“Why would I pay good money to sit in a room for an hour and be lectured to by someone who you’ve probably already convinced that I’m complete arse-hole?”
It’s not an uncommon sentiment. After 15 years of supporting couples to work through their relationship conflict, I’ve heard multiple versions of this, reported by individuals who have come alone, hoping to pave the way for a process that will at some point (fingers and toes crossed) include their partner.
It’s easy to sit in judgement of reluctant partners and spouses as lacking emotional courage, or not being committed to doing what it takes to save their relationship. But the reality is, for some people, this stuff is really hard and many of us (here’s where gender often comes in) just weren’t socialised to understand our feelings, let alone talk about them.
If you are one of the ‘way-pavers’, let me offer some pre-emptive responses to my top five most common themes of partner resistance. Strategically shared, the offerings below may help lower the barriers that stand in the way of you and your partner getting support to move from toxic conflict to a more connected and fulfilling relationship.
#1. “I don’t have time”
Many partners struggling with their relationship are also balancing a busy work life and childcare responsibilities. There simply will never be enough time. But like a house, a relationship requires regular maintenance if you want to avoid major structural repairs down the road. Most counselling and coaching services provide online facilities now, removing travel time and offering access from the comfort of your home. We all have the same twenty-four hours in our day and we all have to prioritise what is most important to do with those hours.
#2. “We can’t afford it”
Consider the things you regularly fork out for, as part of your preferred lifestyle – Holidays; Concerts and sporting events; new clothes and accessories; gym memberships or classes; restaurants, bars and take-away food, etc. How much do you spend on these things every year and which of them is more important to you than your relationship?
Most of us know of at least one couple whose relationship conflict eventually descended into a messy separation and costly court battles, including hefty lawyer’s fees and the disentanglement of assets. They often realise, a little too late, that an early investment in the resolution of relationship conflict can save thousands of dollars and a whole lot of heartache later on.
#3. “He’s probably already taken your side”
It is the job of any Relationship Coach, or Counsellor, to hold multiple stories and perspectives, and respect the value of each person’s experience. My work with couples begins with a solo session with each party, followed by a third session all together. This enables me to give attention to each person’s uninterrupted story and also allows everyone time to gauge whether or not this is the right fit. Take your time to find a practitioner who feels like a fit for you both and request a preliminary phone or video conversation (if it’s not automatically offered) so you can make an informed choice about who to work with.
#4. “Our relationship problems are private” / “We’re doing fine.”
Views towards consulting a professional stranger about your relationship problems are informed by the cultures and family values by which you were raised. Times of crisis are an opportunity to revisit these values and consider the benefits of trying something new, particularly when the future of your partnership or your family unity hangs in the balance.
What may seem like a small issue for one partner may be experienced as particularly significant for the other. You don’t have to both agree on the seriousness of the situation before you decide to address it. A problem for one partner is a problem for the relationship and, as such, requires the attention of both parties. Sticking your heads in the sand never works out well if the goal is a healthy, connected relationship.
With a wide range of support professionals out there today, you can be in the driver’s seat. Do your research and find an appropriately qualified practitioner who is right for you. For some, the gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation may be important, whilst others may focus on qualifications and practice frameworks. For others still, it is the unspoken feeling of safety and trust you experience when you find the right practitioner for you and it just ‘clicks’.
#5. What if it just doesn’t work for us?
You should never be locked into something that you can’t exit, without penalty, if it’s just not working for you. At A Single Step we offer flexible, affordable packages, with the aim of getting you the results you need in a relatively short period of time. The focus of the third session is laying out the map of the proposed journey over the coming weeks. If at this stage you choose, for whatever reason, not to proceed, you go with our very best wishes and an open-door policy, should you ever choose to pick up where you left off.
There’s no hiding the reality that putting your relationship under the spotlight is likely to feel uncomfortable at times and will require a degree of emotional courage. But the benefit of taking this step is the real possibility of embarking on an adventure that will deepen and strengthen your connection with your partner, towards a happier, healthier and more fulfilling relationship.