Ep. 4 - How Your Marriage Can Change Without Dragging Your Partner into Couples Counseling


When you think of ways to work on your marriage, society has pretty much defined the go-to route as couples counseling.

Counseling is great, however, what if your husband doesn't want to go or what if it doesn't work? Does this mean that your relationship is doomed?

If neither of those work, don’t give up, there are other options out there for you!

To name some... there’s marriage coaching, marriage retreats, marriage workshops, and marriage classes!

If you're in a situation where you feel lost in your marriage, you're unhappy and you don't know what to do next and counseling is not an option, your marriage can still survive and thrive! Your fate is not doomed for divorce or indefinite misery because the most widely known option (counseling) isn’t available.

If you are thinking, “well, my partner didn’t want to go to couples counseling so how would any other method work?” Let’s dig deeper into that question.


We Only Have Control Over Ourselves

We have so much more influence over how we experience our marriage than we give ourselves credit for. There are so many different aspects of what it takes to have a successful marriage that you may not be considering.

If you're like me, it's very easy to think your partner is doing all these things wrong and that if your partner fixes that, then you’ll be happy. However, the problem with that mentality is that there is a lack of responsibility. It is not all on your partner. You might question, “Why do I have to do the work?” And it would be completely understandable. You can sit in that resentful bitterness or you can ask yourself, “How much do I want this to work? Am I willing to bypass my pride and do what I need to do to ensure that this marriage succeeds and know that I did everything I could to aid in that happening regardless of what the result is?”

You could end up happier, more clear, and have confidence that the decision to move forward or away from your marriage was the right decision for you and not from a place of anger.

I love this phrase that a friend recently shared with me, “don't leave anything until you're happy.” This does not mean staying in any situation until it has everything that you want. What it does mean is to not decide to leave until you can make the decision from a clear conscience, and not from a place of anger, resentment, and frustration.


We Can Empower Ourselves to Create More Change

We can empower ourselves to create more change than we give ourselves credit for.

How we deal with things within ourselves, how we approach things, and how we show up as a partner really play a huge factor in how we experience our marriage.

Journaling is a great way to write down our feelings and so I want to invite you to journal on these questions:

  • What's your current baseline?
  • How do you feel in general?
  • How well are you taking care of your own needs? Self-care heavily impacts your happiness, but also your marriage. When you don't take care of yourself, you're coming from a place of depletion.
  • Are your boundaries strong?
  • Are you saying yes to everything?
  • Are you burned out?
  • What kind of a communicator are you? Do you over-communicate? Do you under-communicate? What's your approach?
  • Is your communication aggressive, assertive, or passive?
  • Do you know what you want and need or do you expect your partner to know because you feel like they've spent enough time around you that they should be able to read your mind?
  • How comfortable are you with your emotions and do you know how to regulate your nervous system when you're triggered or activated?


Personal Emotions

When we are high and deep in our emotions, we are not ourselves. If you're highly emotional during a fight, and a part of you has always wondered why no one loves you the way you want to be loved or you feel unlovable, you're going to find evidence in your partner's actions, reactions, words, and body language to prove that right. This is from a part of our brain called the reticular activating system.

Have you ever bought a car and when you go out driving, you notice it everywhere? It doesn't mean that more people suddenly went out and bought the car. It’s just that you are now hyper-focused on seeing that thing and your brain is bringing it to your attention.

Do you know how to self-soothe so that you can show up in the conflict from a grounded place where you're able to respond rather than react? Or are you highly reactive? I go into a place of “we need to talk this out or something bad is going to happen.” I tell myself that he doesn't care about me, which is not true. My brain is just looking for evidence of that. Thankfully, I now know how to regulate my nervous system and see my emotions as a gift. I am now able to take that time to feel my feelings, pause, reflect, and be able to turn around and share my experience, rather than do what I used to do. Before I’d blame, attack, criticize and essentially create this dynamic where my partner became defensive.


How Do You Handle Conflict?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your go-to patterns?
  • When you're in a conflict do you start to play the victim role?
  • Do you start to nag?
  • Do you start to blame, roll your eyes, and cross your arms?
  • Are you in a space where you can listen to your partner?
  • Are you listening to respond or are you listening to just enough so that you can come back with a powerful, but aggressive response?
  • Do you give your partner the benefit of the doubt or do you assume the worst? (My go-to is to assume the worst. I take everything offensively and I very much play the victim. Then starts this whole cycle of them shutting down or not knowing what to say because everything they're saying, even if it's with good intentions, is not being perceived in a positive light.)
  • Is what you're saying and doing, putting them on defense?

