Forced Into Therapy

Feel like you are forced into therapy by a loving partner?

Feel like you are forced into therapy by a loving partner? Do you feel like your partner is “nagging” you to go to therapy for a problem you don’t believe you have?  Perhaps they are “sending” you to therapy because they believe you have a problem.  It can be difficult to see their side of the story; however, it is important that you try.  If you want your relationship to work it is critical that you respect your partner and try to understand their perspective.  A great way to understand what your partner is thinking is to ask them.  After you know what they think the problems are you can then make sense of what your partner believes and hopefully start seeing things “eye to eye.”  This might seem like an impossible task, but believe me; it is easier than you think.

First ask your partner to identify what they believe the problems are by brainstorming.  As your partner brainstorms out loud make a list of all the things your partner is saying.  Listen to everything and do not react to what they are saying–just listen.  Of course, this is easier said then done; however, it is important that you are not challenging your partner during this exercise.  Sit back, relax, and listen to what they really have to say.  After your partner has had an opportunity to finish generating a list, go over each point with your partner and ask them to elaborate.   Each point your partner makes has two points: (1) the impact this problem has on the individual (you or your partner) and (2) the issue this problem generates for the relationship.  For example, if your partner says: “You are out late and don’t tell me where you are going.”  When asked to elaborate it might sound like this: “When you are out late I worry about you.  I always imagine that the worst has happened and that you are not OK.  Additionally, sometimes I worry that you don’t value our relationship.  If you did, you would come home earlier.  Lastly, if we were a real team than you would always ‘check in with me’ and tell me what you were up to.    I would just like to know, generally, where you are and what you are doing so that my imagination doesn’t get the best of me.”  Now if you look at this elaboration from the two angles discussed above you could see: (1) my partner gets anxious when I have unaccounted time and (2) this lack of trust creates an unhealthy dynamic in this relationship.  I feel controlled and she feels excluded.  Healthy relationships feel safe for both people.

After your partner has addressed his or her concerns with you and you have had the opportunity to ask your partner to elaborate, read the list back to him or her and make sure you have accurately recorded everything that was said.  After reading the list ask your partner “Did I get it?”  Asking this question makes sure that you heard your partner correctly.  Your partner may say “yes,” or could say “no, I meant _____.”  It is important to make sure you heard them correctly because you are striving to understand them.  After all, you can’t understand them if you have the wrong information!  After you have clarified their list, ask “Is that all?”  This gives your partner the opportunity to add anything they may have previously forgotten.  Often, after hearing things out loud we are able to determine if that is what we were truly trying to say, or if we left out something.

Now that you have asked your partner to identify the problems, you can then ask them to identify how exactly they perceive the problem to be affecting the relationship.  Ask your partner “How would our relationship look different if all of the problems you just identified were magically fixed?”  Try to imagine what the other person is feeling if this is their view of the situation–whether you agree with their interpretation or not.  Either way, recognizing how your partner perceives the problem helps you to make sense of what they think and why they are thinking that.  An example of a possible response is: “I will feel safer opening up with you.”  Now take a moment and imagine what your relationship would look like if she/he felt safer with you.

  • More Freedom: her / his need to know where you are at every moment might decrease, thus you would experience more “freedom.”
  • Improved Mood:   increasing connection through simple forms of communication, such as letting a partner know when you will be home and frequently calling to check in.  Additionally if you are running late, calling your partner to share this information helps a partner feel cared about.  You took the time to see how your actions impact him / her.  Feeling cared for improves ‘safety’ which is a critical component of healthy sex.
  • Better Sex: by letting your partner into your world (ie including them when you go out, and merging friends, decreases your partner’s anxiety about your having affairs, caring about him/her etc.  Decreased anxiety makes a partner much more fun to be around. Positive energy in an intimate relationship makes it safer for the person to be lighthearted in the bedroom.

Since you now have an understanding of the story that your partner tells herself about your behavior you are in a better position to respond to her concerns.

Before responding, take a few moments and remind yourself that your partner’s concerns are coming from a loving place.  Your partner is concerned because he / she care about you.  Often when a person is suggesting that another individual go to therapy it is because they no longer know how to help that individual.  They want the best for you, but they have reached a point where they don’t know how to help.  By going into therapy at the suggestion of your partner, you are sending a message that you care and are actively trying to take care of yourself.  After all, by making yourself better you are inevitability making the relationship better as well.  And finally, if you enter therapy to truly reap the benefits of therapy you are giving yourself an unwanted gift.  Therapy is all about providing an open atmosphere where you are free to talk about yourself.  In this unique process you will have the opportunity to explore issues that you have not previously thought about before; therefore, you be expanding and growing as an individual.