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What to do if my wife/husband refuses marriage counseling?

by | Jul 12, 2021

If your wife/husband refuses marriage counseling, you can attend therapy individually and gain your own therapeutic benefits, in addition to hopefully experiencing some positive change in your marriage, such as:

  • Self-discovery and personal development
  • Awareness of your role and how you and your spouse interact
  • Exploring the possibilities of solutions to certain areas of your relationship

This support and individual work might positively impact how you proceed in your day to day life, and in turn, may positively impact your relationship. Also, your spouse may, over time, decide to join you for therapy. Sometimes a therapist, with the permission of the attending client, will personally invite the other spouse. Or he/she may decide to seek his/her own individual therapy, also experiencing the kind of growth that could enhance your relationship. Although, couples work is ideally experienced when both partners are in the therapy sessions together, there are other paths to reaching marital satisfaction.

Here is just one example of how individual work can positively impact your marriage

Anne decides to attend therapy individually. She tells her therapist that her preference was to have her husband attend the session with her, but he refused. Her therapist asked some questions to get to know Anne more and helped her understand how she can still continue her therapy journey without her husband. Perhaps he will join the session at a later time, or perhaps not. Her therapist suggests she gives this individual time a few sessions to see if this is beneficial.

After a few sessions, the therapist asks Anne how she is experiencing her individual work and if she still wants to proceed individually. Anne explains that she has found her therapy time to not only be helpful for her own personal healing and development, but finds herself addressing her husband differently due to some of what was discussed in therapy, which in turn has influenced his communication with her. Although she still prefers her spouse to join her, she sees the benefit to her individual work and decides to continue. Perhaps her spouse decides he will not pursue marriage counseling, but that he may want his own therapist. If so, Anne is satisfied with this next step and appreciates him at least addressing his struggles. This acknowledgment alone could be a step toward marital growth.

Marital growth is still possible!

With this particular example, we can go a step further and imagine what could happen in their marriage, but since each person/couple has unique challenges/strengths, it may be hard to determine. However, it is possible this couple could find more marital satisfaction from their own individual work. Or perhaps, eventually, they do decide to attend marriage counseling. The main point is that for whatever reason they do not enter marital therapy, the possibility remains for marital growth. The positive ripple effects from individual therapy, in conjunction with other life events, although differently imagined, may be their path to success.

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Eleni Paris, LMFT

Eleni Paris, LMFT

Eleni Paris is a licensed marriage and family therapist, working with individuals, couples, and families. She has over 20 years of professional experience including clinical work, workshop and seminar presentations, discussion and support groups, writing contributions, collaborative work with various health professionals, and wellness coaching. Eleni works from a strength-based, family systems approach specializing in Solution-Focused, Emotionally-Focused and Narrative Therapies. Her areas of specialty include relationship coaching techniques that enhance couples' communication, strengthening family bonds between parents and children, and improving one's approach to health and well-being. She is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and has been published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Learn more about Eleni Paris: