Ten Fool Proof Ways To Fail in Couples Therapy

By Dr. Bonnie Ray Kennan, MFT


  1. Only come to therapy in CRISIS or six years after your relationship has gone sour.
  2.  Keep in mind that your ultimate goal in couple’s therapy is to prove that you are right and your partner is wrong.
  3. In the couple’s session, provide DETAILED evidence to enlighten your therapist as to how incorrigible your spouse is. Employ a variety of strategies to evoke your therapist’s sympathy for your marital misery.
  4. Always operate on the assumption that your partner’s motives are bad and that your motives are good.
  5. Find ways to humiliate your partner in the session. Be creative.
  6. If, for any reason, things get too uncomfortable in the session, fold your arms tightly and give both the therapist and your partner the “silent treatment.”
  7. If your partner gets too emotional, roll your eyes, and dismiss him/her with a wave of your hand.
  8. When your therapist makes a suggestion let her know you have already tried it and that “it didn’t work”.  Always start your reply with the words “yes, but….”
  9. Just before you walk out of your therapy session, drop a “bomb” which will insure a nasty fight with your partner that will continue in the parking lot and on the way home.
  10. If all else fails, use couple’s therapy to conveniently end your marriage.  That way, you can always impress the new person in your life, all your friends, and yourself that at least you TRIED.

Most couples come to couple’s therapy courageously and with the best of intentions. Even still, they all too often fall into these traps and set themselves up to fail. When we see a couple communicating ineffectively in the office, we use this to show us how the couple interacts at home. These communication strategies are misguided and ineffective. A skilled therapist understands that both people are simply making their best effort at getting their needs met. The bitter and painful communication patterns are a starting point for the work. They provide the therapist with valuable information as well as an opportunity to teach couples a more effective way to engage and connect.

Prominent marital researcher, John Gottman, has observed couples as they relate to each other.  For over thirty years, his work has led him to predict (with more than 90% accuracy) which marriages will last and which will fail, simply by watching how the couple interacts with each other.  Dr. Gottman has identified the behaviors that healthy, happy and loving couples engage in that result in long lasting marriages, as well as the unhealthy patterns of conflicted, disillusioned and unhappy couples.  Using these findings as a blue print, couples will be gently led through the process of relinquishing painful, destructive, and ineffective habits while building a strong, marital friendship. Couple’s therapy can provide an opportunity for a second chance to have the marriage you always wanted.