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Couples Counseling for One: How to Fix a Marriage When Your Spouse Refuses to Go for Therapy by Howard J. Markman, PhD University of Denver

I recently came across a very insightful article written by Howard J. Markman, PhD from University of Denver. I found it very interesting and thought that maybe some of my followers could benefit from the suggestions of Mr. Markman. Have you tried any of these suggestions? If so, please give me your feedback on how it worked for you.


Couples Counseling for One: How to Fix a Marriage When Your Spouse Refuses to Go for Therapy

(Author: Howard J. Markman, PhD University of Denver)

If you want to get help for your marriage but your partner is not interested in counseling, don’t give up on the idea. Your marriage still can benefit even if you seek help on your own.

At the University of Denver, our team studied more than 300 committed couples taking part in the Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP). This program teaches skills for communication, conflict management, preserving positive connection and enhancing commitment. Women who attended the program by themselves had as much improvement in their relationships as women who attended with their partners.

The reality is that just one person’s efforts can make a positive difference in a relationship.


For one-person couples therapy to be effective, both spouses must be willing to work on the marriage – it isn’t the right approach if yourpartner has given up or moved out or is having an affair.

To introduce the idea to your spouse, you can say, “I think we need some help to make our marriage better. What do you think?” If your partner is not intersted in going to counseling, say, “Areyou open to the possisibility of me going on my own? Would you be willing to try some of the things I learn?”

Look for a therpist or a relationship coach who uses an evidence-based approach, such as PREP or another form of cognitive behavioral couples relationship education and therapy. Organizations that provide contact information for local therapists include the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies ( . . the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy ( . .and my own organization,, which focuses on helping women help their relationships.

Interview prospective coaches and therapists over the phone to find out about approach and background. Explain that you are planning to come in on your own to work on your marriage.

Your therapist may coach you on how to talk constructively about challenging issues and keep conflicts from escalating. Here are some of the skills taught in PREP that can put you on the road to solving problems in your marriage…


You and your partner agree that when a discussion gets heated, either of you can stop the interaction and agree to start over later. Together, decide ahead of time what words you will use to stop the discussion. Examples: “Time out”. . .”Let’s hit the brakes and talk later, OK?”

Important: Don’t use this as an excuse to avoid difficult issues. Agree to return to the topic more calmly– generally within 24 hours or at a regularly scheduled couples meeting.


This simple PREP technique called “speaker/listener tool” lets you discuss sensitive topics without arguing.

You and your partner take turns speaking. Use an everyday object such as a book or pen to indicate who has the floor. This way, it’s clear who is speaking and who is listening. The more structure, the better when it comes to handling conflict as a team.

The first speaker holds the object and talks about his thoughts, feelings and concerns about the issue.

The listener then paraphrases in her own words what the speaker said, being careful not to rebut or offer her own thoughts. Later, when she has the floor, she can

A good way to paraphrase is to begin with, “What I hear you saying is…” or “Sounds like you think [feel, want]…” If the paraphrase is not accurate, the speaker gently restates and clarifies.

Partners then switch roles. We suggest a 15- to 20-minute meeting, and then you can continue
the conversation for another 10 minutes if both of you agree.

Important: Agree not to try to solve the problem while using this technique. A problem-solving focus makes
listening and understanding more difficult.


Fun is essential to a healthy marriage, but many couples make less and less time for it. One of our surveys found that the average couple goes out on a date only
about once every two months.

What to do: You and your spouse write down on index cards three fun things to do that week that can be done within your time frame and financial situation.

Examples: Take a walk (no issue discussions). . .read a book to each other. . .give each other massages. . .go
to a ballgame, the theater or a concert. . .play a board game or cards. . .kiss
10 times a day.

Exchange cards, then each choose a card from the three and arrage that activity. This
way, a couple does two fun things each week.



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