How Do I Handle His/Her Denial or Refusal to Get Help?

By Steve Watters
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Woman holding a phone with rings on her fingers.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez/ Unslpash
Don't be surprised if your spouse denies having a problem.

Don’t be surprised if your spouse either denies having a problem (despite your evidence) or admits having a problem but refuses to take meaningful steps to address it.

“Denial of a problem or not wanting to get help is a symptom of the real problem and if you have to wait for your spouse to say they’re finally ready, they may never get there,” says Dr. Harry Schaumburg, a sexual addiction counselor. Schaumburg believes your approach should be to invite them to help you improve your marriage. You could say: “This whole thing that you’ve been struggling with — without seeing change — has really taken its toll on me. I don’t like how it affects how I feel about you. I want us to restore relationship. I want us to build something. You need to do this, because I’m hurting.”

If your spouse will not respond to that Rob Jackson recommends that you follow the model of confrontation laid out in Matthew 18:15-17:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (v. 15-16).

In other words, if confronting one-on-one doesn’t work, confront your spouse with witnesses: business partners, friends, or a pastor (but not your children).

“Love bomb them,” says Dr. Jennifer Schneider, a researcher who wrote about her response to an adulterous husband in her book Back from Betrayal. She recommends a format similar to the interventions spouses often use to confront alcoholics.Interview with Dr. Jennifer Schneider.

Rob Jackson recommends that you go into the confrontation with a treatment game plan (a support group, counseling sessions, etc.) already worked out among your witness team. If your spouse still seems reluctant to get help, you will need to say, “Here is what you are doing; here are the directives. I’m willing to get help, too. If you’re not, you are jeopardizing the relationship to the point of separation.” Rob believes this approach is important because the addict needs to work as a team player and quit trying to be independent of the family. “No one family member is more important than the rest of the family,” he says.Interview with Rob Jackson.

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From Real Solutions for Overcoming Internet Addictions, published by Servant Publications. Copyright © 2001, Stephen O. Watters. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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Learn How to Cherish your Spouse and Have a Deeper Connection

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? What does it mean to cherish your spouse? Couples who cherish each other understand that God created everyone different, and as a result they treasure the unique characteristics in their spouse. We want to help you do just that. Focus on the Family has created a free five-part video course called "Cherish Your Spouse". In this video series, Gary Thomas will help you have a deeper level of intimacy and connection with your spouse.
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About the Author

Steve Watters

Steve Watters is the Director of Marriage and Parenting Preparation for the Family Ministries department.

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