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. 

I want to leave he wants couples counselling discernment counselling Bedford Halifax

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


should I end relationship counselling Bedford Halifax

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.

discernment counselling couples counselling  Bedford Halifax

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.
3 Ways Individual Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

3 Ways Individual Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

Even happily married couples can hit obstacles along the way. Did you know that individual counselling can be helpful, even when your partner is not interested or able to attend couples therapy.

John Gottman, is an American psychologist, researcher and clinician who has studied divorce and marital stability for more than 40 years.  He found that couples are in distressed relationships for more than 6 years before seeking help. That is a long time to struggle.

In my clinical practice, people often tell me that they have waited to come to therapy until their partner was willing or able to seek help.  The person who has been waiting, often expresses a mix of relief and frustration when their partner finally agrees to come to counselling.  They feel like they have been wrestling with the problems in their relationship all by themselves for a long time. 

 Many people assume that when their partner is unwilling or unable to come to therapy, that they have to wait tho see a therapist until both people can see one together.

While I there is solid research that shows the effectiveness of couples counselling for resolving relationship problems, if your spouse is unwilling or unable to come, I would encourage you to consider coming to counselling on your own.  

Individual counselling can help you learn new skills and strategies to cope in your relationship. And while there is no guarantee that your partner will be responsive to your changes, individual counselling can help you feel like you are coping in the best possible way with the challenges in your relationship.

3 Ways Individual Counselling can Help Your Relationship.


1.  Identifying Behavioral Patterns

 Most of us are aware of our partner’s behaviours but less focused on our own.  

In a struggling relationship, it is not uncommon for the focus to be the other person’s behaviour.  But when you can’t seem to get them to change, the problems in your marriage can seem overwhelming and discouraging.

But here’s the truth. I have never met a someone who said their behaviour was transformed because their partner continually pointed out their flaws and shortcomings.

 If you are going to help things improve in your relationship, getting clear about your own steps in ‘the dance’ and making sense of why you keep going back to these same old unhelpful behaviours is so important.  

 Individual Therapy Can Help You Recognize Your Own Negative Patterns

 As someone who specializes in marriage and couples therapy, I am trained to help individuals recognize their own negative patterns and how they play out in their relationship.

 I can help you get clear about the kind of responses that you would rather give, even when things are strained between the two of you.

Individual therapy can help you learn to slow down your reactions so you can intentionally behave in ways that are more like the kind of partner you want to be.

 Individual therapy will help you make better sense of what happens to you emotionally in conflict situations.  You can learn to recognize triggers for behaviour that ends up getting you and your partner stuck.

 As a result, you will be empowered and able to take a step back during conflicts as they occur, preventing escalation.

 As a bonus, a therapist can also point out the strengths and resources they find in your relationship so you can leverage and learn how to nourish them.

 2. Change at the Root Level

Once your therapist has helped you identify negative patterns, they can then help you understand why they are happening and assist you in changing them. Most behavioral patterns are formed and ingrained when we are very young – before we become self-aware and before we’ve met our significant others.

 Our attachment strategies, how we seek to maintain closeness with others,  are formed early in life and have a lot to do with our first relationship with a primary caregiver.  

 Lesley Becker-Phelps, author of Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make you Feel Jealous, Needy and Worried notes that your current attachment style is probably the same as what was nurtured in your childhood relationships.  If you never experienced as sense of security in your relationship, were fearful of being rejected or had a desire for closeness you could never satisfy, you are likely to still struggle with some of these worries.  

 The ways in which people deal with these ‘attachment insecurities’  are known as attachment styles, which describe how you relate to yourself (how worthy you feel of being loved which can create anxiety) and significant other in a relationship (how much you feel you can rely on others which can create avoidance).  The 4 attachment styles; preoccupied, fearful, dismissive and secure, reflect varying characteristic of anxiety/avoidance.   You can read more about attachment styles in this awesome book.  

 Even if you have never experienced a close, connected relationship, you can develop a more secure attachment style known as “earned secure attachment”.  While this often happens in adult love relationships, earned secure attachment can also develop in therapy.  This happens because of several key events;   a strong alliance with your therapist.  and learning to become more self-aware and self-compassionate.  

 Having a more secure attachment style and a sense of compassion for yourself  can create a positive difference in your relationship.


3. Coping Strategies

We often reach for  unworkable coping strategies.  Things like opting out (not doing something or going somewhere), distracting ourselves (hello, Netflix binges!) and numbing ourselves with food, alcohol, drugs, etc. are all effective in the short term to get rid of uncomfortable sensations and emotions.

 The problem is that in the long term, overusing these strategies often leads us away from being the kind of person and the kind of partner we want to be.

The emotional pain of being in a struggling relationship can often lead people to get caught in a vicious cycle of overusing these unworkable coping strategies.

This impacts their relationship, leading to further conflict, which leads to more unworkable coping strategies.  Individual therapy can help learn new ways to regulate your emotions and find more compassion for yourself, both of which can have an impact on your relationship. 


While these things may not directly ‘working on’ your relationship, they can give you the emotional balance you need to do things differently. 


If after checking out this blog post you realize that you’d benefit from individual therapy to improve your relationship, let’s chat. I work with women and couples in Halifax/Dartmouth/Sackville and surrounding areas at my Bedford Office.  


