Can You Go to Couples Therapy Alone?
What if you’re having marriage problems and your husband doesn’t want to go to therapy? Can you go to couples therapy alone? According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, yes you should!
Couples therapy is very effective for relationship problems because both partners have the opportunity to understand the dysfunctional patterns and dynamics of their relationship. By addressing both sides of the equation, progress can be made much more quickly. But each party must be willing to look at his or her own behavior, and how it contributes to the relationship dysfunction. If they cannot, then the couples session rapidly turns into a ping pong match of blame. Guess what? Not taking responsibility for your contribution to the problem is not going to make your partner more cooperative and willing to make the changes you deem necessary. Rather, he or she will likely become more defensive, and before you know it you are paying a counselor a lot of money to hear you fight just like you do at home. Not helpful.
That’s why interspersing individual therapy with couples therapy can be very effective. A lot of counselors won’t do this because it complicates things; it can create alliances and make one partner feel “left out”. Confidentiality also gets stickier: what if one partner tells you they are having an affair? However, when managed properly, adding individual sessions to the couples modality can be very beneficial. A few years back when I started doing this I noticed I got a lot more information a lot more quickly, and was able to be much more effective in the joint sessions. Yes, it’s trickier to manage but the client ultimately benefits. And that’s really what this is all about!
If your partner is not willing to go at all, then by all means go yourself. If you are willing to be honest about your behavior, and be vulnerable enough to admit where you are wrong, you can still see results from individual therapy focused on relationship issues. Once your partner starts to see changes, he or she will probably be more willing to participate with you, which will enhance the results you’ve already received from the individual therapy. Furthermore, a good therapist can uncover unhealthy beliefs, attitudes and patterns of behavior within yourself that you may have been unaware of. Even if this relationship doesn’t work out, you’ll want your next one to, right? By addressing internal dysfunction you greatly increase the likelihood that you will not only attract, but be able to keep, an emotionally healthier and more compatible mate.