Couples often come into couples counseling sharing how the smallest or seemingly insignificant details of life are usually the topics of fights. So many of us have found ourselves fighting over mundane parts of our lives and end up hurting each other in such big ways through these arguments. I often describe it as a tornado that, once moving, seems to pull every little thing into itself in a way that feels out of control. Stronger, more intense feelings often show themselves in romantic relationships, making romantic relationships seem harder than close friendships at times.
Upon honest examination in couples counseling people find that the content of their fights isn’t what they where actually fighting about. Unmet needs or past hurts, if left unhealed, continue to find new avenues to be acted out on one another. The first step in stopping this reactive fighting is to become aware of what is really being played out between two people. If you are mindful of the motivation, you have a chance to try and work out the larger issues underneath.
Vulnerability and the ability to speak from our hearts is a skill many of us posses, but find it difficult when we feel hurt, betrayed, or angry. All of our good sense just goes out the window in these moments. The toughest work in couples counseling is stopping the reactive, defensive, and blaming behavior and begin to learn to speak directly about how one feels and communicate what that person is needing for themselves in the relationship. You may feel like you have tried this and failed, or communicated your needs and the need was never met. Even though this may be true, coming back to the core issue and staying there is the only way to mend it. It’s amazing how new ideas and willingness can be inspired for both parties once two people start to act respectfully and become safe for one another.
Once two people understand each other and feel more connected and willing , goals can be created by the couple that will be the groundwork for meeting each other’s needs and healing past hurtful behavior. My role as a couples therapist is to assure that these maintenance practices remain alive by continuing to hold each person responsible for their intentions and practices. Focusing on appreciation, friendship, and sweetness are a huge part of healing up past hurts and is often prescribed as homework for the couple as well.