Couples Fight for Connection
9 times out of 10 couples fight because one partner feels like they are unimportant to the other. Yelling, arguing, and conflict are often used by this partner to get the other prove they care. However, this bid for connection is seen as an attack and leads to the other partner going on the defense or shutting down. This is a dangerous pattern which many couples unknowingly fall into.
Changing the Pattern
The first step of couples counseling counseling is to identify the negative pattern. Identifying the pattern allows couples to interrupt the pattern in the moment. Once the pattern is interrupted, couples can focus on getting their actual needs met. This involves understanding and asking for what is actually needed. As partners are able to ask for what they need, those needs can be met smoothly and effectively.
Learning to Communicate Emotionally
I have worked with many couple who generally come in with versions of the same complaint. “I live with a stranger.” “She/He doesn’t understand me,” “He/She doesn’t even try to listen.” Humans, especially men, are not taught to communicate their emotions. Early in relationships this isn’t necessarily needed because there is so much to learn we don’t need to feel. However, as we run out of information to share we need to learn to communicate emotionally. This means that we listen for and comment on the meaning of a phrase rather than the content.
For example, if my husband comes home and says “My boss yelled at me today.” an ok response is “That sucks honey, I am sorry you had a bad day”. My husband would probably respond with a “Thanks” and we would continue about our day. A better response is “I bet that made you feel insignificant” to which he would respond “Yea, sometimes I feel that he just doesn’t see the amount of work I put in”. This allows me to connect with him and it helps him to feel like I actually heard and cared about what happened at work. This is a difficult skill to learn but once mastered can make a huge difference in a relationship. It is also helpful to note that only a small percentage of communication needs to be emotional to make a big difference.
Using Emotional Communication to Heal Wounds
Once a couple has a good grasp on emotional communication it can be used to heal emotional wounds. Most couples come in with a list of events that they just can’t let go of. These events include things that were said or done that hurt the one person deeply. The other person has apologized and done everything in their power to make it okay but the hurt person just can’t let it go. This is often because the emotional impact of the event has never been acknowledged and dealt with. Therapy can teach the communication skills necessary to actually move past these difficult events.