I think you need therapy...
June 23, 2016 3:48 PM   Subscribe

I really want my partner to try therapy but she really doesn't want to. How do we resolve this?

My partner is a pretty unhappy person who deals with a lot of self loathing and anxiety, partly stemming from parental abuse and social isolation in childhood. She's a really great person - she cares for me and is very nice to me - but sometimes acts towards others in ways she doesn't like because of these coping mechanisms. I don't want to try to involve myself deeply in problems that aren't my business, but at the same time I feel like relationships are a vehicle for self work and I want her to recognize that she can't just be permanently unhappy and do nothing. She told me she hates her body and doesn't understand how I could like her, which deeply upsets me. When I told her I wanted her to go to therapy, she told me it wasn't my problem. Am I right to want her to go to therapy, or at least consciously address it in some way (e.g. CBT books or something)? Should I make this a boundary - is that reasonable?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, I'll be honest, I kinda don't like your tone. It could be that I'm totally projecting, but it reminds me a lot of my parents when I was a teenager forcing me to go to therapy after their divorce- a sort of "of course we're right and you're being silly, of course you need to go and fix yourself. Just pop down there and get a tune up at the psych shop" (like I was a car or something). It felt really depersonalized and kind of thoughtless and horrible the way they said it. Like "you're broken, and you should be fixed, but you won't be fixed out of shameful, pathetic and illogical stubbornness. Scold scold scold, frown frown frown, wag fingers."

Be sure you're not doing that.

Also, why does it offend you personally if she hates her body? Why does that get to be your problem? I mean, that sucks FOR HER. Why are you making it about you?

My feeling is, if this is actually affecting you in any way (and not being able to handle her complaining counts as a way it is affecting you) then you get a say. If you just want to fix her because you think she Should, eh. That doesn't actually seem super loving to me.
posted by quincunx at 3:58 PM on June 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

You can want it for her, yes. You cannot, however, make her want to. Even if you did force her to go, how effective do think that would be?

Yeah. Not very.

She gets to decide what, if anything, she will do.

One last thing. A loving partnership is supposed to be based on who the other person is right now. Not how they might be if only they would change to suit your wishes.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:59 PM on June 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Talk with her about concerns you have with the relationship -- how her actions and words directly affect you. Do you see particular ways the relationship might improve if you two did therapy together? If so, you could suggest it.

When it comes to encouraging someone to get psychological help, the best you can do is say that you'll give her moral support and that you're ready to help if she asks. I'm afraid it's not helpful or appropriate for you to say she should go to therapy because you think it would improve her life.

Any boundaries you set should be for yourself. Examples: "Mom, if you criticize my way of raising my child, I'm going to end the conversation." "I can't stay in this discussion unless you stop yelling." With a boundary, you say what you are willing/not willing to do in the face of someone else's behavior.
posted by wryly at 4:01 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

When I told her I wanted her to go to therapy, she told me it wasn't my problem.

Explain to her the ways in which it causes problems for you. If you cannot do this in a way that is authentic, then no, it is not your problem and it's not your place.

When my partner had an issue that affected me a great deal, I essentially directed him to choose therapy or the highway. The therapy seemed to help quite a lot with some major decision making, though he also soon quit and has resisted going otherwise. I don't think it's a process you can force on someone else, but I do think it's fair to use it as a condition where the problem affects you.

My opinion as a random person who has been to therapy is that CBT is only helpful in certain cases (not ones like your partner's), and books might help shift an outlook, but they really aren't therapy.
posted by vunder at 4:03 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Having to deal with someone else's self-loathing - having to argue with it, deny it, provide comfort around it - is a lot of very stressful work and *of course* can be a problem for the relationship. It's easy to get sucked into a self-loathing statement -> reassurance -> disbelief -> more reassurance -> self-loathing for needing this much reassurance spiral with someone who has mental health issues. It is also not something that you need to commit to without limits, because the cycle doesn't actually *fix* the self-loathing in any way. Therapy is one way for people to break out of that cycle - constantly seeking reassurance from partners really isn't.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:07 PM on June 23, 2016 [44 favorites]

