• Monique Harding

How to have the "Relationship Counselling" conversation

Asking your partner to see a Relationship Counsellor can be a difficult conversation to have. Your partner might feel anxious or uncomfortable about having a third person know about what’s going on in your ‘private life’; they may feel attacked or just unsure about what to expect.

Anticipating the conversation as a potentially tricky one can help ensure that the timing and tone you take is carefully considered.

When is the right time to talk about relationship counselling?

When we are overtired, agitated, distracted, hungry or stressed, we are unable to think rationally. It is a good idea to avoid sensitive or difficult conversations when either you or your partner is feeling this way.

Choosing a calm time to bring up the idea of relationship counselling is therefore, really, REALLY important. This is easier said than done though, as when things are going well – you often want to enjoy the good times together rather than “rock the boat”. But this is the ideal time to open up dialogue about relationship counselling.

Find a time where both of you are calm, present and unlikely to be interrupted for at least five minutes. For parents of young children, this may be when you are lying in bed, late at night, just about to finally get some sleep.

Things your partner will likely say in response to your request to see a Relationship Counsellor

#1 - “I don’t want to talk about our private stuff with a complete stranger”

Your partner may be anxious about how much they will be called on to share in counselling. Honestly is definitely best and will lead to better outcomes from relationship counselling but a skilled Counsellor will work at your pace. Therapists are trained to make their clients feel comfortable and at ease throughout the process. When this is the case, sharing your story won’t feel so anxiety provoking and will likely happen much more organically. Therapists are also one of the hardest groups of people to shock! A non-judgmental stance is a top tier essential for the job.

#2 - “If we are truly meant to be, we shouldn’t need a Relationship Counsellor / our love for each other is enough”

What a lovely idea! But, unfortunately, they don’t teach relationship 101 in schools. Without a foundational knowledge of relationship skills we default back to our own experiences. This leaves most of us relying on patterns of interacting from our families of origin as our relationship blueprint. BUT our partners didn’t grow up in that same environment so they have their own roadmap they use to guide them. Would you expect a Brisbane UBD to work in Sydney? I’m guessing no. Often we need a some coaching to develop a shared toolkit of effective communication and conflict management skills. A Relationship Counsellor can help identify the strengths in your relationship whilst providing tools and processes to improve on weaknesses.

#3 - “I don’t want to keep bringing up the past”

A common fear to seeing a Relationship Counsellor is around bringing up “old stuff’. Whilst past issues do need to be resolved for you as a couple to move past them, your Relationship Therapist will help you do this in a productive way. That way you will progress through them as quick as possible and you don’t get stuck in the past.

#4 - “I’m not paying money to sit in a room and fight”

Despite how it is often portrayed in the movies, a relationship counselling session is not you and your partner sitting in a room fighting in front of a stranger. It is not an hour of blaming, negativity and criticism. In fact, it is quite the opposite! Your therapist will ensure that when these things pop up that they are managed effectively and an ongoing, respectful dialogue continues. A therapy session should be different to how you communicate at home!

#5 - “I’m not wasting our money on that / It is too expensive”

Relationship counselling is a big investment. Of course, there are plenty of other things that you could spend your money on too. However, relationship counselling may be the best investment you ever make. Your relationship provides the foundation for love, connection, family, wealth and recreation. A good relationship has the potential to enhance your psychological, social and physical wellbeing. Can you afford not to invest in that? And for those couples who are married, a block of counselling sessions is significantly cheaper than a divorce!

#6 - “I don’t believe in that stuff, it is pointless to just talk about your feelings”

Well, partner X has got a point here… It is pointless to simply air everything you are feeling out in the open. In fact, it may be detrimental. Talking about feelings is only helpful if it is facilitated in a way that leads to deeper understanding and empathy from your partner. Relationship counselling will help you channel your feelings towards change and shifts in your relationship for the better.

When they still refuse to go….

If after listening to all of your partners objections (with you responding in a supportive, empathic way) they still don’t want to commit. You could try;

1) Invite them to select the therapist with you. Allowing them to have some influence in the process may make them feel more comfortable.

2) Agree initially to three or four sessions with a review to continue/discontinue. This provides your partner with a clear end point. It is likely by this point they will be feeling more comfortable with the process and their initial anxiety may have subsided.

Once you get counselling started it is likely you will both begin to see some positive changes and be keen to keep therapy going.

If you think Relationship Counselling may be helpful for you and your Partner, get in contact with us.

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