Jebediah Sawyer

What Can I Do If My Partner Won’t Go To Couples Therapy? By Winifred M Reilly, M.A., MFT

There’s no getting around it. Your marriage is in trouble and it’s time to get help.

Yet, despite all the good reasons you offered and how nicely you asked, your spouse is dead set against therapy and is unwilling to budge.

Maybe you’ve tried therapy before and it was so useless or awful that he won’t dare go again.

Maybe she’s not as unhappy as you are and thinks you’re aiming too high. Maybe he feels thoroughly hopeless and is convinced nothing will help.

Then again, maybe the idea of letting an outsider see how screwed-up things are seems far worse than continuing to just slog through the mess.

Whatever the reason, you’re now at an impasse and you can’t see a next move.

Before you resort to begging or bribery or thinking you’re doomed, consider this alternative: go by yourself.

Sure, you’d rather that the two of you repair your marriage together, but dragging a reluctant spouse into therapy kicking and screaming won’t do much good. Nor will nagging or complaining or doing nothing at all.

Don’t let your partner’s resistance keep you from doing what you think is best.

Going to therapy alone is an expression of commitment, not defeat. It says “I care too much about our marriage to sit on the sidelines and watch it collapse.”

Being the lone client is in no way an admission that you alone are the problem— even if your partner insists that you are. No matter what you have done or what difficulties you’re facing, your marital struggles cannot be just about you.

Seeking help on your own simply means that you’re willing to make the first steps towards change.

Worried that you’ll be the only one making an effort?

That will likely be true, at least at the outset. I suggest that you toss out the notion of things being fifty-fifty and go ahead with your own one-hundred percent effort. Unfair and unbalanced though it is, the work that you’re doing will be making a difference.

Marriage is, after all, a system comprised of two separate partners. Systems theory dictates that when you change one part of a system, the rest of that system will change in response. All parts of a system are inter-connected and therefore inter-reactive. Whether we’re talking about a marriage or a family or a fresh water pond, cleaning up even one small part of the system will create the conditions for other parts to become healthier, too.

It makes sense, then, to shift the focus to yourself. Better to work toward changing the ways that you handle yourself in your marriage than to focus on your partner, whom, like it or not, you know you can’t change.

Though there’s no guarantee, as you grow and change and behave in new ways, your spouse is likely to change in response.

Here are some ways to set yourself up for success:

Find an experienced couples therapist who’s familiar with doing couples therapy for one. A couples-based approach will be far more effective than doing traditional individual therapy.

Be sure that you’ve chosen someone who won’t simply take your side. The last thing you need is a paid friend to commiserate with you about your partner’s pitiful shortcomings or the sorry state of your marriage. This may well push you in the direction of divorce.

Make it clear that your goal is to work on your marriage by becoming a stronger, healthier partner. If you have concerns about the viability of your marriage, a skilled therapist will remain neutral as you explore this.

Begin by identifying the behaviors you engage in that are causing trouble in your marriage. Ask for help in understanding the part that you play and work to formulate strategies for change.

Set clear goals for yourself such as I want to be less reactive or less argumentative. I want to have more staying power instead of withdrawing from conflict. I want to be more affirming and less critical. The clearer you are about where you want to end up, the easier it will be to find ways to get there.

Let your spouse know that you’re in therapy because you want a better relationship. Share what you’re working on and introduce the tools you’ve acquired.

When I work with people alone I try to get their spouse to come at least once so that I can get a more complete picture of what’s going on. Simply put: fifty percent of what people tell me about their spouse will be accurate, but I have no way of knowing which fifty percent that is.

If your therapist is open to this and your spouse will agree, I recommend this step. However, don’t do this in a way that your spouse feels that you’re simply tricking him or her into doing therapy with you.

Going to couples therapy alone because your partner won’t join you is both smart and courageous. And research has shown that it’s surprisingly effective.

I’ve seen people spend years trying to nudge a spouse into therapy while the relationship deteriorates. Then, if they do finally get some buy-in, they’re in terrible shape and the work is all the more difficult.

One of the best things you can do for your troubled marriage is to reach out for help. One of the worst things: to do nothing.

This Is The Most Common Of The 5 Love Languages, And the least common, if you’re curious. By Kelsey Borresen

Do you feel most loved when your partner leaves you a sweet note on the nightstand, says you look smokin’ hot in those jeans or gives you a pep talk before a big presentation at work? If so, your primary “love language” is probably words of affirmation ― and you’re in good company.  