It is a problem for the relationship. You can't make her do anything when all is said and done. She has every right to decide for herself if seeking therapy is the right choice or not. You have every right to decide that her not seeking therapy is a deal breaker for you, which it sounds like it might be. That's not to say you should issue an ultimatum - please, please don't do that. But recognize that if you cannot be happy with her unless she goes in to therapy, and she refuses to do so, you really only have two choices: be unhappy, or leave.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:08 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's not a problem until it's a problem. People make all sorts of blanket statements, but the truth is, everyone and every relationship is different. There are some succesful relationships with depressed partners, yes. And there are some that crash and burn. It all really depends on the severity and what it actually means for your relationship in concrete actions. I mean, if you are trying to find a woman in modern society with absolutely zero body shame- good luck, you'll be single for a loooooong ass time.
posted by quincunx at 4:08 PM on June 23, 2016

It's reasonable for you to feel that her feelings/attitude/etc. are harmful to your relationship with her. It's totally okay for you to express that to her and ask her to tell you how she feels about that, and try to brainstorm together what a solution might be. You could talk about her view of relationships - she may not feel they're a "vehicle for self-work" the way you do.

However, a "boundary" should be about what *you* will do, or will not do. You can't set a boundary about what someone *else* will do. You can't set a boundary that she has to "work on" her issues in any way. You absolutely could set a boundary that because you are upset by her self-loathing negative self-talk, you will not participate in those conversations and will leave / change the subject / do something else when they happen. (I don't think that would have the result you want, but you could do it.) If you feel this is important enough, you could set a boundary that you will leave the relationship if she doesn't do XYZ.

The thing is, you can make an ultimatum that will force someone into therapy or into doing workbooks or whatever, in order for you to stay in the relationship. But in most cases that will be unhelpful, and in fact may be actively harmful and counter to your stated goals, because therapy tends to work best when the person wanted the help for themselves, not to get their partner off their back.

It's reasonable for you to be unhappy with the way things are, and reasonable to talk to her about it. I don't think it's reasonable for you to expect any specific outcome until you've had that hard conversation, and then you can go from there figuring out what might be next.
posted by Stacey at 4:17 PM on June 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

I just can't shake the feeling that her feeling that way is a problem for the relationship... Is that reasonable?

Have you considered therapy?

I'm being serious -- therapy for you, to help figure out your own feelings and whether this particular issue is a deal-breaker for you. And while you can't make someone go to therapy, you can offer a great example of how much your own therapy is helping you in your own life. Sometimes that can make the therapy process more attractive to others (see: eleventy billion other Asks, where those answering offer their own positive therapy testimonies and de-mystify it a bit).
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:20 PM on June 23, 2016 [18 favorites]

Talk to her about why she doesn't want to go to therapy. There are lots of reasons. Maybe it's embarrassing, or she's been told that only failures have therapists, or there's a huge barrier to entry in finding somebody, or she had a therapist once who was a huge jerk, or she thinks it all about either hippie campfires or prozac, or she thinks that you're trying to offload the job of "talking to her" because you don't want to do it, or she doesn't feel like she had a problem that's worthy of the expense, or maybe just imagining explaining everything to somebody sounds like too much work, or maybe she's worried that she'll get started and they'll tell her she's not just depressed but "crazy" (for whatever her personal definition is), or worried that the therapist won't be able to help her (especially if you require her to "go get fixed", there's a risk of failure). Finding a therapist and building that relationship is not easy, and sometimes not pleasant, or pleasant only in the "going to the gym and making yourself better" kind of way - I don't blame her for not wanting to do it.

Talk about why she doesn't think therapy is the right solution for her. Talk about what she feels her problems are. Talk about what you can do to help. Talk about all the different things (other than, or in addition to, therapy) that she can do to help herself. If you and she can't talk to each other, then there's little chance that she could talk to somebody else (eg therapist) and have it improve her relationship with you.
posted by aimedwander at 4:23 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I get where you are coming from. Personally, I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone who was constantly denigrating themselves. And I wouldn't stay in a relationship with someone who treats other people badly, especially if they know they do it and won't try to stop or deal with the cause.

Also, why does it offend you personally if she hates her body? Why does that get to be your problem? I mean, that sucks FOR HER. Why are you making it about you?

The OP didn't say s/he was offended but was upset. I would certainly feel like this affected me. It's damaging to mentally beat yourself up. And I would be upset if the person I loved most in the world kept hurting himself. What if it was cutting? Or punching himself in the face? Should I just stand by and say "that's his problem"?

