Last week, I responded to a question from a commenter regarding a spouse who’s resistant to going to marriage counseling.
After breaking the question down into two concerns, today I’m addressing the second concern …
The short answer is “yes,” but you still have to accept and deal with where your spouse is.
Like I mentioned last week, it’s unwise and counter-productive to try to manipulate or force your spouse into doing anything, including going to counseling.
Part of accepting and dealing with this resistance means understanding your spouse’s negative feelings regarding his past counseling experience. This involves developing empathy.
Ways to Develop Empathy
1. Pray regularly for your marriage.
Pray that God would open your eyes and heart to the hurts and fears of your spouse. No one can help us comprehend our spouse’s heart better than God.
2. Forgive your spouse.
Make a decision based upon the forgiveness you’ve received from Christ to act in a forgiving and loving way toward your spouse.
This is “Decisional Forgiveness” and if you continue to harbor resentments toward your spouse after making this conscious choice, then you’ll need to work through an “Emotional Forgiveness” process.
A great book to help you through this is Forgiving and Reconciling by Everett Worthington. Reading and truly working through the exercises he suggests will help your resentments to lift and your heart to heal.
3. Respectfully ask your spouse to open up about his/her bad counseling experience.
If you do this lovingly and respectfully, making understanding your spouse’s feelings your only agenda, you’ll cultivate trust in your marriage. Who knows? Maybe your spouse will be more open to trusting a counselor again because of your support, understanding and empathy.
Avoid any suggestion that you’re trying to talk him into going to counseling with you. If you have any lingering frustrations about his resistance to counseling, then put off this conversation until you are able to freely offer comfort and a listening heart.
4. Use Reflective Listening.
This communication technique is not just for the conversation, noted above, but for all of your conversations.
Reflective Listening will help you to understand and access the emotions of your spouse (and others)—improving empathy. Click here for a Reflective Listening Exercise.
5. Journal about your feelings.
Becoming in-tune with how “you” feel will help you tune into other’s feelings, including your spouse’s.
Empathy will bring you and your spouse closer together and could, in time, resolve the need for counseling.
But if you have practiced these steps and still feel that counseling is necessary, then consider asking your spouse if you could talk through issues with a counselor or pastor on your own. Many counseling-resistant spouses are fine with the other spouse going without them. They often end up breathing a sigh of relief, easing tensions in your home.
Most of all, remember that going to counseling on your own can be very empowering for you. With the help of a counselor or pastor, you can find support and new ways to cope with your difficult marriage.
If you really give yourself to the process, your attitude and behavior will improve over time. This may just be all the incentive your spouse needs to reconsider going to counseling along with you.