Heartbreak

How To Get A Man To Go To Therapy

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Woman smiles at her partner up close

How do you get a man to go to therapy? As a couple’s therapist who also sees individuals, I’ve been asked this question many dozens of times — literally.

It’s not always the woman asking, sometimes it’s the man who is trying to get therapy to happen. But whatever your gender, when you know you and/or your partner really need some guidance and help and your partner refuses to go, it can be incredibly frustrating.

Why are some folks so resistant to going to therapy, especially men? There are three primary reasons I’ve seen.

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Three primary reasons men resist therapy

1. They fear it will cause more problems than it will solve.

For some, going to therapy seems equivalent to opening a Pandora’s Box. Those who think this way tend to feel that if you don’t talk about it, it isn’t real. Therapy feels like a threat that could make things worse.

2. They are afraid of having to deal with feelings (yours and theirs).

Men have just as many feelings as women, but most men are much more comfortable living in the world of actions and facts, not feelings. Feelings are massively important and are actually the driver of most actions, but they can be complex and messy and seem illogical.

It’s like a scary world they would rather avoid, and therapy threatens to make them go there by talking about these feelings.

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3. They think you’re blowing things out of proportion.

You may sense a problem long before your partner does. You may be struggling in your relationship while your partner thinks everything’s just fine.

This mismatch happens when you’re partner is someone who doesn’t think deeply about things. “Why can’t you just be happy?” might be a common refrain, a question that skates across the surface and avoids the true complexity of your natural, healthy feelings and emotional needs.

If you sense that your guy is a surface-skater or feelings-avoider, chances are high that he grew up in a family that avoided discussing or dealing with emotions.

These emotionally neglectful families, often inadvertently, teach their children how to dwell on the surface of life, avoid talking about significant issues, and ignore their own feelings, as well as others’ feelings.

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But emotional neglect is not a life sentence. It is entirely possible to grow beyond that, especially if you have someone who loves you push you to do that.

If you find yourself in this dilemma, you may have already tried some of the strategies most people in your situation try. You may have begged, cajoled, reasoned, or bribed. You may have shouted or cried or insisted. You may have even decided it’s impossible and give up.

But, don’t give up, there are things you can do. The key is to find out what’s really blocking them from trying therapy and then address it directly with them by helping them feel better about it.

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6 steps to get a man to go to therapy:

1. Present your concerns about your relationship and, in an even more careful way, about him in particular, in a non-judgmental, non-blaming, balanced way.

Balanced, in this case, means kindness, thoughtfulness, and empathy. Avoid using extreme words like “always” and “never.”

2. Own your own part of whatever is going wrong.

No one listens when they feel accused or when their defenses are up.

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3. Ask what his concerns and objections are.

Listen carefully, and repeat back to what you heard him say, making sure he feels you understand. Note: You don’t need to agree with what he says, you just need to demonstrate that you hear it.

4. Then offer solutions to help him feel more confident and less afraid.

Examples: “I promise not to blindside you with anything in front of the therapist,” “If something makes you uncomfortable you can tell me,” or “Just commit to 3 meetings and if you hate it, we can find another therapist or you can stop.”

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5. As a last resort, give a soft ultimatum.

“If you want me to be happy in this relationship, we’ll have to go to therapy.”

6. If all fails, try a hard ultimatum:

“If you don’t go to therapy, I won’t be able to stay in this relationship.” But never use this one unless you are fully prepared to follow through.

If nothing works, then it’s time to turn your attention away from your partner and direct it toward yourself. It’s time to start thinking about yourself and your own feelings and needs.

Imagine being in this relationship five years from now with nothing changing. How will those 5 years feel for you? Do you believe that you deserve to feel that way?

If your partner refuses to go to therapy, you can take your power back by going yourself. A therapist can help you sort out what’s best for you.

I have seen many lovely people stay fully committed to a person who is stuck in a mire of their own stubbornness. I’ve noticed most tend to err on the side of staying too long vs. leaving too soon.

If you love your partner and care about him, you may sympathize with his fear of looking at himself too closely or deeply. You may feel bad about pushing him to do that for you. But, in reality, you are asking him for something loving and healthy, not something harmful.

Take comfort in that fact, and make the decision that’s best for you. Fixing a relationship takes both people. And you can’t help someone more than they are willing to help themselves.

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Jonice Webb has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and specializes in childhood emotional neglect. She is the author of the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

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