Our behavior doesn't just affect us. It affects those around us, our family, our friends. OP, you already know you can't force your partner into therapy but you can set boundaries. "When you do/say this, you are hurting yourself. I don't want to watch you hurt yourself because I care about you. Please get help." If your partner refuses, then you have to decide if this person, in her current state not some theoretical healthier version of herself, is someone with whom you can continue to be in a relationship. Good luck.
posted by Beti at 4:25 PM on June 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

It is reasonable for this to be a boundary in the sense that you are allowed to break up with her if you don't like that she won't do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

With my depressed partner, it took basically threatening to end the relationship if they didn't do it to get them to see a therapist. FWIW, it worked and they're much happier and stable now.
posted by Candleman at 4:33 PM on June 23, 2016

I honestly was put off by the whole "I told her I wanted her to go to therapy" and I can actually understand why she'd shut that down. This could be a quirk of your re-telling, but combined with your framing ("I want her to recognize that she can't just be permanently unhappy and do nothing") this approach is likely to make her feel defensive and further isolated. I agree that a better approach is to talk to your partner about how her behavior impacts you and your relationship. You wrote that she behaves in ways that she doesn't like. You can talk with her about how there are ways to learn how to change that behavior, of which therapy is one route.

I think it's reasonable as a dealbreaker on both sides, frankly.
posted by sm1tten at 4:46 PM on June 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you are a caring person who sees some things in your partner that she can't see, herself. You've told her, you've made suggestions, and that's all you can do.

I think it is completely reasonable for anyone to not want to be with a person who is unhappy and filled with self-loathing and anxiety. You're trying to fix that by changing the person who you're in relationship with. Frankly, the most effective way to change that is to not be in the relationship.

Look, whatever alienating things she does to other people, she surely does to you--or will in time. You yourself may have an easier time seeing (recognizing, admitting) the dysfunctions in her relationship with others, than those same dysfunctions in her relationship with you.

You yourself are unhappy because she devalues your truth (i.e., she can't believe that you like her or her body). This is common. People who are self-loathing generally treat the people around them badly for just this reason: they can't believe that the person actually has good intent toward them, so they treat them like someone who both lies and who has bad intent toward them. It can even be the case that the more kindly you treat them (compassion, patience, honesty, etc) the more poorly they treat you, due to the shame spiral that ensues.

It's a truism of personal work that, whatever you accuse your partner of doing/being, is something you should examine very closely in yourself. Relationships *are* a vehicle for personal work, you are right. Do you yourself to recognize that you can't just be permanently unhappy and do nothing, too?
posted by Sublimity at 4:53 PM on June 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

Just to give you another perspective: I avoided therapy (for depression) for years because based on my own personality quirks, I couldn't envision how it could help me, and it took a huge amount of time, energy and money to go that were in limited supply and could otherwise be spent in ways that I DID find helpful (like by getting time away from my kids/ job or getting professional massages). Eventually I gave in, tried multiple therapists, had pretty terrible experiences with all of them, and regretted doing it.

Therapy isn't for everyone. It isn't going to solve everyone's problems. Decide if her problems are ones you can live with, and if not, well, you know what to do.
posted by metasarah at 4:58 PM on June 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

I just can't shake the feeling that her feeling that way is a problem for the relationship - that's what my question was about. Is that reasonable?

Yes, it’s reasonable.

However: I want her to recognize that she can't just be permanently unhappy and do nothing

This is not true. She can absolutely do nothing and be permanently unhappy forever. Unhappy is known and safe, and she can and will do it for as long as she wants/needs to. I have a parent who has done this their whole life.

I have a similar sounding relationship with a parent. They had a difficult childhood, are insecure, seem unhappy often, have some social difficulties, hoard, etc. and refuse to go to therapy. A close relationship with this person requires a ton of emotional labour – work that I can’t (and is not appropriate for their child to) do. I wish our relationship were closer, but right now all I can handle is a somewhat superficial blandly pleasant type thing from a distance. They’re happy with that. Right now their need to maintain their status quo is more important than their need to have more of a relationship with me. It hurts. However, there’s no way they’ll challenge their status quo until they’re ready - until it’s a big problem for them and they want something more than they want the safety of what they know (even if what they know is “feeling bad”). I tried to have the "but your doing X causes Y and you say you don't like that" convo and it was a disaster. She knows it makes her unhappy: she's not ready to change.

How big a deal this is for you and what boundaries you draw depend on this particular person, relationship, etc. My husband also had some weird childhood stuff but it was never a huge problem, and has gotten better once he started therapy a couple years ago (I kind of always thought he should go, but it was never a big issue and not one that really affected me – what prompted him going was having a panic attack at work).