Gary Chapman, an author, pastor and speaker, introduced the concept of love languages in his 1992 bestseller, The 5 Love Languages. He suggested that people prefer to receive love in one of five ways: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch or receiving gifts.

According to Chapman, words of affirmation are the most common primary love language by a small margin. That’s based on the responses of 10,000 people who took the online quiz on his website in December 2010. Here’s the breakdown: 

Chapman also noted that this was not a scientific study ― just a sampling of the people who came to his website during that time period.

So why does it matter? In relationships, people tend to express love to a partner in the way they’d personally most like to receive it. The trouble is that one person’s primary love language doesn’t always align with that of their partner. So while a back rub after a long day at work might make someone who values physical touch feel like a million bucks, the same gesture may not mean all that much to someone else. 

“After many years of counseling couples in crisis and taking notes during each session, I sat down one day and began thinking about what it takes for a person to feel loved,” Chapman told HuffPost. “It became apparent to me that what makes one person feel loved isn’t always the same for their spouse or partner. I discovered every person understands and receives love in a specific language, one of five to be precise.”

If your partner’s primary love language is words of affirmation, you can make them feel loved by telling them how much you appreciate their compassionate nature (or any other positive quality), complimenting their appearance or commending them for a job well done at work. The words can be spoken face-to-face, over the phone, or written in a card, text or email. 

“All of us appreciate affirming words, but for those whose primary language is words, nothing speaks more deeply,” Chapman said. “The important thing is that the words are spoken sincerely as an expression of your love for them ― not an effort to manipulate them to do something for you.” 

On the flip side, harsh criticism can be particularly painful for a person who values words.

“When you use negative or critical words with this person, your words are like a dagger in their heart,” Chapman said. “Your critical words hurt them more deeply than they would hurt someone with a different love language.”

The least common of the love languages (again, only by a small margin) is receiving gifts. Of the five, this one in particular gets a bad rap. Just because receiving a gift makes your partner feel loved doesn’t mean they are superficial or materialistic. Rather, it means that this individual is moved by the time, thought or effort put into choosing the gift.

That means they will also notice when very little love went into a gift. “The wife who gives her husband a vacuum cleaner for his birthday is likely thinking more about how the gift might benefit her rather than him,” Chapman said.

If this is your partner, pay special attention to their comments when you’re out shopping together or watching a TV commercial, as they may be hinting (consciously or unconsciously) at things on their wish list.  

“They often verbalize what they would like,” Chapman said. “Make a note of it. They are giving you valuable information.”

Not sure what your love language is? Take the test here. If you’re in a relationship, encourage your partner to do the same.

Written by Kelsey Borresen and published in Huffpost.

What are the most common causes of communication breakdown in a relationship?

Communication problems can manifest themselves at any time in a relationship and can appear for any number of reasons. They can be so minor that you may not notice them but, if left unchecked, can cause irreparable damage to the fabric of a relationship. Most relationship failure can be traced back to some kind of communications breakdown and most couples therapy is focused on understanding the root cause of a communications breakdown and attempting to re-establish open and meaningful dialogue within a relationship.

But what are the common causes of communication breakdown in a relationship, and how can you better understand them when they arise?

Life gets in the way

This is arguably the most straightforward way in which communication can break down in an intimate relationship and can certainly become a factor when a relationship has been going on for some time or has fallen into a set routine. If you and your partner are both living busy professional lifestyles, then conflicting work schedules, external stresses from work, or maybe even another difficult relationship with a manager, team, or family member, can have a negative effect on your intimate relationship.

In these situations, it is easy to internalise stress or, even worse, to begin to take it out on your partner or significant other. You can stop seeing your partner as someone who is there to share your burdens with you, instead perceiving them as just another detail in your life that are required to manage. This is arguably even more of a risk when couples find themselves becoming parents and having to put the needs of children and infants above any emotional needs of their own.

Problems with time management, prioritisation and external stresses are some of the most subtle, pernicious reasons why communications can break down in an intimate relationship.

The breakdown of trust

Trust and transparency are arguably the most fundamental ingredient for a successful relationship, and if they disappear, communications can break down very quickly. When trust is broken for any reason, restoring it can prove difficult.

