Many couples come in to my office and tell me that they had a huge argument but can’t remember what the argument was about. At the time of the argument they were willing to use the word “divorce”, yet a few days later they can’t remember why. There is good reason for this. In an argument couples argue about the trash piling up, the dishes filling up the sink, one partner being later than they said they would be, and other issues that really don’t matter when things are going well and you feel connected.
I help my clients to understand what is at the CORE of the argument.
Trash/dishes piling up: This house doesn’t matter to you
Being late: Your time is more important than my time
Then I help my clients to understand how to communicate:
Instead of “I didn’t say that”, say “I didn’t MEAN that”. Unless you have a recorder (which I wouldn’t recommend), you will NEVER truly know what was actually said. You may think you do, but usually you don’t. Couples will file divorce over a disagreement on what one person said that they never actually meant. What you hear is more likely based on your feelings rather than facts (and yes folks, even therapists do this sort of thing in their own relationships because therapists aren’t objective in their own relationships as they are with clients). If someone said “I don’t like that”, and you are really upset at them, you might hear them say “I hate that” because of your own feelings or your reaction to their body language. Saying I don’t like something and I hate something is very different.
PRO TIP: Pay attention to each other’s feelings more than the words so that you can begin to notice when the other person is angry/sad/etc. This way, you support them on that level instead of squabbling over an issue that they can’t even remember what the issue was a week later. Imagine if when you were pissed off because your spouse forgot to take out the trash and instead of making excuses they said “You are valid to feel angry and I’m sorry that I forgot, I will set an alarm on my phone so I don’t forget as much”. This validates their feelings and they are much more likely to hear you and forgive you. Now, this only goes so far because if you don’t actually change your behavior, then this is going to get old really quick and you are going to go right back to arguing.
I also teach clients how to communicate in ways that won’t offend the other person. How do you not offend someone? Answer: Don’t blame them!
For example, instead of saying “where did you put my phone?”, saying: “I can’t find my phone, would you be able to help me find it?”. Which statement do YOU think will get a better response? If someone is feeling attacked, they will naturally go on the defense and possibly counter-attack. If they aren’t feeling blamed, they are more likely to want to help.
Another tip: If someone is constantly doing something to annoy you, bring it up at a time you aren’t annoyed and they are in a good mood. Issues are easier to resolve when they aren’t an issue at the time you are trying to resolve them.
There is no replacement for an interactive therapy session where techniques are tailored to fit you and your relationship. That being said, I wanted to share some of the techniques that I use to help couples get their connection back so you might be able to try it out. If you are looking for an interactive therapy session (as opposed to trying to figure out how to heal your relationship through googling issues), please call me to set up an appointment.