I highly recommend getting therapy yourself – which I did after trying to address some things with my parent. It’s a safe space for you to vent, check in with yourself, ponder boundaries, get some feedback etc. Additionally, her seeing you go might encourage her to go.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:59 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

People who are self-loathing generally treat the people around them badly for just this reason: they can't believe that the person actually has good intent toward them - this is what killed it for me (and my parent). I do something nice for them and they make up some crazy backstory to explain why because it couldn't possibly just be that I'm nice and love them. Exhausting.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:02 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe OP can clarify, because I am not actually getting that she's "constantly depressed and constantly denigrating herself and asking for reassurance" from the OP. OP states "she told me she hates her body" ONE TIME. I mean, I agree "hates her body" is sad and pretty strong language, but it's not the same as "I hate myself." It's not the same as constantly denigrating herself. My fiancé told me he "hates his nose and doesn't understand how I like it" and I didn't rush him off to therapy for it. I mean, to me, that's a pretty common/not hugely terrible statement and people shouldn't feel pressured to love everything about themselves as much as their partner does.

She also "talks about how she doesn't like how her past trauma affects relationships with others." That's another mild complaining thing to me, and OP even states it's not really affecting their relationship.

I don't know- if she's crying every day and stops having sex with you, never believes anything nice you say, and constantly asks you to listen to her problems, then yes, absolutely, what evryone is saying is true- that's too much emotional labor for you. If she's like "I have some stuff but won't make it your problem and prefer to deal with it on my own time".... I get her point.
posted by quincunx at 5:11 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

One way of talking about therapy that never really worked for me was the following, which is pretty much how you describe the dynamic:


Person B: You should go to therapy.

Instead, I've found it much more useful to think about therapy as a way of solving problems that I'm having. For instance I become really anxious at work, which results in me responding in certain suboptimal ways, and which creates a spiral of anxiety and fuckups that could ultimately affect my job performance. My goal is to either stop feeling so anxious, or if that's not an option, to stop doing the suboptimal response. I want tactics to help me deal with my feelings and learn new patterns of behavior.

So if you're trying to convince your partner to give therapy a try, you could frame it more like that. "Therapy could give you new coping strategies that help you not act towards others in ways you don't like", for example.

Also, you can't really make someone go to therapy. It's one thing to want somebody to be happy (and dude, I have really, really wanted someone to get therapy before, so I feel you), but a lot of people hear "get therapy" as something being done to them against their will, or a punishment. It can be much more helpful to frame therapy as a more functional thing rather than "you are broken and need to go to the emotional fix-it doctor", which is kind of how you're framing it in your question.

Also, the body image stuff is way, way too big (and you're too close to the issue) for you to really get to offer up any type of solution for it. Not that therapy wouldn't help, but "I hate my body"/"You need therapy" is kind of a stock crappy dynamic. That's just not a problem that is within your personal scope to fix. Even if your idea is to fix it with therapy.
posted by Sara C. at 5:27 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

When you talk to her about this, when you suggest therapy, are you telling her how _you_ feel? Are you letting your emotions show through your voice and face? Or are you being all calm and logical and trying to convince her that "relationships are a vehicle for self work" and that she should do this to make herself feel better? You get to talk about you and your feelings, and you _should_ show her if this whole situation makes you sad or worried or upset - that's your purview.

I wouldn't do it for _every_ conversation about this, but if you're not showing her your own feelings, then the conversation is a lot more like a lecture.
posted by amtho at 5:32 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

What's putting me off here is that you seem to have diagnosed her and decided on a course of treatment, which puts you in the role of Doctor and her in the role of Patient. In a partnership, these things should come from a place of empathy, not superiority.

Many women hate their bodies. We're kind of set up to constantly feel like we fall short. I'm not saying this isn't something she would benefit from overcoming, but if my partner's reaction to that was to suggest therapy instead of trying to understand me, I would not be very receptive to his advice.

If she went to therapy but the things you've listed didn't change, would you still want to be with her?

And, to turn it around on you: are you in therapy? Would you be willing to go if your partner had specific things she wanted you to work on?
posted by kapers at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

Therapy isn't magic, just so you know. It's not helpful for everyone; even a good therapist isn't the right match for every patient; and "my partner threatened to dump me if I didn't come see you, let the healing begin!" isn't a great foundation for a therapeutic relationship.

You should go to therapy to figure out whether you want to be with her. Or invite her to couples therapy. But no, I don't think you should be pressuring her to get into therapy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:26 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

What is reasonable is saying that you can't stay in a relationship that is unhealthy or unhappy for you. You make decisions for you.

