Couples Counseling for One

Couples counseling for one?

It sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn’t it? How can one person participate in couples counseling?

Let me explain.

All relationships will experience ups and downs. Sometimes life with your beloved will move along without a bump. On the opposite end of the spectrum there may be times when you feel helpless to find a resolution to conflict or a traumatic relationship event. 

You may want to pursue couples counseling to learn better communication skills, reduce conflict, work to heal the hurts and emotional pain in your relationship, and move forward in a positive way with your marriage or partnership. You’re ready to seek couples counseling, but your spouse or partner is reluctant to see a professional to address the issues and concerns in your relationship. Attending couples counseling with your spouse or partner is preferred, but if you can’t get your partner on-board, this is when couples counseling for one can be a good alternative.

First, let’s try to understand what may be going on with a reluctant spouse or partner who refuses to go to couples counseling with you:

  • He or she may feel that they will be blamed for the difficulties in the relationship.
  • Conflict of any kind may be something your spouse or partner wants to avoid in any setting.
  • It’s difficult for many individuals to face problems head-on and make tough decisions. 
  • It may be very uncomfortable for your spouse or partner to talk with someone they don’t know, even a trained professional, about the details of their personal life.
  • Your spouse or partner may mistakenly believe that seeing a couples counselor means the relationship is near an end. (And they don’t want it to end!)
  • The belief that he or she has no responsibility in the relationship problems and blames you for the difficulties.

Now that we have some idea of what might going on when your partner rejects going to couples counseling with you, let’s look at some ways to make the most of your counseling without your spouse or partner, and the potential benefits to you and your relationship if you pursue couples counseling for one:

  • Leave the door open for your spouse or partner to join you in counseling. Do not nag, coerce, or make threats if he or she will not go with you.
  • With the help of your counselor, you will learn about your responses and reactions in your relationship with your partner and how you might change those behaviors.
  • Being a role model for how counseling is working for you, and how it is helping you in your relationship, can have a positive impact on your partner.
  • Identifying things that you can change, and learning healthy ways to cope with things that can’t be changed, will also be beneficial to you and your relationship.
  • You can share insights, reading material, and “homework” from your counseling sessions with your partner, which might help remove some of the uncertainty and discomfort of what couples therapy involves.

If your spouse or partner won’t go to counseling with you, couples counseling without your spouse or partner can be helpful. Go to couples counseling alone to understand yourself in the context of the relationship. Positive change in your relationship is possible with couples counseling for one.