For many couples, or one partner, even going to marriage counseling is a big stretch.  You may be afraid the therapist will take sides or blame you. You may even think that addressing the situation will make it worse.  That’s why it is extremely unhelpful for a therapist to tell one partner that he/she needs individual therapy before doing couples work and yet that happens a lot.


Has your therapist told you to do individual therapy first?

While it might be true that one partner had a particularly difficult childhood, we find that the best way to address these relationship challenges are in the context of the relationship.  And what better way to do that but in a marriage, which is uniquely able to trigger these touchy issues.

As Dr. Harville Hendrix, founder of Imago therapy says, “”If we look at (clients) through the prism of interconnectivity, the diagnosis changes from something inside them being wrong (to) changing their interactions so that they can feel safe and connect” (Psychotherapy Networker).

While there are situations that warrant help or additional support for the individual, such as an addiction or trauma from past abuse, most of the “run of the mill” relationship problems,  even if they are rooted back to a difficult childhood,  can be worked on and healed best in the context of a safe and loving relationship.

That’s why it can be so disconcerting to show up for counseling, only to be told that you are not a candidate for couples work. Unless the partner is unwilling to do the work, most of the time such advice is not accurate.

When you’re the spouse that’s been diagnosed as the “problem”

It is never helpful for one partner to think he/she is the sole cause of relationship friction. Not only is it unlikely to be true as it ignores the dynamic, it sets an unfair playing field which doesn’t contribute to healing.

So even if you were told that you need to fix yourself first, if you are having relationship problems and you are both committed to taking ownership and doing the work necessary to improve, there is no reason why working together will not be helpful.

We’d be happy to speak with you about what’s going on for you, helping you to understand this dynamic and how each partner contributes to your relationship dynamic even if it feels like one spouse has more “issues” than the other.

Book a time to speak with us here or use the form below to contact us.

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Shlomo & Rivka Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is an Imago relationship therapist and certified (master level) Imago workshop presenter with over 20 years of experience hosting couples therapy retreats in-person and online. Contact or