One of the problems I see play out in my office over and over again is when couples get into an argument and they just can’t seem to make headway. I talked about this in my last couples therapy blog and today, I want to go into more depth about this problem.
Last time, I explained that one of the reasons couples can’t move these arguments forward is that they get caught up in trying to figure out exactly what happened in the past. I gave the example of John and Sally where Sally was really upset about something she claimed John had said to her that was really hurtful.
This interaction had occurred ten years before I saw this couple. John had absolutely no memory of having said anything like this to Sally, but Sally had not forgotten. This couple was caught in an endless, ten-year long fight about whether John had actually said the hurtful thing or not, rather than simply repairing the injury.
Don’t Make “Objective Truth” More Important Than Distress-Relief
In therapy, John acknowledged that it was in fact possible that he had said that hurtful thing to Sally, even though he had no recollection of it. That was all that was needed for him to go ahead and apologize. He was able to tell Sally that if he did say that to her, he felt really bad about it. In this way, John was able to repair the 10 year-long argument and give Sally a huge sense of relief.
The couple was finally able to move on from this argument. They now understood the mistake they had been making all these years: They had been fighting about figuring out the “objective truth,” rather than just repairing the injury.
Many Partners Struggle to Acknowledge When They Mess Up
A lot of couples don’t make repair the most important thing in their relationship. A lot of partners don’t think that it makes sense to apologize for something unless you are absolutely sure that you did it. People are often afraid to give their partner even just a little bit of acknowledgement or relief by acknowledging that maybe they messed up.
As a couples therapist, it’s amazing to me how hard it can be for people to say to their partner, “You know, I messed that up. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” And there’s a good reason why that’s so hard to do.
The My-Way-or-the-Highway Approach to Conflict
If we look at our relational histories from our families of origin, a lot of times, we didn’t see parents who worked together to figure things out in a way that felt good to both people. We may have come from a family where one parent was very dominating, and the other parent was very submissive. It was a “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to conflict.
One of the things you will learn in my couples therapy practice is how to work things out in a way that both people can have an experience of distress-relief. Nobody should ever feel they are being taken advantage of or steamrolled in their relationship.
Everyone needs to feel that their concerns are being addressed by their partner. When people get that sense of fairness and sensitivity in their relationship, and they really feel heard and understood, that’s when they get lift-off and go to a new level as a couple.
Get Relief From Years of Fighting
If you are a couple in distress and you would like someone to help you learn how to resolve your arguments quickly and get back to the joy that brought you together in the first place, let’s connect and talk about how I can help you achieve your results much faster.
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I look forward to speaking with you soon.
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