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  • Writer's picturethriveinc

When you want relationship counseling...but your partner doesn’t.

Have things between you and your sweetheart been “not so great” lately?

Maybe it’s one big issue (like an affair) that’s causing tension. Or maybe it’s not one big thing, it’s a hundred little things. Or maybe you can’t quite put your finger on the issue. It’s nothing specific—more like a general feeling of apathy, boredom, or flatness. The passion has cooled. Your honey feels more like your roommate—a platonic housemate, not a lover.

You find yourself considering some professional help—seeing a therapist, counselor, or perhaps a relationship, sex, or intimacy coach. Problem is, your partner is not interested in doing this. They’re dismissive or even outright hostile about it.

“No way. I’m not going to see a ‘shrink’.”

Now what?

Over the last 25 years, we’ve received countless emails from men and women who ask:

“Should I hire a counselor/coach to work on relationship issues—even if my partner refuses to come along? Even if I’m doing it alone? Or is that pointless?”

Every situation is unique. But generally, our answer is:

“Yes, it is valuable to see a therapist, counselor, or coach to work on relationship issues…even if your partner won’t come with you.”

Why? Several reasons:

1. Because it’s a “win” for you no matter what happens next.

By doing counseling/coaching, you’re investing in yourself. Your mental, emotional, and physical health will improve. Your happiness, health, and wellbeing will increase.

If you stay in your current relationship, this is a good thing, because it means you’ll be bringing your “best self” to the relationship.

If you ultimately decide to leave your current relationship, this is a good thing too, because it means you’ll step from your relationship into single life with more strength and confidence than you might’ve had before.

Either way, thanks to the work you’ve done on yourself, you’re better off. Either way: you win.

2. Because when one person in a relationship changes, the whole relationship dynamic changes, too.

Picture a dance—a duet with two dancers. Both dancers are holding the same pose. Then the first dancer changes to a different pose. Now the whole energy of the dance feels different, even if the second dancer hasn’t moved at all.

The same is true in relationships. For instance, when one person in a relationship learns a positive new skill (like deep breathing/meditation to manage stress levels) now this person can bring this new skill into the relationship. Now, she might handle conflict differently. She might communicate differently with her partner. She might be able to settle her nervous system and speak calmly during a tense moment instead of exploding. Even if her partner hasn’t really changed at all, suddenly, the dynamic between these two people is different.

3. Because your partner might witness your positive growth—and then feel inspired to join you.

We see this happen all the time!

One person—say, Gary—decides to invest in coaching. Through the process of working with a certified coach, Gary realizes that a lot of his relationship unhappiness stems from boredom—boredom not just with his relationship, but with his whole life! He misses things he used to do—like horseback riding, playing tennis with friends, or hiking in nature. He decides to start doing these things again. His husband Mark notices a beautiful change in Gary. Gary seems more vibrant, more alive, more excited about the future, even…sexier. Suddenly, Mark is asking, “So tell me more about this ‘coaching’ thing you’ve been doing lately…” and he’s curious to try it, too.

Often, actions speak louder than words—and results speak loudest of all. Once your partner sees you evolving, growing, and flourishing in a new way, they might change their mind about coaching, and might feel open to trying it—even if they insistently said “No way!” before.

But isn’t it better if two people do relationship coaching at the same time?

It’s wonderful when two people both want to work on their relationship by hiring a coach—at the same exact same moment!

But this doesn’t always happen. More often than not, it’s one person who’s interested in getting professional help—one person who’s “leading the charge,” so to speak—at least at first. But this is okay. As we’ve pointed out, even if just one person (say, you) chooses to learn some new emotional tools, this changes the whole relationship dynamic.

If you want to upgrade your life in any way—by joining a gym, learning to meditate, booking an inspiring trip, or making healthier eating choices—go for it. Even if your partner doesn’t want to join you right away (or ever) this is still a worthwhile, valuable choice for you.

No matter what happens next in your life, investing in yourself is always a good move.

. . .

CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke are the co-founders of Thrive Inc. They’ve spent 20 years helping men, women, couples, and teams to resolve difficult conflicts and create strong, thriving relationships. They’ve written two books: The Beauty of Conflict and The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. They’ve given presentations on conflict resolution, communication, and creative problem solving at Fortune 100 companies like Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, AT&T and Nationwide, and at organizations like the Gates Foundation, University of Washington Medical Center, Cray and Los Alamos National Laboratory, and many others. They also run transformational retreats for couples several times a year, including Couples Alive. They live and work in Northwest Montana.

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