She can, in fact, be permanently unhappy and do nothing. She can. It's not what you would do or what you want her to do, but she can make the choice to do it.

You get to make a decision about whether you're willing to be with this person 'as is'. Healthy relationships support people in reaching the goals they set for themselves. You staking out objectives for her is not how a healthy partnership functions.
posted by 26.2 at 6:30 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lets start by differentiating between boundaries (which are the points where you speak up and push back to protect yourself) and wishes for other people.

"She told me she hates her body and doesn't understand how I could like her, which deeply upsets me."

It is perfectly reasonable to say to someone, "I love you and don't like hearing you insult yourself around me. Please don't do this." And then if she does it again, say, "It really bothers me when you insult yourself because I love you. I'm going to go over here; let me know when you want to do something fun together." It is unreasonable for people to expect us to tolerate people insulting people we love, even when it's the person themselves, and removing yourself from interacting at that point is a good way of enforcing that boundary.

Not a Boundary:
"I feel like relationships are a vehicle for self work"

Yes, some relationships can be a vehicle for self work, but this can also be very unhealthy if people play out their dynamics without examining them.

"I want her to recognize that she can't just be permanently unhappy and do nothing"

She can be permanently unhappy for the rest of her life and doing nothing - that is her choice and it can be a valid one. Your choice is whether you want to spend that rest of your life with her or not, but you can't decide how she feels and for how long she feels it.

"I wanted her to go to therapy"

There is a concept in family dynamics called the "identified patient." That is the person in the family who has something "wrong" with them which needs to be "fixed". Yes, sometimes individuals do have problems where they could use help, but in IP situations a focus on the IP is being used to distract everyone from their own problems.

You have turned your partner into an identified patient and she is enforcing her boundaries by pushing back against that and refusing to agree with your diagnosis. This is healthy of her. I'm wondering what you're avoiding recognizing by focusing on what's wrong with her. Therapy might help you figure out if anything else is going on, but that's a personal choice only you can make.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:34 PM on June 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

A past partner encouraged me to go to therapy, I was not self loathing but basically an anxious mess that was probably getting difficult for him to deal with. I would have NEVER gone on my own. He brought the issue up very compassionately (e.g. I see that you're suffering a lot right now) and communicated he was aware that going for the first time would be scary and unpleasant for me, and helped explain how it had been for him when he had been going regularly at different points in his life.

I'm generally a stubborn person so that compassion was pretty crucial in convincing me. You don't sound like you know/understand why she won't go, however. Maybe that would help make it easier?

Being around really miserable people can be miserable, so I think concerns about whether YOU can be happy in the relationship are totally valid. It's also ok not to engage so actively with the self deprecation when it's happening, just reaffirm that you love her & that she is enough and then go about whatever else you were up to.

As others have pointed out, your "relationships are a vehicle for self-wxork" thought is interesting, and I'm wondering what self-work you are doing alongside.
posted by internet of pillows at 7:07 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you're not really explaining in a lot of depth, but I wonder if you're telling us that her misery is making you miserable? If so, yes, of course that's a relationship problem, and it's fair to have a conversation about whether there's anything that you all can do to improve that situation for you.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:59 PM on June 23, 2016

It really doesn't make any sense for you to focus all your energy on wanting tactics rather than wanting outcomes. Would you be happy if she suddenly stopped being mean to others, stopped being unhappy and self-loathing, and started liking herself? If yes, then you care about outcomes, so why are you so hung up on this therapy thing? It's controlling.

I mean, it's cool if you don't want to be in a relationship with someone who's constantly mean and miserable and hates herself. You can choose to not be in a relationship like that. But you can't essentially demand not only that they change, but dictate how they change. She's not a project, she's a human being.
posted by juniperesque at 8:20 PM on June 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

Seconding this: A loving partnership is supposed to be based on who the other person is right now. Not how they might be if only they would change to suit your wishes.

Rhetorical question, but do you love this person? As she is TODAY?

at the same time I feel like relationships are a vehicle for self work

YOU feel that way. Many people don't and you can't expect that from others or impose your views/beliefs onto them - regardless of how "evolved" you think your beliefs are. If you truly feel that way, that relationships are a vehicle for self work, then what are you learning from this? It sounds like you want her to change based on her relationship with you. Do you expect her to change just by virtue of the fact that she's in a relationship with you? It's admirable that you feel that way and take a conscious approach to relationships, but you can't stop there and think that you're so evolved that she'd be inspired to seek the help that she "needs" just because she's with you. I share that belief - I believe that relationships can be a catalyst for change - but I'd never impose that on my spouse or wonder whether he's "doing the work."

she can't just be permanently unhappy and do nothing.

