced, blame one person, or give advice
As a spouse it is not our job to address each of these fears. Rather, it is in our best interest to simply understand that there can be many reasons supporting their decision. This understanding will take the sting out of their decision, creating more space for healthy communication.
Breathe, Listen, & Share
When we take a deep breath and remind ourselves of our spouse’s rights to his or her own preference, we can then approach our spouses from a more curious and calm angle. We can respond to our spouse’s adamance by saying “going to therapy is something that is important to me, but I get how you can have reservations about going. Can you share with me what specifically is unappealing about therapy?”