I Want to Leave, He Wants Couples Counselling

I Want to Leave, He Wants Couples Counselling

If you’ve landed on this page after searching “I want to leave but he wants couples counselling”, you are likely feeling confused, hurt, frustrated and lonely in your relationship. 

Grappling with the difficult choice of whether to stay in a troubled relationship or leave, is not easy.

After all, when you got together, you had the intention of staying together. 

Even though you know it’s cliche, you really did hope to live happily ever after.

Yet, despite all your hopes and dreams in the beginning, and all your good intentions now, there are days when it seems impossible to continue. 

You’ve lived through too many battles and experienced so many unresolved hurts.  It’s no wonder, at least intellectually, you’re considering moving on.

If you’re wrestling with thoughts of leaving your relationship, you’re not alone.  A study of by The National Divorce Decision-Making Project that surveyed married individuals (ages 25-50) found that 1 in 4 (25%) survey participants reported some recent thoughts about divorce. Of those that had recently thought about divorce, 40% have spoken with their spouse about these thoughts.

Perhaps you are considering sharing these feelings with your partner or, maybe you’ve already made your thoughts known. 

Either way, what’s clear is that they don’t agree with the decision to break up. 

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It’s not uncommon for me to get a call from a prospective client asking “I want to leave, he wants couples counselling.  What should we do?”  

It’s been my experience, that this conversation is often what prompts couples who have let frustration, disconnection and resentment build up in their relationship for a long time, decide to seek couples counselling.  

Because it has been hard for so long, it makes perfect sense that one, or both, of you are skeptical or unsure if counselling can help.

Even if one or both of you have very little hope that things can be different, if you are both are open to exploring the possibility, couples therapy can be very helpful.

However, there are some situations when traditional marriage & couples counselling is not going to be a right fit:

  • If one person is having an affair and does not want to leave their affair partner
  • If one person is committed to separation/divorce and has their mind made up
  • If one person is not willing to attend couples therapy. Attending therapy is not something you want to pressure or talk your partner into. 
  • If there is intimate partner violence and you don’t feel safe 

Can couples therapy help us?

Research studies on the effect of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) consistently show that it decreases relationship distress. These improvements not only happen during therapy, but continue after therapy has concluded. 

EFT is an evidence based therapy rooted in attachment science and neurobiology.  Studies such as “Soothing The Threatened Brain” confirm, through the use of modern science, that therapy can help shape loving feelings between partners and change the way our brains respond to threat and pain.

Marriage counselling can help you;

  • Identify behavioural patterns that are keeping you and your partner stuck 
  • Help each partner can gain new insights about their primary (softer) emotions and learn to communicate these in the relationship
  • Resolve conflict effectively  by first having you experience successful communication in session and showing you how to do it between sessions too
  • Deepen your sense of empathy and connection with your partner as you begin to know them more fully


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I Want to Leave and he Wants Couples Counselling.

You may not be 100% sure that you want to pursue a separation, but you are sure that you do not want to go to couples counselling to talk about restoring your relationship.  

You have expressed your desire to leave but your spouse wants to go to couples counselling. 

Discernment Counselling is designed for you.  

Unlike traditional marriage  & couples counselling which is aimed at rebuilding your relationship, Discernment Counselling is designed to guide you and your partner, through a series of conversations to help you conclude what direction you will move in. 

These conversations help couples, where one person is “leaning out” of the relationship and the other is “leaning in”. Or, in other words, both partners do not have the same goals for their relationship going into therapy. 

How does Discernment Counselling Help Me?

Discernment counselling helps both partners look at their contribution to the state of the relationship.  Part of a Discernment Counselling session is spent 1:1 with a therapist. 

If you are the “leaning in” spouse, you will learn new skills to help you cope effectively in the midst of these difficult circumstances. You will also explore some of the ways you have contributed to the challenges you currently face in your relationship. 

If you are the”leaning out” spouse you will gain greater clarity concerning the difficult decision you are making. The objective of discernment counselling for the “leaning out” spouse is, in part, to help you consider all the implications so that you can feel more certain that you are making the best choice possible.

Following 1:1 time, the three of us will meet together to discuss what each of you have learned in your individual meetings and help you evaluate if you are ready to commit to a course of action- to pursue a separation or to commit to a 6-month course of couples therapy. 

Discernment Counselling is a short term form of help (up to 5 sessions) and is considered successful when both partners have an increased understanding of what went wrong in the relationship and how they want to move forward.

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Will this help me decide if I want to leave?

Making  the decision to stay married or to separate is a very difficult and complex. An experienced relationship therapist can help you individually to sort through your own thoughts and feelings, but, they do not know your partner or their side of the relationship.  

The benefit of Discernment Counselling is that there is a specific roadmap for the therapist to follow.  It is a structured process that can help both of you look at your relationship and the decision you face more objectively  It gives both of you emotional support through the process. 

By the end of the Discernment Counselling sessions, you will have explored these 4 key questions;

-“What has happened to your marriage that has gotten you to the point where separation/divorce is a possibility?” 

-“What have you done to try to fix these problems so that you didn’t get to this point? It might be things you tried individually, as a couple, or with outside help.”

-“What role, if any, do your children play in your decision making about the future of your marriage?” 

– “What was the best of times in your relationship since you met? A time when you felt the most connection and joy in your relationship.” 