Actually, she can. Many people are unhappy, for much of their lives, and choose to do nothing about it. That's their choice. Not their partner's.

Do you need her to change, for your sake (or the sake of the relationship)? Not to be sarcastic or flip at all, but honestly it sounds like you need therapy to work out what this issue means for you personally and how you feel about continuing on in this relationship. Are you sure you're not projecting your unresolved feelings about her insecurities and coping skills onto her? Be careful you haven't pegged her as the identified patient while seeing yourself as so evolved that you're impervious to the same pitfalls of the human condition that you accuse her of. Everyone gets miserable sometimes, everyone has reactive moments. That's human. If it's constant, she may be depressed, which is clinical and different, and you're right - then therapy is in order, but even in those cases, you can't force it on her.

But to frame this situation in the light that you have, with her "being an unhappy person" and you seeing relationships as a "vehicle for self growth" paints a picture with a very broad brush. You seem to see yourself in a position of being elevated above her, somehow better than her or more evolved or better able to cope. Is that picture accurate? Don't you have reactive moments, or moments of depression, or judgment, or anger? Spiritual materialism is a sneaky, sneaky thing. Maybe she's not in a place where she's ready to go to therapy. Sometimes the solution is to get out of the relationship and give the other person (and yourself!) space. Demanding change or therapy or ultimatums is a fool's errand - it's her business and you need to mind yours to determine what the right course of action is, for you, not her. Maybe she's depressed, in which case you can be as evolved as you want - she's going to have to realize that she needs therapy on her own.

Your post sounds like the tone someone would take if offering an ultimatum to another person. It sounds like you're pushing her to go to therapy because you can't take it anymore, and in your mind the only way to fix this is for her to fix herself.

Is her mood and personal problems a dealbreaker for you?
posted by onecircleaday at 10:06 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Recommending therapy to another person can backfire. It almost always comes off as patronizing at best and wildly insulting at worst. Most people don't change unless they are inspired to of their own accord, so suggesting therapy will likely just make them resent you. It's impossible to know what that trigger to seek help might be as someone looking from the outside, but if she's going to get professional treatment for anything, it will only happen when she wants it.

All you can do is assess and honor your boundaries. If her emotional baseline doesn't match you and it's enough that you would consider ending the relationship over it, it's best to be (gently) honest about that. Come from a place of kindness. Your way isn't right. It's just different. Don't offer practical suggestions on how she should change. Just tell her what is true for you, and give her the rope to decide if she wants to act or not act on that reality. Do the same on your end and see what happens.
posted by amycup at 11:31 PM on June 23, 2016

You don't like your partner the way she is now, and you don't like what her character is doing to the relationship: leave her. You can't change her.

I have an ex whom I found extremely attractive, who was smart and even funny when he wanted to. However, he had so many issues that a relationship was just never possible. Those issues were exactly the ones you describe talking about your partner. Whenever I see him, I still think he's the most attractive person this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but I've made peace with the fact that we could not and cannot be an item.
posted by Kwadeng at 12:29 AM on June 24, 2016

have you considering going to couples therapy? Do seriously consider it.
I think those who point out that it is offensive to tell someone to go into therapy are onto something. I definitely would be.

Have you yourself done any therapy in the past? I ask because what comes across is the idea she goes to threapy to get fixed by CBT or some workbook and everything is happy ever after.

This is not how therapy works. I have been myself on and off for several years now. I find it very useful and helpful but I chose to do it, not my partner wanted me to be fixed.
Also, CBT may not be a good fit for her ( I confess I think CBT sucks but I know it is the default recommendation on the green). Have you done CBT yourself or worked through a CBT workbook? If you did, then I think your chances of her perhaps taking you serious might improve - or perhaps not, but please try not to tell her to get fixed by therapy.
And, her doing therapy is no guarantee she will stay with you. I know a number of couples where one of them took up therapy and decided to leave.
posted by 15L06 at 1:57 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

...are you in therapy? Because talking to a therapist about how to protect yourself and also help your partner through a difficult time with love and support instead of prescriptive solutions is a totally valid reason to go.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:18 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

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