One question asked quite a bit by prospective clients is “Do you offer couples counseling?” The short answer is no. The longer answer is that we have can help you find one and, in the interim, work with you individually to develop better listening and communication skills that will be helpful across your relationships.
Various therapeutic modalities can be helpful for couples. Personally, I am a big fan of translating DBT skills into practice, while weaving in my knowledge of Gottman’s principles of communication in marriage. As I am also an attachment therapist, I also take into perspective attachment wounding and how that could impact our ability to connect with our partner. When looking for a couples counselor, I do recommend finding someone who takes an eclectic approach. Remember, one-size does not fit all when it comes to matters of the heart and brain.
Here is some of the suggestions I provide in my work when folks are trying to create a better relationship with their partners, parents, friends, and colleagues. You may notice a theme, and yes, these are tips on how to fight effectively. Arguing and conflict is normal in a relationship and can be very healthy if done appropriately.
Keep it civil
First, (and this may seem like a no-brainer) zero name calling in relationships. Seems like such a simple thing, and yet labels escape our mouths in the heat of the moment. If you’re noticing a desire to call a name (i.e., “Greg, you’re being an inconsiderate jerk!”), first take notice of what the behavior is and your feelings. “Greg, when you change our plans last minute it makes me feel like you aren’t considering my feelings or my schedule, and that really hurts”. Labeling a behavior is much better than labeling your partner.
“I feel statements”
Did you catch that “feeling” statement above? That’s a cliche one, but tried and true for a variety of relationships. “I feel _______ when you ________”. Keep it objective. “I feel disregarded when our plans are changed last minute”. The other person may have no idea how their behavior is impacting you.
Try not to discount the other person’s feelings. You may disagree about what (or who) caused the argument, the events that took place, or whether or not you should even be arguing. But if your partner states they feel a certain way try to avoid statements such as “You shouldn’t feel that way”. Feelings are valid and acknowledging them can strengthen your relationship and soften the argument.
Try not to assume
You can’t read minds and it’s possible that you’re also misreading the situation. This is a hard one for a lot of people. For example, “That jerk cut me off”. Personalizing the situation typically leads to more hurt feelings on your end. There’s a good chance that jerk didn’t cut you off, but rather they are just a bad driver. When it’s not intentional or personal, it impacts you less. Going back to the example of the scheduling, it’s fair to ask what they think happened. “Hey, I thought we had agreed on a quiet dinner at home tonight, but plans seemed to have changed last second- did we discuss this and I forgot about it?” This gives them the benefit of the doubt.
Stay on the current argument. It’s funny how a discussion about forgetting to take out the trash can dissolve into that time you forgot the wedding gift five years ago. If you find yourselves straying off topic, bring it back. “I appreciate you want to talk about your Aunt May’s wedding, but right now we’re talking about the trash.” On the same note, try to avoid blanket statements: “You always forget to take out the trash”.
Remember, arguing effectively is much better than the silent treatment! Hang in there everyone! Relationships are hard work.
When you’re ready to learn more, reach out for a free consultation.