Trust can break down for any number of reasons, including:

  • Arguments over personal finances (one partner may feel the other is not being transparent with how they spend money).
  • Infidelity – this can be one of the most damaging causes of communication breakdown in a relationship, and it can be very difficult for trust to be restored if one party has been unfaithful.
  • Loss of emotional intimacy – this often manifests itself in the feeling that one partner is not trusting the other with their deepest fears, secrets, hopes and feelings. The fear that one partner is being emotionally intimate with someone else can be very damaging to a relationship.

Total transparency is therefore essential for creating a culture of open communication in a relationship, and a lot of couples’ therapy practitioners will focus on improving trust and transparency as a means of repairing communications in a relationship.

An external trauma or shock

An external trauma or shock can fundamentally change the dynamic of a relationship, and radically change our ability to communicate with our partner. External shocks or traumas can include:

  • Sudden illness or health scares.
  • Bereavement, or loss.
  • An accident or trauma.
  • Redundancy, or sudden unemployment.

A traumatic event in our life can often change us as a person, so its not surprising that it can also change how we communicate with our partner or significant other. For example, losing a job can feel like a tremendous assault on our sense of self-worth, and pride may prevent us from opening up to a loved one about how we really feel. Likewise, we may lack the emotional articulacy to be truly open with our partner about how we really feel in the aftermath of a bereavement or sudden loss. Keeping lines of communication open in these instances is essential.

Breakdown of physical intimacy

Breakdown of physical intimacy can be both a symptom and a cause of communication problems. A lack of physical intimacy can then have a knock-on effect on other components of the relationship, which can quickly lead to other communication problems to develop. This, in turn, can further exacerbate problems with physical intimacy and your sex life.

Unhealthy/poisonous patterns of behaviour

Communication in a relationship can break down more generally, when our existing patterns of behaviour and methods of communication are unhealthy, or having a generally toxic effect on our relationship. Relationship counselling expert Dr John Gottman has identified four main ways in which communication in a relationship can become unhealthy or damaging. They include:

  • Constant criticism – criticising a partner’s personality as opposed to their behaviour, which can soon turn into personal and hurtful attacks.
  • Contempt – a clear attempt to abuse or hurt your partner in your day-to-day interactions.
  • Defensiveness – if one partner feels they are being victimised by another, then defensiveness can be a fairly common tactic in any disagreement. This can lead to both partners being entrenched in their point of view, which can further worsen conflict and communication breakdown, as neither party is willing to initiate a pro-active solution to the problem.
  • Stonewalling – this is arguably the worst and most terminal reaction to any communication problem, as couples refuse to open up to each other, in some instances even refusing to speak to one another at all.

All above can become unhealthy and ultimately toxic patterns of behaviour and couples therapy is normally required to break partners out of these kinds of deadlocks. Unhealthy patterns of behaviour are often the most visible sign of communication breakdown in a relationship, and can sometimes be a symptom of the other manifestations of communication breakdown we have outlined above.

Written by and in collaboration with Louis Venter, Founder, Couples Help – “For the last nine years, I have been practicing as a marriage counsellor and therapist, and it has been my greatest joy to see countless marriages and “impossible” situations restored to childlike wholeness.” Louis’s blog can be found at:

What Divorce Does to Your Health by Ashley Festa

What Divorce Does to Your Health.

Divorce is one of the most stressful events that can happen in a person’s life, and it can have more than just emotional consequences. You might experience sadness and loss, but divorce can take a toll on your physical and mental health as well. Lack of social support, lower income, a reduction in access to healthcare, and other factors can put a strain on your well-being. But knowing what lies ahead can help you cope with the changes to come.

What are the health effects of divorce?

Because of the stress associated with divorce, people can often suffer physical and mental health consequences as a result of separating from a spouse. Men who don’t remarry tend to suffer more long-term effects after a divorce, while women typically suffer more drastic short-term effects.

Physical consequences

  • Cardiovascular disease: If you’re a woman, divorce contributes to your risk for heart disease, typically because women suffer higher levels of emotional stress and economic hardship, resulting in higher stress levels, than men do.
  • Weight change: If you’re a man, you’re more likely to experience a drastic weight gain (20 pounds or more) after a divorce, especially if you’re older than 30.
  • Metabolic syndrome: Divorced women are more likely to have metabolic syndrome than women in satisfying marriages. Metabolic syndrome encompasses a group of risk factors for heart disease, diabetesstroke and other health problems. These risk factors include excess belly fat, low levels of good cholesterol, and high blood pressure, among others.
  • Risky behavior: Men have significantly higher risk of abusing alcohol and drugs after a divorce. They also have a 39% higher suicide rate than married men.
  • Insomnia: While it’s normal to have trouble sleeping after a divorce, insomniacan lead to more serious physical and mental health problems, including higher blood pressure and anxiety.

