It may be that your partner has become too anxious as a product of interpreting your request for counseling as a sign that the relationship is in serious danger, and may only have the strength to defend against the anxiety by denial and non-participation. Your partner may also feel too threatened by the notion that he or she is to blame for your relationship difficulties, and visualizes a therapy session as one in which you persuade the therapist of this unilateral conception. The fear here is that of you being the complaining, “righteous” partner who co-opts the therapist in a biased alliance against him or her. In addition, your resistant partner may not feel as competent to present his or her case to the therapist as you might, since after all, you are fueled by pain and indignation of one kind or another. Again, for this mate, refusing to go to therapy is a way to reduce anxiety, at least short-term.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is useful to examine your emotional stance in the relationship with respect to judging and blaming. Dominating your partner with blame only serves to maintain a power imbalance and your sense of being victimized and deprived. If your partner is the source of blame and judgment and paradoxically still won’t attend sessions, it may be that this person feels hopeless about the possibility of change or too vulnerable to relinquish the role of blamer in order to learn more about the contributions that he or she makes to the problems that are straining the relationship.
Solutions to this problem may be emerge through the use of compassion, an emotional attitude sometimes not easy to find in the midst of the acute pain and anger that are ordinary products of disappointment in love. Recognizing the dynamics presented here may serve as a framework for re-shaping your attitudes about your resistant partner from helplessness, disrespect, and judgment to interest and care about what is very likely to be underlying fearfulness and vulnerability. If you can do that, then you may be able to have conversations with your partner that are characterized by a softer tone, and more demonstrations of true empathy – the ability to de-center and put yourself in your partner’s shoes. This act will have healing potential and effect some change even before you both arrive at the therapist’s office.
If your partner still refuses to attend therapy sessions with you, it is advisable for you to go by yourself. There is much helpful work that you and your therapist can accomplish regarding how you live in the relationship, and as you become stronger, so, like ripples formed by a stone being dropped in water, the positive energies that you bring home may be helpful to both of you, whether or not your partner ever attends.
Author: John Gerson, Ph.D.
~About the author ~
John Gerson is a New York State Licensed Psychologist with 40 year’s experience helping people with a wide range of life problems. His training and experience are diverse, and has equipped him to be a skilled individual, couples and family therapist. He is an institute trained Couples Therapist, having graduated from theWestchesterCenterfor the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.
Dr. Gerson earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Union Institute Graduate School, and holds two Masters degrees in Psychology and Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from Columbia University. Postgraduate training in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy was done at the Washington Square Institute for Psychotherapy and Mental Health and the American Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.
Dr. Gerson has offices in Katonah andNew York City, and holds memberships in the American Psychological Association, the New York State Psychological Association, and the Westchester County Psychological Association. To learn more you can view Dr. Gerson’s profile by clicking here.
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