Relationship Counseling for Individuals
It sucks to be in a place where you want to seek couples counseling, but your partner isn’t interested. You know your relationship needs changes and having a third party would be extremely helpful to get the changes that you need, that you want.
It is hard enough to open yourself up to counseling and finding the right fit, but even more gut retching when you feel like you are on your own.
So, what do you do when you want help, but your partner doesn’t?
My best answer is to still go.
Sounds weird but relationship counseling doesn’t always have to involve everyone in the relationship. Together, you and your therapist can talk about ways to improve the relationship for you by making small changes. Granted it would be extremely helpful to have the other party present, but that doesn’t mean change still can’t happen.
You can start the process by working through:
your own relationship patterns
how you deal with conflict, and
things that will work to help you be the best partner that you can be
I will go through how working through those aspects within a relationship can help you even if your partner chooses not to join.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP PATTERNS
By diving deep into your relationship patterns, you can learn more about how you repeat cycles, unintentionally (maybe sometimes intentionally), and how that can come about in your relationship. For example, some individuals may not be as vulnerable as they need to be in a relationship which can eventually shut down communication and connection. We may not realize that we are doing this, but it happens. Another common example is individuals who were previously cheated on. They may have trust issues in their current relationship that can often come off with high anxiety behaviors and sometimes even controlling behaviors.
By speaking with a therapist, you can learn how some patterns are either negatively or positively impacting your relationship. Basically, how your baggage is holding you back.
Once you understand your relationship patterns, you can learn how to better cope and have an understanding that this is a different relationship and therefore a different response may be more effective.
Wow … that sounded super clinical. Let me speak like a human. By understanding our baggage, we can learn how to not put our stuff on our new partners and how to communicate what we are feeling in a healthy way.
HOW YOU DEAL WITH CONFLICT
How we deal with conflict can change how we communicate, how we connect with others and how we manage our own negative emotions. To be honest, this can be a game changer in any relationship. Not only your romantic relationship but with family and friends.
By working with a therapist, we can see what triggers are occurring (because we now understand your relationship patterns) and really get to the core of why you are feeling angry, sad, upset, frustrated, etc. A therapist can also teach you how to notice your physical reactions to negative emotions so that you are able to notice when you are feeling triggered by something as well.
Therapy can teach you how to work WITH your emotions, not AGAINST them. This is especially helpful for individuals who tend to shut down and repress their emotions. Our feelings are there for a reason, so we want to make sure we are paying attention to what they are trying to tell us.
Once we understand why we feel a certain way, we can learn tips to better communicate those feelings with our partners.
A therapist can also give you tools to help improve your communication when it comes to conflict, so it doesn’t feel like you are holding it all in like a pressure cooker until things finally explode.
I like to think of it as deactivating a bomb rather than dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophe.
MAKING YOU THE BEST PARTNER YOU CAN BE
Having a third party to work through issues in your relationship can potentially show you how your partner may feel and at times help you see your part in the problem.
Now … a few disclaimers … obviously a therapist who has never met your partner might not COMPLETELY understand what your partner might be experiencing, but as an outside party, they might be close. ALSO, there are situations in which one party must take full responsibility, like with domestic violence. There are no circumstances, at least for me, where that is excusable behavior.
Now that those disclaimers are out of the way. Having some understanding of your partner's feelings in the problem, may help you to think about things in a different light. The process is to not make you feel guilty about your actions, but really to think of it in a different way.
The hardest part about all of this, is understanding that you own a percentage of responsibility in the problem. What percentage? That depends on a variety of factors. But once you can acknowledge your part, you are able to see how you can do things differently next time, talk to your partner and take ownership of it (which I am sure they would appreciate) and work together to find solutions to either work through it or find ways to avoid it altogether.
Therapy can also help you find ways to improve your self-care, which can help with your relationship. Having better mental space and energy can really change how our partners view us and really give more.
Relationship counseling would be best if there are both partners involved, but when one half doesn't want to attend, it shouldn't stop the progress in your relationship. Seeking individual therapy to work out the kinks in your relationship is 100% possible. We can help to seek what is getting in the way of you connecting with your partner and what changes you can make to improve your communication, intimacy and overall satisfaction.
Plus, once your partner starts to see positive changes within you, they may be more open to seek therapy as well.
Written by: Jessica Jefferson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Perinatal Mental Health Counselor and Owner of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services. My passion is helping individuals through heartbreak, whether that is heartbreak with others or heartbreak within themselves. My goal is to be their guide on their journey to their self-discovery so that they can build the life and relationship they want. I am here for when you want to start your journey.