Mental health consequences

  • Anxiety: Being divorced increases your risk for anxiety and panic attacks, especially if you’re a woman. And anxiety can continue even if you remarry. Anxiety is also linked with blood pressure spikes.
  • Depression: More serious than just feeling sad, depression can result from divorce. Divorced men, for example, undergo psychiatric care 10 times more often than married men.

Where can you turn for help?

Your family and friends will be an asset during this stage of your life. They can offer support and comfort as well as helping you manage your physical needs. You can also become involved in a formal support group to help you deal with your emotions. If you need professional help, seek out a psychologist to talk to about your feelings and ways to move forward, including medication if necessary.

Other ways to take care of yourself include:

  • Reducing your use of alcohol and other substances
  • Improving your diet and exercise routine
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Talking to a cognitive behavior therapist and preventing negative thoughts
  • Joining a support group
  • Getting involved in social activities
  • Taking medication, such as antidepressants and sleep aids

How can you have a healthier divorce?

  • Don’t beat yourself up over the situation. Instead, give yourself a break and take time to heal.
  • Consider mediation rather than going to court to settle the details of your divorce.
  • Communicate and avoid power struggles with your ex. Use a psychologist as a mediator to reduce conflict, or handle communication over email if an in-person meeting is too hard emotionally.
  • Prepare your thoughts in advance by creating a list of topics you want to discuss.
  • If you have children, minimize shock as much as possible by giving them advance warning of the changes ahead, such as transitioning to a new home.

While divorce is emotionally taxing for everyone involved, taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing can help you handle the situation more successfully. Many times people can rely on self-care and their support network to make it through the biggest challenges of divorce. More serious concerns, such as depression, risky behaviors, or potentially dangerous health problems may require a physician’s help to overcome. 


Find the New Normal: Navigating Divorce with Little Ones

Research consistently demonstrates a link between family structure and children’s healthy development, generally favoring stable, two-parent households over alternative family arrangements. However, the reality is that separation and divorce are a part of life for countless American families. While we know what the ideal family looks like in terms of promoting children’s well-being, isn’t it also worth considering how to make the most of things when your family doesn’t quite fit the mold? What protective factors can we focus on to help kids cope with divorce in the short-term and thrive in the long run? Here are three key themes for parents to keep in mind when creating the “new normal” post-separation or divorce.

  1. Boundaries:  When dealing with stressful circumstances, such as the end of a marriage, it can be especially difficult to remember the importance of having a “filter” around our little ones. However, the truth is that healthy boundaries are more crucial than ever during tough transitions. The best thing parents can do for themselves is seek support from friends, family members, or their own therapist so they can keep it together in front of the kids. Side note: as tempting as it may be, badmouthing the other parent does nobody any good! In fact, some research suggests that it may be more harmful to your own relationship with your child than anything else.
  1. Consistency:  Children are remarkably resilient and will be able to adapt to the “new normal” that you co-create, as long as the old routine is replaced with a new one. What exactly this structure looks like will vary for each family; the important piece is that some degree of predictability exists. Who picks the kids up from school? What do meals look like? How do weekends go? What about holidays? When is it appropriate to bring a new partner into the mix? These are all questions that deserve thoughtful planning and commitment to consistency. If you and your former partner are struggling to make these decisions without professional help, consider the benefit of therapy focused on coparenting. The therapist can serve as a mediator to make sure both parents’ voices are heard and decisions are ultimately made in the best interest of the child(ren).
  1. Validation:  The reality is that divorce is painful for all members of the family, and unfortunately parents don’t have the power to prevent their kids from subsequently experiencing sadness, anger, and/or fear. However, parents can help their little ones feel supported through the magic of validation. All it takes is listening to your kids–fully tuning in and making time for them—and letting them know that whatever emotions they’re experiencing are normal and valid. Parents, try to separate your own emotional state from that of your kids; don’t assume that they will feel or react in exactly the way that makes most sense to you. If needed, solicit additional support from teachers, guidance counselors, and even a therapist, so that your child knows he or she has a whole team of people who care for and believe in them.

Kate Kadleck is a therapist at RTC with a passion for working with children, adolescents and families and is experienced with kids as young as age 5.