As a counsellor of couple relationships and as a supervisor of counsellors who counsel couples, I often hear where one partner is often pathologised by the other partner as the one who has the problem, and therefore needs to be “fixed” in some way. Sometimes the partner who is being patholgised will “swallow” the belief that they are in fact at fault and therefore need to make some adjustment or change to the “broken part” of themselves that exists, so they enter counselling asking the counsellor for the help to fix the part of them that is broken. If the counsellor buys what the client is selling then the two of them collude, thinking they have to fix the problem that the other partner says the client has. What I am attempting to say is the very solution of attempting to fix the problem becomes the problem, and an unending visoucs cycle of trying to fix the problem keeps the problem alive.
If the counsellor is unable to get the other partner to come in to join in couple counselling then what the next best option is, is, to reframe the problem. I would suggest that while the stated problem may have some merit what will have more merit is to reframe the problem as one in which where one partner “the one with the perceived problem is in fact not standing up to their partner and differentiating themselves “in the relationshIp”. They are not having a voice and they are not saying what they think, feel, want or don’t want in the relationship. In other words they are allowing the other partner to dictate the terms of the relationship, and while this is going on, both are avoiding conflict and the hard work of being in relationship including the potential growth that could if they stopped avoiding.
This kind of vulnerable confrontation equals the power, and each partner gets a chance to face one another, often for the first time, and deal with the real issues of their relationship. It takes real courage and risk to hold on to yourself and stand up yourself in your relationship with your intimate other. However the benefits are worth it.