Navigating the Conversation of Couples Therapy with Your Partner
By: Emily Morris, MSWI
Do you think that you and your partner might benefit from couples therapy? Effective communication is key in any relationship, especially when you are addressing issues in the relationship with your partner. Here, we provide you with a list of dos and don’ts for approaching this difficult conversation.
Dos and Don’ts:
- …Share the benefits of couples therapy with your partner. If you are initiating the dialogue, you have likely already had time to consider the option of couples therapy; recognize that your partner may not have already had this opportunity and may feel caught off guard. Share what you think the advantages of couples therapy will be for your relationship. What outcomes do you think can be achieved through couples therapy? Why do you think it will be effective for your relationship? Be open and honest about your intentions to ensure your partner’s trust while embarking on the therapy journey together.
- …Pick the right time and place. Time and place are an important part of this conversation. Make sure you initiate the conversation when you are in a space you both feel comfortable in and during a time you are both feeling calm. Additionally, make sure that you both have enough time for the conversation and won’t need to cut it short.
- …Use “I” statements. “I” language, rather than “you” language, will help prevent your partner from becoming defensive. For example, “I feel lonely when you don’t pay attention to me” versus “you never pay attention to me” will be perceived very differently by your partner. “I” statements are a more compassionate, less combative communication approach.
- …Respect and acknowledge your partner’s concerns. While it is very difficult to hear criticism, try to see things from your partner’s perspective to understand and empathize with their concerns. This approach will help create a space to openly and effectively discuss your feelings and to feel more understood by one another.
- …Give positive feedback as well. During difficult conversations like this, it is easy to focus on the negatives of the relationship. To create a space for more collaborative and open discussion, tell your partner what you appreciate about them.
- …Choose your therapist together. If you and your partner are equally part of this decision-making process, you both will likely feel more comfortable in the therapy space. Talk to your partner about what you are both looking for in a therapist. This discussion will also begin building a sense of collaboration with your partner, which is an important start for therapy.
- …Bombard your partner with issues/criticism. This approach will not create a space for open communication, as it will likely cause them to feel defensive and become closed-off. It may even cause them to retaliate with their own list of complaints and criticism.
- …Get defensive. If your partner also shares their concerns with you, don’t resort to defensiveness. Instead, listen to your partner to try to understand their perspective.
- …Have unrealistic expectations. In couples therapy, it will be crucial for you and your partner to have realistic goals and expectations for the work you are doing. If your expectations are unattainable, you both will feel frustrated, as it will seem like the other person is not putting in enough effort.
Remember that open communication, respect, and trust will be the most important factors in this conversation. Through this approach, you can initiate a productive dialogue with your partner and begin the journey to positive, long-lasting change.