If your romantic relationship is not living up to its full potential, take heart: Our closest relationships are the perfect setting for us to learn to deal with our un-healed hurt from our past. When two people are committed to working together, they can heal from anything – even infidelity. This is a foundation of my approach to couples therapy.
When we experience problems in our relationships, we have an opportunity to lean in and do our work. We can think of our conflict or distance as signs that something is amiss and that we have work to do. This work can be scary, and we may feel vulnerable, yet we have everything to gain when we do the work.
In my work with couples, I apply a set of principles and offer practices to support them, healing wounds, and fostering closeness and connection. Some of these principles and practices I use in couples therapy follow:
Couples who are engaged in active conflict often get caught up in arguing the “facts of the case”, but really, we are upset because of our history, stories, and interpretations. It’s not about the “facts of the case” and if we stay there, fighting over the “facts”, we are in a win-lose frame and ultimately, neither of us can win.
- Shift to a win-win frame by realizing that if you are upset, your partner has simply created the context for you to experience that upset.
- Notice that your triggers have long legs, reaching back into your past and coming up over and over again in various contexts.
- Remember that your conflict gives you the opportunity to heal your wounds from the past.
We learn to be impeccable with our word. We learn to say exactly what we mean to say, speaking our truth for the purpose of mutual understanding, rather than blaming, shaming, or otherwise harming.
- Search inside yourself to find the right way to speak your truth.
- Avoid sentences like “you always_______”, or “you never_______”, or blanket character-assassination statements like “you are so _______(something bad)”.
- State your perception simply.
- Talk about your feelings directly.
- Have an “ask” – and understand that “no” is a reasonable answer.
When we are upset and triggered, we regress to an earlier developmental stage. (Your grown-up self does not act that way!)
- Bring a mindful quality to upsetting situations and avoid “catastrophizing”.
- Avoid black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking and statements.
- Take a 20-minute “distraction break” as soon as you realize you are getting upset. It will be worth the wait if you wait till you are calm to finish the conversation.
Because of our evolution, we remember the “bad stuff” more easily than the “good stuff”. This helped our forbearers survive. In order to thrive, we need to put forth more effort into remembering the good stuff.
- Savor our positive experiences, being mindful and aware of them while they unfold.
- Make it a priority to invest time and energy into creating more good stuff in the relationship.
- Prioritize spending time together, being present with each other.
- Treat each other with kindness and think of the relationship with gratitude.