This is just scratching the surface of how you could be contributing to how your marriage feels right now in this very moment.


Growth To Show Up as the Right Partner

There is growth in showing up as the right partner rather than only expecting your partner to be the right partner for you. It's about you being able to show up as the right partner, regardless of how your partner's showing up for you. You want to be able to believe with full confidence and pride in how you show up. You want to be able to show up with a lot of agility, and intentionality, and be able to navigate conflict, no matter what gets thrown your way. You want to be able to hold space for your experience, hold strong boundaries in a respectful way, and have the capacity to hear them out as well. You want to have the capacity, patience, and compassion to resolve the issue together as a team.


Patterns in Marriage

However long you've been together with your partner, you two likely have a pattern, or what I call a dance that you do. By now, you may know exactly how fights with your partner are going to end because you're basically doing the same song and dance over and over again. You have created a pattern, a choreography, that you keep dancing to. So, the reason why doing the work on your own can work is because if you just change that pattern, just in the slightest, where instead of stepping forward, you step to the side, you have now opened more opportunities to inject intentionality into there. You have opened an opportunity for your partner to now respond in a different way.

For example, let’s say your partner didn't do the dishes because they were tired or for some other reason and you automatically feel like you are being taken for granted. Whenever you feel taken for granted, you start raising hell. “Why do I have to do everything around this house? How come you can't help me? If you love me, you will do this. Why don't you do this?”

Then your partner feels dismissed because it's almost like you totally disregarded everything that they do. So, then he starts to get defensive and may say some things. Then you start to feel attacked because he's not apologetic. And then back and forth, and back and forth.

However, what if, instead of going down that route of complaining, say, “Hey, I noticed that the dishes weren't done like you normally do them. Are you still able to get to it today?” That would yield a different result from him. There are so many moments in arguments and encounters where you can make a shift, choose to respond, or approach the situation differently. He can then respond in kind, because instead of you doing the whole nagging complaining thing, you have now done this shift, and then they can respond differently. You now have different options and they're dealing with a different version of you. They get to choose how they respond differently.

So no, you do not need your partner to go to counseling with you if that is not an option. Change can happen with only one person focusing on doing the work. As you do the work, you become more of the right partner that your marriage needs. In return, they can be influenced by how you're being because you're no longer being that person that you were before. They get to decide how they choose to be. You can start to see what might happen to potential change that could result in you being different. You can step into a different healthier pattern for your marriage and give your partner the opportunity to respond in a favorable way as well. It’s your choice to show up differently and their choice to show up differently. But at least at the end of the day, you can feel good about showing up as the right partner. You did not intentionally do the relationship harm; you were fully attuned to what was going on. You stayed true to yourself, and you were compassionate and respectful to the relationship.


Focus on Yourself

I have clients that will tell you that this works and this does not absolve your partner from doing the work. One person focusing on doing the work is enough because, at the end of the day, you cannot force their hand to be your puppet and to show up how you want them to be. They decide how they want to show up. All you have to do is focus on yourself: how you are behaving, how you are feeling, and how clear you are about what your needs are. They get to decide if they want to be the person that fulfills that. Your marriage either changes for the better or you get clear that maybe this is not the marriage for you two. Maybe you two would be better off with different people or moving on from this and living separately.

Being happy is the end goal here, not to be married. Ideally, the marriage would improve and change, and everything would be fantastic. But the end goal here is to not force the marriage to be happy. It's to do the work, influence change, and give it an opportunity to grow. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. At least in the process, you have grown as a person, and you will be that much more ready for the next partnership. You will be that much happier because you will love yourself so much more in the process.

You will feel how much you’ve grown, how well you deal with conflict now, and how open and vulnerable you are about your needs. You will know that this had nothing to do with whether you were worthy of love or not. This was just an incompatibility issue.

Just because your partner doesn't want to go to counseling doesn't mean that there's nothing left for you to do. Don't be afraid to do the inner work. How you experience your relationship with yourself truly impacts how you experience your relationship with others. You can only go as deep as you've gone with yourself with other people if you're unwilling to really take a good look at your emotions, sit with them, feel them, learn from them, and learn how the body and mind connection works. You doing that work makes all the difference. 


5 Questions To Go From
Conflict To Connection

Sign up to receive your free guide and weekly tips and support to help you create the life and marriage
you deserve and desire!