Can I Go to Marriage Counseling Alone?
We get this question a lot. When should you go see a marriage counseling alone? Would you go see a marriage counselor alone? Let’s look at why going to marriage counseling alone can be beneficial for you and your relationship.
An Example Scenario
First, think of the following scenario.
You are gearing up for the holidays. The number of tasks to do before the end of the year increases. Your stress level begins to creep up. Your free time dwindles. Finally, you get sick.
This is the perfect set up for an unhelpful dynamic to flare up between you and your partner.
As you become more rushed, tired, and less patient, you may feel unsupported or taken for granted. Your partner uses his own tactics that erode your regard for him/her.
This makes you feel justified in your decision to take out your own “weapons of mass destruction” to get back at your partner (you know what they are). And then, you are off to the races. Things start escalating and spiraling out of control. You think, again, that you made a mistake picking this person as your partner all those years ago. You’re determined to call that marriage counselor a friend recommended so long ago. But, your partner is so offended that he/she refuses to go with you.
It’s common for me to get a lot of calls after the holidays when people seek help to improve their relationship. It’s a high-stress period and prime time for tensions between partners. Even in other scenarios, there might be a relatable last-straw event that may motivate you to seek relationship counseling.
If you are like most people, you may agree or somewhat agree with the following statements:
- You have tried everything
- You think your partner is more to blame than you are (i.e. you think giving the silent treatment is much worse than screaming)
- You know or you wonder why your partner does what he/she does
- You assume the worst intentions on his/her part first
Seeing a marriage counselor on your own can:
- Help you think of things to try that you have not thought of before
- Work with you on what to say to your partner regarding your own contributions to the relationship’s problems
- Talk you out of diagnosing your partner
- Change the way you think about your partner’s intentions
Focus on the Relationship, Not the Individual
I often work with individuals alone and I do marriage counseling. My client is the relationship, not the individual, and I can do this whether the other partner is present or not. Of course, in the long run, it’s usually more beneficial (and faster) for the other partner to be present, although not always.
After I coach a client on how to talk to their partners after the session, it is not unusual for the partner to agree to come to counseling. This doesn’t mean that all relationships can get better. Sometimes, it is simply too late.
However, if your partner doesn’t agree to go with you at first, it does not necessarily mean that they are not committed to the relationship’s success. It may mean that your partner’s hope that you will change is too low. You might simply have to make the first move.