Women in Trouble, Trapped, Feeling Helpless
Is Separation the Only Way to Get his Full Attention? Can You Support Yourself?
Many women ask Dr. Ransen how they can persuade their reluctant partners to join them for relationship counseling or couples therapy. Here is his message to you.
The majority of my clients are couples, and helping them is my specialty. If I have a bias, it is to help couples to stay together happily. I have never advised a couple to separate or divorce, and I hope that I never will.
Is that just wishful thinking? No, I have learned from experience that most couples can find that wonderful place again, and I’ve seen it happen so many times that I know I can help. There’s no reason to find yourself among the nearly 50% who get divorced or separated. A few sessions of powerful relationship therapy can make all the difference in the world, and empower you to open a brand new, much happier chapter in your marriage or relationship.
One of the most common complaints I hear comes from women who say that their male partners refuse to accompany them to see a couples therapist or marriage counselor. I am so often asked what a woman can do in that situation. Therapy for the woman alone is never successful, and persuading her partner to join her seems impossible. What’s the answer?
First, accept the fact that many men feel uncomfortable when they contemplate sharing information about their private lives with therapists. If your partner refuses to join you, it is because he has decided that doing nothing is easier and less painful than working to improve your relationship. People prefer easy things to hard things; and they prefer to reduce pain to increase pain.
When you look at it this way, your best course of action is obvious. If you truly want to repair your relationship, you need only turn his resistance upside-down! Your job is to persuade your partner that doing nothing will be more difficult and more painful than seeking help. It really is that simple (if not always easy) — your partner will almost always take the path of least resistance and pain, and agree to join you in couples counseling or relationship counseling. Remind your partner: The trick to getting help is recognizing that NOT seeking help will lead to more pain for him, not just for you. If he’s waiting for things to improve by themselves, then you are both in for a very long wait.
OK, convincing your partner may not be so easy for you. You too must decide which option will be better in the long run. If you truly believe that you cannot continue the way things are going, then you must do whatever is required to get your partner’s attention. If you feel that a crisis is coming soon or has already arrived, then couples counseling is probably the only way to make things better. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to convince your partner that you’re serious? Surely you’ve learned by now that empty threats never have the desired effect — only you suffer whenever you make them, and his resentment grows each time.
Are you prepared to insist that your partner leave home for a while? If that doesn’t work, do you have a safe place to stay (with the kids, if any) for a little while? Consider that a trial separation may be the only way, as a last resort, to get your partner’s attention. We understand this this choice can be scary, especially if a woman homemaker feels trapped in her marriage, unable or unqualified to support herself and her family, in case her spouse may neglect his financial responsibility to his family. There are real solutions for these concerns, and we know what they are and how you can remain protected. As long as you allow the current situation to continue, you are signaling that it’s easier to ignore your problems and watch them get worse than to find solutions.
If you fear that you have no choice but to separate temporarily — and if you have the courage to do that if necessary — then it is almost certain that your partner will be motivated to think again. Even the thought of separation is scary, but it’s occasionally your only chance to get his attention. If your partner becomes concerned about losing you, then I expect I’ll be seeing you both very soon for couples counseling. If he doesn’t seem to care, then you may have made the very best decision for all concerned, and you will have learned a life-saving lesson. In either case, change will occur, and it will be change for the better. In these rare cases, you can count on our support and assistance.
Think about it.