When working with couples from different cultures, it is important to be sensitive to their cultural expectations of a relationship, but also help them to grow within those expectations. They naturally may bring their cultural tendencies to couples counseling. In one couple. the husband was comfortable expressing really angry emotions in conflicts with his wife. Despite making progress in his verbal language, his tone toward his wife remained really intense. So even if his words were not directly hurtful, his demeanor was as if he was scolding his wife—attacking with his tone.
Someone was recently talking with me about individual therapy and suggested that individuals can only progress as far as they are able. There’s some truth to this and I was wondering whether this couple’s progress was just going to be limited. They were getting along better, even if they were avoiding some difficult topics. My thought was maybe this was the best they could do.
Later this feeling of resignation seemed unacceptable. I could see the frustration in his wife when he became so angry. I needed to press this husband to do better. Maybe the intensity of his anger came from his history. Regardless, it was essential to work on his angry tone to achieve a really successful relationship for both of them.