Updated: Apr 24
"We don't need a therapist's help, our problems aren't that bad!"
"What will a therapist tell us that we don't already know?"
"Couples therapy is expensive, we can figure it out on our own."
Perhaps you've heard some of the above objections when suggesting couples counseling for you and your spouse, and you're starting to think you've married the most stubborn person in the world. There's tons of reasons you partner will come up with as to why you don't need the help of a therapist. So what's the key to getting even the most stubborn of spouses to join you in attending couples therapy? Before we get to the secret behind how you can convince your significant other, its important to understand from where their opposition to your idea is coming.
Psychological Resistance: Understanding The Science Behind A Reluctant Spouse
Sure, you know your spouse is resistant to the idea of therapy. But have you considered that there may be an actual scientific reason behind their reluctance? Your spouses resistance to the idea is in part related to the principle of psychological resistance. Psychological resistance is a person's internal unwillingness to change when they are being pushed to alter their actual self to become their ideal self. Such mental resistance is often accompanied with counteractive, oppositional behavior. In other words, your spouse may know that problems exist in the relationship, but they are struggling internally to accept the changes necessary to fix those problems.
Okay, so now you know why your partner is reacting negatively to the suggestion of seeking couples therapy. What's the secret to changing their mind?
The Secret to Persuading A Stubborn Spouse: Leverage Logos, Pathos, and Ethos
Do those words sound familiar? Perhaps you'll recall learning about them in your high school English class. Each of those Greek words are components of a persuasive argument. Good persuasion effectively leverages all three elements. In fact, these elements are so efficacious in altering people's behavior that marketers are always using them in marketing efforts. You can see evidence of pathos, ethos, and logos in 99% of TV commercials. Moreover, the same elements used for persuading you to buy "The World's Best Frying Pan" can also be used for compelling your partner to go to couples counseling with you. The secret is to leverage these three elements of persuasion in a calm, collected manner. Here's how.
1. Know The Facts (Logos)
Every good argument has an element of logos, or logic, as a backbone of the argument. Begin by appealing to the logical standpoint of attending therapy. Contrary to your spouse's belief, most couples report having greatly benefitted from attending couples counseling. In fact, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists conducted a research study that found that 98% of couples that attended marriage therapy reported high satisfaction with their experience. In addition, a staggering 97% of those couples reported that they got what they needed to work through their problems better. Those numbers are remarkably high, and while they likely won't be enough reason to convince your spouse alone, they're good to know for overcoming the notion that couples therapy won't work for you.
Quick tip: If your partner raises their voice, don't raise your voice back. As tempting as it is to match their intensity, try to remain calm and collected. He/she will not be persuaded if you are exhibiting the same oppositional hostility in the conversation that they are.
2. Focus on The Benefits (Pathos)
While your spouse likely has a negative outlook on the idea of counseling, it is paramount that you provide the positive perspective. Relaying the benefits to them is a great way to appeal to the pathos, or the emotional aspect of persuasion. Focus the conversation on how counseling can provide you the right tools to grow together, settle disputes faster, increase overall happiness, and even save your marriage. Also let them know that couples seeking therapy are more prevalent than ever. Illustrate for them the connection between how getting therapy can allow your relationship to flourish and grow to new heights. Painting the picture of where your marriage could be with the help of a marriage counselor can be a powerful technique for eliciting hope and inspiration for your spouse.
Remember: have patience and give your significant other the time and space to think things through. Rarely does one change their mind about seeking therapy overnight. Stay positive and consistent and allow your partner to dwell on your proposition.
3. Find The Common Ground (Ethos)
How then can you appeal to the ethos, or credibility factor, in your attempts to persuade your partner? One way politicians use ethos when trying to win over the vote of a crowd is to highlight the commonalities they share. A similar approach could be useful for you and your spouse. Establishing the common ground between the two of you is a great start. Presumably, you both want what's best for the relationship, and agree that a problem does indeed exist. Hopefully, you can both also agree that something needs to be done to fix said problem. In agreeing that something needs to change for the sake of the relationship, you have aligned yourselves to work together to achieve a common goal, whatever that goal may be. It could be fighting less, better communication, or even saving the marriage.
The key is to align yourselves with a shared commonality so as to minimize opposition and promote a team-oriented mindset.
Remain Positive, Sincere, and Give It Time
Ultimately, you know your spouse better than anyone and you should follow your instinct on how best to approach them. Incorporate the elements of persuasion throughout your conversations to most effectively communicate the need for counseling. Remember to always speak calmly so that the conversation avoids unnecessary escalation. And don't expect your partner to change their mind after the first conversation of applying the concepts in this article: have patience and stay positive. Try to establish common ground so that you can both be on the same page with where you want to improve the relationship. Finally, remember that your spouse is only human. Their outward opposition is likely the result of an inward transition that is needing to be changed, so give them time and be consistent.