Overcoming Resistance to Marriage Counseling

Are you thinking, “There is no way he’ll agree to marriage counseling” Well, you’re not alone!

Why is he emotionally abusive | Marriage Recovery Center“He doesn’t think we need marriage counseling,” “He says what happens behind closed doors is our business and besides, we’ve tried marriage counseling in the past and it didn’t work.”

Feeling discouraged about your marriage? Praying for change in your husband and your marriage, but see things continuing to deteriorate?

Quotation marksThings don’t change, we do! If we don’t make significant changes, our relationships won’t change.”

– Dr. David Hawkins

If you find yourself saying, “I know that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results. Still, I find myself hitting a brick wall with him.” We can help!


To be fair, it certainly isn’t always the man who resists marriage counseling. Many women resist going to a counselor, indicating they’ve been to counseling in the past and it hasn’t worked for them.

Wanting change, whether from your husband or your wife, requires a very delicate dance. Few lean into the change process. Change, by its very nature, is disruptive and most resist it. Yet, if we don’t go through something disruptive, and don’t look critically at how we are living and relating, we’re not likely to change. If we don’t change, our relationship will continue to decline.

So, you are left to make a critical decision. I ask you to take inventory with these questions:

  • Is your marriage all you hope it to be?
  • Have you outlined a clear path, with clear expectations, about the change you desire?
  • Have you insisted on change, being willing to make the same changes yourself? Have you led the way in making changes?
  • Are you willing to draw boundaries, making it clear that there will be consequences if destructive behavior continues?
  • Have you confronted your own tendencies to enable the situation not to change?

You want significant change. It is possible, but it will require something of you. You must be willing to experience a “breakdown that leads to a breakthrough.” Things must fall apart before they can be put back together in a healthy way.

We can lead you through that process!

Interestingly, you may be thinking he, or she, must have the breakdown that leads to the breakthrough. While that is certainly true, you too must have your own breakdown leading to a breakthrough. You must realize that what you’re doing is not working. You must be willing to experience the disruption that comes from not enabling a destructive process. You must be willing to give up some comforts as you cross over the bridge of change.

Note this Scripture on the process of change and the cost to us:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14: 28)

Now of course this Scripture is not literally talking about money, though that is part of the process. Change requires that we prepare thoroughly for what the change process will demand of us. You will experience disruption to your life. You will likely receive pushback/ resistance. Therefore, you must be clear, concise and filled with an inner conviction that what you want is worthy of your efforts.  

Let’s look a little more closely at the process of change and what marriage counseling can do to help:

First, begin with cultivating clarity.

You must be clear about what it is you need changed. Sit back, perhaps with a trusted friend, and note what you can no longer live with. Is it his temper that you can no longer tolerate? Perhaps it is his lack of empathy? Get clear about the changes you need.

Second, be consistent with yourself and him.

A little change is not enough. Stop telling yourself that you can live with something you really cannot live with. Stop deceiving yourself as this will not serve you in the long run. Arguing and bargaining with him only leads to more conflict and less change.

Third, armed with conviction, let him know what must change.

Prepare to take a stand, and be ready for resistance and greater consequences as you let him know you must have change. Do not engage in argumentation. Don’t try to coerce or manipulate him into change. Let him know that you must have him engaged in counseling with you and this is the only acceptable path for change. Don’t be manipulated into thinking a little change is enough, or that you can do this without expert help.

Fourth, determine the consequences if he resists.

A boundary without consequences is not a boundary—it is simply a hope or a wish. Wishes and hopes have not garnered his respect. It is time for consequences, beginning with something simple and leading to something more severe. He will determine how harsh the consequences need to be—you simply affirm what you need. Have your list of consequences ready and rehearsed.

Finally, follow through with a sense of calm.

Knowing that what you want—his complete involvement in a change process—is reasonable and healthy, you must follow through. While this will likely be met with anger, resistance and even counter-threats, he will ultimately respect you and likely agree to counseling. This may take stopping behavior that enables the destructive aspect of the relationship, and could go as far as a temporary separation. Know that you are doing this for the ultimate good of your marriage.

In summary, marriage counseling is a challenging journey. You will need emotional support as you make changes that threaten you and your marriage. In the end, however, you will both be thankful you took whatever steps are necessary to bring about healthy change.


We’re available to help!

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