Half of the people who go to couples therapy are brought in by their partners! Or dragged.
Plenty of people are happy and contented with your marriage, until one day their partner demands that they come and get some relationship help with them?
If that sounds like you - read on.
Guess what? You are in a large group. In most couples there is one partner who is “dragged in”. We call them the draggee. So you are not alone – you may even be a group that is nearly half of all those who go to some form of couples therapy or workshop.
There’s a reason you need to be dragged too. Let’s talk about the draggers for a moment – that’s your partner who wants you to come to therapy with them. What might they be thinking?
They probably aren’t thinking “My marriage isn’t going so well, I obviously need to change the way I behave.” No way. Their plot is simply to drag you in front of a professional who can get you to behave like the perfect partner they long for.
Let’s take a step back and look at this picture from the perspective of the couples therapist. One person doesn’t want to be there, and often doesn’t think there is much wrong. And then there’s the other person who knows that they are completely in the right, and wants the therapist to prove it beyond reasonable doubt so their partner would step up to the mark a bit more.
OK, OK. It’s an extreme picture, few couples are really that polarized, but there’s an underlying truth here that is well known to couples therapists. Many Imago therapists start their workshops by asking the draggees and draggers to identify themselves. There’s usually no doubt, people immediately raise their hand when asked which they were. People are pretty quiet though when we talk about whether one partner secretly believes that they don’t even need to be there, because it’s their partner that needs to be fixed.
If one person believes they don’t need to change, then a relationship can never improve. But then often people don’t want to change because that might mean admitting that somehow they were wrong. So the first thing to be thrown away when you start Imago couples therapy is any sense of who is right and who is wrong. Instead, it turns out that most people act in ways that make a whole load of sense to them. Imago is about discovering more about why your partner makes sense, and through understanding them more, building a stronger connection.
But then things do change. I might do something which makes sense to me, but which makes my wife very uncomfortable. That’s because my actions mean different things to her, and are interpreted in the context of her history.
With my ex-wife, I loved to walk through the countryside, but if the field ahead was full of cows we would need to detour for miles. For me the cows of England were benign statues in the majestic landscape, and all the better if they licked my hand. But she had grown up in countries where creatures were fearsome and potentially violent, and wouldn’t go through the gate into their pasture. This was a big problem in England where many country walks pass through active dairy farms. Without understanding her past I would be livid to find myself bushwhacking through steep forest rather than taking the nice gentle path past the milk sheds.
Who needed to change? Well, in the end my ex-wife changed me for a different model, not because of the cows, but because of all the other things where we simply didn’t understand what was going on for each of us. But the real answer is that we both needed to change, and that the change could be fun. Change is about learning about each other, and finding ways to enjoy each other more.
So next time your partner suggests couples therapy, run don’t walk. It could be the most joyous experience of your life.