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Do Both Partners Need to Participate in Couples Coaching?

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It happens all too often, when someone calls in and asks me, “Our relationship is in shambles! Can you help?” My next question to them is, “Is your partner willing to participate in the repair process with you?” And what I often hear is, “No, my partner wants me to work on myself first.”

I understand the logic, but what many people do not realize is that, without both people participating in the repair process, couples coaching runs the risk of being unproductive. In some cases, counterproductive!

Why Couples Coaching with Only One Person Can Do Damage

Here are some reasons why it can be dangerous to only have one person regularly meeting with a relationship coach or marriage counselor:

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!

Many partners are clueless about what is at the root of their partner’s deepest pains and frustrations about the relationship. Believe me, I ask all the time when I speak with each person, and most of them truly don’t know!

So, given how unaware spouses can be about what’s at the root of their marital strife, what do we expect will happen by sending one partner off alone to go see a therapist about their relationship problems? That they’ll come back somehow magically enlightened? Chances are just as great that they’ll end up talking more about what they don’t know! The last thing you want is to leave room for your partner and therapist to do a lot of guessing and assuming about you, rather than working off of actual knowledge! And worse is when the therapist ends up only reinforcing your partner’s perspective, rather than teaching them to understand you better, too. 

That is why there must be equal representation in couples coaching. And for something like repairing a relationship, that’s a no-brainer. 

Context Is Everything

When it comes to understanding what is hurting a relationship, context is everything. This is especially because people are really good at presenting themselves as the victim and their partner as the villain in the relationship, even without maliciously intending to do so. 

A skilled relationship coach or couples therapist knows better than to fall into that trap. But the problem still remains: Since he or she doesn’t have both people in the room, what else do they have to go off of? There’s no way to fact check or ask the necessary questions. The whole thing exists in a vacuum of one person and their biased retelling of the relationship story. 

A Relationship Coach or Marriage Counselor Might Give Bad Advice

Given everything we’ve discussed, a coach or counselor can end up giving bad advice based on incomplete information. Many horror stories have been told about couples counseling that has encouraged separation without ever having met both partners! This is unconscionable, in my opinion. There’s always more than what meets the eye than what one person is telling you.  

That being said, it’s important to remember that even the best relationship coaches and marriage counselors out there are still people, capable of being swayed. There’s also the temptation to please the client by saying exactly what they want to hear. And who does that end up helping? 

An intuitive counselor will be able to put many of the pieces together even with so few clues available to them, but even then, it’s nowhere as good as having both perspectives from both people to draw from. 

Teamwork Is Motivating in Couples Coaching

There is nothing like teamwork that gets the juices flowing in your relationship! With you and your partner getting more and more on the same page–having learned the same lessons, doing the homework together, and working towards the same goals–you see the progress unfolding in front of your very eyes. Change feels tangible and measurable. 

But if you are doing the homework alone–it is much more difficult for your partner to recognize and appreciate the effort you are putting in. That, in turn, makes progress much slower and can feel de-motivating.

A Relationship Is Always a Dance Between Two People

As a relationship repair professional, it’s never a good sign to me when one person in the relationship is unwilling to participate in a joint couples coaching process. It indicates that either the unwilling partner has a one-sided view of who’s at fault in the relationship or they have an unrealistic view of what is needed to repair a relationship. 

It is critical that both people are willing to be self-reflective and introspective for the repair process to work best. This means being willing to look at your own role in the relationship and taking responsibility for your part in unhealthy patterns and damages. It also means being open to change and willing to work on yourself. After all, a relationship is always a dance between two people. 

Separate Couples Coaching Creates Resentment

For partners who attend therapy alone, they often express feeling like they’re putting in a lion’s share of the effort. This obviously can create more feelings of resentment in the long-run and do more damage than good. 

It Heightens Anxiety

Time and time again, I’ve seen couples feel anxious that despite their partner undergoing individual couples coaching for weeks, if not months, nothing in their marriage seems to get better–maybe even worse! That is when one partner in the relationship starts to feel the growing fear and doubt whether the advice their partner is getting in therapy is truly objective and balanced or merely a venting session! Unfortunately, their fears aren’t unfounded. 

Is Individual Coaching or Counseling Ever Appropriate?

The answer is yes. Below are a few instances when individual work is helpful:

  • When you are doing individual coaching or counseling in addition to couples coaching or counseling.
  • If, after both you and your partner have met with your coach or counselor, they recommend each of you do some individual work before, during, or after the program. 
  • Or if your partner has already completely checked out of the relationship, and you are trying to get help recovering your relationship. 

How to Get the Most Out of Couples Coaching

The bottom line is: couples who choose to work on their relationship alone or separately can have it backfire. And the advice they receive, even from a professional, can hurt your relationship more than help it. 

Couples coaching is safest and most effective when both partners participate. When both partners are involved in coaching, they each have the opportunity to learn something about themselves they might not otherwise have learned had they done it alone or separately. And together, they can gain a better understanding of their partner’s needs and perspectives. 

For relationship repair to work, it takes two. 

Repair Your Relationship with Kairos

If you’re struggling in your relationship, Kairos can help. Our proven method of helping couples repair their relationships and build a stronger foundation for the future has worked for hundreds of couples and can for you, too.

Our formula helps couples break out of old cycles of anger and resentment to rebuild trust, restore respect, and rediscover their love for one another. We help partners address deeper issues that may be causing problems in the relationship and offer a variety of resources that can help couples learn more about themselves and their partner.

What to Expect from Kairos

When you come to Kairos for help, you can expect to receive compassionate, non-judgmental support from an expert. We’ll work with you to create a customized plan that meets the unique needs and goals of both you and your partner. And we’ll be there with you every step of the way, providing guidance and support as you work to improve your relationship.

Take the first step towards repairing your relationship and contact us today to schedule a consultation.