 You can book a free 15 minute consultation  online or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to schedule an appointment.


 All my best,



Why You Keep Arguing With Your Partner + 3 Things You Can do About It.

Why You Keep Arguing With Your Partner + 3 Things You Can do About It.

You can see the same old argument coming from a mile away.

Worse yet, you already know how it ends.

You’ve tried all the positive communication strategies you can think of; a soft lead in and using “I statements” but somehow in the heat of it all, things fall apart.

Here’s an awesome worksheet to help you make sense of why you keep getting caught up in arguing with your partner.

Have a look at it now, and then read on to learn more about what is keeping the two of you stuck.

Maybe for you, a repeating argument with your partner goes something like this:

You: I’m just wondering why are you always on your phone?

You: You know how much I hate that. I’m so sick of coming home and finding you on the couch.

Them: Mhmmmm.

You: Did you hear me?

Them: Yup.

You: (more angrily now) Then why are you still sitting there like that? What are you doing? Who are you texting?

Them: Why are you being so controlling? You’re always telling me what to do and how to live my life. I’m sick of it. You’re so cranky and irritating. I’m done talking to you about this.

Of course, you never intended for this conversation to turn into an argument with your partner!


You have no idea why things seem to go sideways in your conversations and you are genuinely confused about why you consistently misunderstand each other.

If all couples argue, why do some couples end up getting more and more distant  and pissed off with each other while others seem to be able to work it out?

The short answer is that couples can get stuck in a negative pattern of reacting (triggering) each other that they don’t know how to get out of.  

This predictable pattern can get started over virtually any topic.

The argument gets started, and keeps going, because each person is pushing the others person’s  buttons in an attempt to get their needs met and find a sense of emotional balance.

If you and your partner score low on emotional responsiveness, you are more likely to get caught in these predictable patterns of heated exchanges.  Over time, this stuck pattern will leave you both feeling frustrated and alone. ( If you haven’t taken last week’s quiz, check that out here.)

Sue Johnson, the pioneer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, coined the term Demon Dialogues to describe these stuck patterns of communication.

Maybe you recognize yourself in one of these:


You know you’re caught up in this destructive communication pattern if you and your partner  accuse or blame each other for the struggles in the relationship. The hallmark of this pattern is mutually attacking, blaming and faulting the other person.

This happens when one person is triggered by feelings of being misunderstood, judged negatively or  blamed unfairly by the other.  They then resort to pointing out all the faults and shortcomings of their partner in a reactive way.

This ‘blame game’ goes around and around leaving both people feeling distant and disconnected.  This heated attack-attack pattern is hard to keep up, and often leads to the second demon dialogue. 


It is widely accepted that a demand-withdraw pattern of communication between partners is connected to higher levels of divorce.  But why?

It’s because our brain’s wired in need for connection and security keep this  negative cycle in play with one partner demanding connection and the other shutting down or turning away.

It might sound like one person criticizing the other for being on the phone too much or spending too much time our with friends or at work.

Although it may not seem like it, this partner is protesting the feeling of being disconnected from their significant other.

However, in response to this perceived criticism, the other partner withdraws, shuts down or moves away emotionally. They may shut down conversations, dismiss the other person’s concerns or leave the room when the tone of the conversation heats up.

Both partners are missing each other’s distress signals. They are unknowingly confirming each others work fears.  One partner is demanding, actively protesting the disconnection; the other is withdrawing, quietly protesting the implied criticism.

Over time, this stuck cycle leads to the most disconnected dance of all, freeze and flee. 


You’ll know that you and your partner are caught up in this negative cycle if things are remarkably quiet between the two of you. Both of you are so committed to avoiding conflict that hard topics and points of contention just don’t get talked about. To borrow Dr. Johnsons’ metaphor, in this dance, “both partners are sitting it out. It looks like there is nothing at stake; no one seems invested in the dance.”

This often happens when the ‘Protest Polka’ has gone on for so long that the pursuing partner has given up hope that things will change. The pursuing partner has resorted to dealing with the loss of connection in other ways rather than continuing to seek it in the relationship.

It’s not impossible to rebuild your relationship from this demon dialogue, but I strongly encourage you to seek out the help of a skilled marriage & couples counsellor.  

As an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist I have a map that will help me guide you and your partner back to a close and connected relationship. 


1. Recognize that it’s this stuck negative cycle, not an unfixable defect or flaw in your partner that is keeping you apart.

2. Get clear about your steps in the dance. Here is a worksheet for you to reflect on so that you know how you are contributing to the stuck dynamics between you and your partner.

3. Talk about it with your partner. Acknowledge how tough it is when the cycle gets the best of you and how much you want that to change. Maybe you can give your cycle it’s own name and notice when you are getting caught in it.

Relationships are complex, and having a skilled marriage & couples counsellor who can help slow you down and sort through the stuck spots, can be a huge help.

If you’re sick of being caught up in frequent arguments with your partner and feel like you can never get to the bottom of it, consider couples counselling  to learn new ways to get unstuck. 

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. I work with couples in Halifax and surrounding areas from my Bedford Office.  You can book a free 15 minute consultation  online or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to book an appointment.

I look forward to hearing from you,


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. 

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