4 things to do when suggesting counseling in marriage
Your marriage needs help and you want to go for counseling. But your spouse has zero interest in going. You feel stuck, helpless, and alone. The status quo isn’t acceptable to you and so far, spurts of “trying harder” aren’t creating long-term change. How do you communicate to your spouse your desire for counseling when it is generally met with hostility or an abrupt “no”?
While there are no guarantees that your spouse will go, here are four things to do when suggesting counseling:
Don’t minimize the role of prayer before raising the idea of counseling. Through prayer, God can give you additional insights, perspectives, and words that may guide your conversation. As you pray for wisdom, ask God to prepare your spouse’s heart for your discussion. Your prayer will bolster your confidence. The Spirit can do things in their life ahead of time. Additionally, you might choose to fast for a meal, a day, or even a couple of days as you pray and prepare.
2. Anticipate objections
You know your spouse. Try to discern why they don’t want to go to counseling. As you think through their possible reasons, pre-plan how you will de-escalate an argument. Your goal is to have a productive discussion and for them to hear you. Fighting will further divide you and make your future conversations more difficult.
Maybe your spouse is concerned about finances. Counseling can be expensive, but it is worth the investment for marital health and for your family. Some counselors will work with insurance. Others offer a sliding scale based on finances. Perhaps your church can confidentially underwrite counseling expenses from their benevolence funds.
It could be that your spouse doesn’t think they need counseling. They may believe all the issues are yours. If that’s the case, tell them you are willing to go to counseling without them to work on your issues. But it would be more beneficial if they went as well. Their perspective can be helpful to the counselor in working with you.
Sometimes the spouse who resists counseling subconsciously knows that they are the primary source of angst in the marriage. Agreeing to counseling takes a huge dose of humility and willingness to work hard for change. This doesn’t let you off the hook–there will be plenty for you to work on too. If you suspect your spouse is uneasy, you can level the playing field with something like, “I have a lot that I need to learn and focus on in our marriage. I’d really like us to work on this together.”
Whatever it is, be patient with your spouse as they may need some time to process the idea of counseling.
3. Timing and reason
Choose a time when you have your spouse’s attention. This may prove challenging but through prayer the Spirit gives you discernment for optimal timing to address counseling.
Tell your spouse you love them and you are committed to a strong marriage. With help, you believe your marriage can be even better. Both of you should seek a Christian counselor who can give you unbiased insights into what can strengthen each of you individually and as a couple. If your spouse wants to know why you need a counselor give examples of where you believe you are “stuck.”
4. If your spouse refuses to go
They may refuse to go after your first conversation. Perhaps they’ll be open to it after thinking and praying about it. You never know what God will do in their heart. Be patient. Suggest other resources like reading a marriage book together. Seeking an older, godly couple who can serve as a mentor couple can strengthen your marriage as well. Take intentional steps to connect daily using Build Your Marriage One Day at a Time.
If, over time, they still are unwilling to go to counseling, accept their decision, and let them know that you plan to go on your own. You can become a better spouse and learn skills to improve your marriage.
We don’t minimize the challenge you face if one of you is reluctant or resistant to counseling. There are no easy answers. But hopefully these ideas will empower and guide you as you work to build your marriage.