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What if couples counseling doesn’t work?

By Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: My partner of 13 years and I have been in counseling together for two years because of trust issues on her part, my tendency to put work before home, and anger issues with both of us. We make progress, and then the fighting starts again. Honestly, I am starting to think about separation. But I know that I might regret that immensely. Either way, I feel like the counseling isn’t helping, and I don’t know where to go from here.

A: Consider seeing someone on your own. And, no, it shouldn’t be the same therapist. You need someone fresh who can focus on your perspective.

You’re right in that breaking up might come with regrets. But so, too, may living out a life that’s filled with a stress-inducing, unstable relationship. I know you might be all therapied out. So dig deep – write, read, think, talk to friends, listen to music, get to know yourself better as an individual, and what you really want out of your life, and whether you truly see it involving your partner.

There’s a sad secret many couples therapists won’t tell you: Sometimes no amount of counseling can make a couple happy together.

Q: I am 16 and have a family friend who is 17 I have grown up with. He is a good guy but he has been pressuring me to go out with him for years. I am not interested in him that way at all, but he does not take a hint. Now every time our families are together, things are weird because he constantly talks about how we should be together.

A: Maybe he’s been programmed by Hollywood to believe persistence in romantic pursuit always pays off, or he likes whatever reaction he gets enough to keep on going.

Regardless, he’s continually pressuring you for romance, and that has no role in a healthy friendship (or an office, while we’re at it). If he’s a friend worth keeping, he will understand that he doesn’t have the right to continually make you uncomfortable.

Spell it out: “I will no longer keep talking about this. I hope to remain friends, but if you keep making me uncomfortable, our friendship is in jeopardy because I won’t spend time with you.” Then stick to it, and cut this column out as a permission slip to your parents to avoid these gatherings.

Andrea Bonior is a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.”

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