If you’ve been struggling with a strained romantic relationship, marriage & couples counselling can be very helpful. I invite you to reach out for a free 15 minute consultation to see if we’d be a good fit to work together, to help get your relationship back on track.I have completed training by the Doherty Relationship Institute as a Certified Discernment Counsellor. I also have extensive training and experience as an Emotional Focused Couples Therapist.
How To Feel Closer in Your Relationship + A Quiz

How To Feel Closer in Your Relationship + A Quiz

If you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time, I’m guessing you’ve experienced misunderstandings and miscommunications between you and your partner.

There is no healthy relationship that is entirely free of disagreements and it isn’t conflict in itself that is problematic. Sure, no one enjoys feeling misunderstood or getting into an argument with someone they love, but in healthy relationships these moments of disconnection don’t change how you see your relationship or the other person.

Partners in connected relationships know how to revisit these difficult conversations and work through it.

Unfortunately, for many couples, over time, these moments of disconnection seem to happen more often and communication seems to become increasingly difficult. Both people begin to wonder what happened to the harmonious connection they had in the early days of their relationship.  

Partners in disconnected relationships feel discouraged by the destructive communication patterns that seem to be keeping them stuck. 

Let me explain with an example about a fictitious couple, whose relationship is much like the ones I see in my counselling practice

You’ve had a long day at work. You are exhausted. Traffic on the way home from daycare pick up was a nightmare and the kids are wailing in the back seat. Mentally, you try to work through the list of ingredients at home in the fridge to figure out what you can put together in a pinch.


 You get home and begin to pull out the ingredients you need and as you reach for the frying pan to cook the meat you realize it is still dirty from the eggs your spouse made this morning. 


All the frustration and overwhelmed feeling from the day begin to spill out. You accuse your partner of being lazy and inconsiderate and of never pulling their weight around the house. They are obviously frustrated. But instead of stepping in and helping, they tell you that they have had enough of your foolish talk and that they are going somewhere where they will actually be fed – McDonalds.

 As the door closes behind them you begin to cry. You feel so overwhelmed, hungry and alone. You still need to clean the pan and put supper together for you and the kids. You wipe your tears and settle the kids at the table with a snack to buy you some time to make supper.

You feel so misunderstood by your partner. How could they not see how hard you are trying and what a horrible day you had. You make a mental note that you will never ask them for help again.

Before bed you spend your down time researching 15 minute meals so you won’t depend on your spouse at mealtime again.

Couples Describe This as a Communication Problem

And while it is true that communication between this couple is a part of the problem, the real issue is much deeper.

The reactive behaviours that each person is showing come from our biological need to know that our most important person is accessible, responsive and engaged.

Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworthy in the 1960s, was applied to the bond between a mother and a child. Ongoing research in this area has shown that even as adults, the need for a safe other to turn to does not go away.


After studying countless hours of couples therapy sessions, Dr. Sue Johnson, the pioneer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, concluded that it is our internal ‘attachment alarms’ that drive these reactive behaviours and contribute to the destructive communication patterns that couples can get stuck in.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is backed by 30 years of scientific research and when practiced by a trained therapist following the model, outcome measures show that 70-75 percent of couples move from being distressed to being close and connected and approximately 90 percent show significant improvements.

In this blog series I will introduce you to Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and hopefully help you and your partner experiment with some new ways to communicate.


What does it mean to be emotionally responsive to your partner?  Think back to the ‘disastrous dinner’ scenario for a second.  While you have that in your mind, I want introduce you to an important concept; emotional responsiveness.  Once you know a bit more about it, I want you to consider whether you think being more emotionally responsive might have helped this couple….and if it might be helpful for you and your partner too.

There is a ton of fascinating  research that shows that our human need to find connection and responsiveness is literally wired into our brains. Check out how this baby responds in this experiment known as the ‘Still Face Experiment.’

Guess what, as adults our behaviour might look different, but we react when we cannot establish a connection with our most important person.  

Knowing this helps Emotionally Focused Couples Therapists see communication breakdown and conflict as a an attempt to have our need for secure connection met.

Rather than viewing either person as flawed or dysfunctional, and EFT therapist would understand this interaction through the lens of unmet attachment needs.

Because of this, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is different than skills training.  It allows couples to have new experiences of actually being there for each other in the therapy room and then apply this in real life rather than giving a list of skills to learn. 

If the ‘disastrous dinner’ couple could recognize that the hurtful exchange described above is a pattern that showed up in part because of a lack of emotional responsiveness, then they could view it differently.   They could revisit the conversation in a way that was more responsive and find new ways to be there for each other.  

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy with a skilled therapist, helps couples slow down their conversations to explore underneath these reactive behaviours to learn more about their unmet needs and how they are playing out in the relationship. 

As Dr. Sue Johnson notes, what truly makes a relationship thrive is emotional responsiveness. 

I’m curious.  Are you in an emotionally responsive relationship?

Here is a quiz that she includes in her book, Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love (which you should definitely read!).

If you want a clearer sense of how responsive you and your partner are towards each other, take the quiz and find out!  

Come back next week for part 2 of this blog series and find out more about how you and your partner can restore closeness and improve communication in your relationship. 

If after checking out this blog post you and your partner realize that you’d benefit from some help to improve the connection and communication in your relationship, let’s chat. You can book a free 15 minute consultation call online or call Tamar at (902) 702-7722 to book an appointment.


I look forward to hearing from you.




Find out more about how we can work together. 

1600 Bedford Highway Suite 220, Bedford, NS B4A IE8, Canada I (902) 702-7722 I info@restorecounselling.ca
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