Effective Couples Therapy: It’s Not What You Think

Human nature is fascinating. We want change, and yet we resist. We want love, and yet we push it away. We come to Therapy searching for “tools,” and then we don’t use them.

Couples Therapy can be difficult for some couples, especially when they show up to the first session, thinking the partner is the problem, and therefore they expect their partner to change. Expecting the other person to change is a very natural desire. So, let me share two opposite responses and outcomes for Couples Therapy.

The other day I was working with a new couple. During the intake, I learned the wife had been furious with her husband for over two weeks because he’d stayed out all night and refused to apologize. She would not let this go because he could not see her side of the story. During their therapy intake session, the husband became increasingly agitated and stood up abruptly to declare, “I am not going to change!” He then left the room and chose not to return. At that moment, as I sat with this very sad wife, it was clear her husband was unwilling to look at his role in his wife’s distress or ways to improve their relationship in general. Sadly, I suspect those words and actions may have taken them in the direction of divorce.

If he could have stayed with the process, there could have been many opportunities for this couple to learn about their Power Struggle and eventually find relief. Without the willingness of both partners, it’s much harder to shift a Power Struggle because it involves two complicated people with rich histories.