7 Things to Do When You Think Your Partner Needs Therapy
It’s challenging to see someone you love struggle with their emotions or behaviors. It’s also hard when you recognize that they could probably benefit from professional support.
But encouraging a loved one to seek help can feel uncomfortable. This is especially true if you worry about them becoming defensive or embarrassed by your request. However, if you think your partner needs therapy, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Choose The Appropriate Time and Place
If you suspect your partner needs therapy, it’s important to be sensitive to how you present the subject. In most cases, this means engaging in a private conversation during a fairly neutral time.
As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid having this intimate discussion during high-stress situations. You don’t want to confront your partner when they’re particularly stressed, tired, or while completing an important task. You also don’t want to do it in the middle of a very good time- like when you’re on vacation or out on a special date.
If you aren’t sure when is best, you can always collaborate with your partner. Let them know that you have something you would like to discuss, and ask them to choose a time and place that works best for their schedule.
Express Your Concerns Clearly
When discussing how you feel, it’s important to be honest and compassionate at the same time. You don’t want to sugarcoat around the issues, but you also don’t want to come across as accusatory or harsh.
Expressing your needs clearly comes from a genuine place of assertiveness. It can be helpful to stick with the facts and state what you’ve recently observed. For example, I’ve noticed that you’ve been sleeping in later than usual and missing work a few times this month. I’m concerned you’re struggling.
I-statements are a great way to convey your emotions without blaming someone else. An I-statement may sound like, I felt worried when you had that panic attack last week. I felt helpless and unsure how to support you.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Your partner’s mental health might be impacting your relationship and your well-being. With that in mind, you are entitled to have healthy limits.
For example, it might not feel appropriate for your partner to “dump” their problems or feelings onto you. Similarly, you might have concerns about certain behaviors (substance use, aggression, social withdrawal, spending problems) that you want to address.
When setting boundaries, you need to consider both your limits and your consequences. Boundaries aren’t a punishment. They simply express how you expect others to treat you. They also outline what will happen if others don’t comply.
Show Your Support
Let your partner know that you are happy to help them however they need right now. This may include helping them find a mental health provider, calling their insurance, or even driving them to their appointments.
Remember that offering support doesn’t mean doing the work for them. However, it means that you’re available to unite together as a team to address this essential need.
Support also means being empathic and patient with their progress. Therapy success doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s reasonable for people to experience setbacks along the way. Pressuring your partner to reach certain goals will only intensify resentment or anxiety.
Anticipate Pushback or Anger
It’s normal for people to resist seeking professional help. You should prepare for that outcome in advance.
If this happens, it’s crucial that you avoid becoming defensive yourself. Remember that you cannot make anyone do something. You can, however, remind your partner of your boundaries and let them know that you will support them getting treatment.
You may need to revisit the issue at another time. Unless you intend to uphold a serious ultimatum, it’s usually best to avoid making empty threats.
Discuss Couples Therapy
It’s easy for us to examine problems and assign blame to other people for those issues. This dynamic often happens in intimate relationships.
However, both people play a role in maintaining a certain dynamic. That means you certainly have a part in the problems you’ve identified.
Couples therapy can be helpful for both partners to get on the same page. It isn’t about choosing sides or deciding who is right or wrong. Instead, it’s about coming together to find solutions that promote your relationship’s well-being.
Seek Your Own Therapy (Even When Your Partner Needs Therapy)
Relationships can be taxing, and your dynamic with your partner can affect your own mental health.
So, even if your partner needs therapy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pursue professional support. Many people find that talking about their feelings and needs in a non-judgmental environment provides them with much-needed insight about what to do next.
At Willow Counseling, we are here for you and your partner. Whether you need couples or individual therapy, we can help you improve your communication, learn new coping skills, and strengthen your mental health. Contact us today to get started!
Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.