In working with a young struggling couple, I was struck by how the wife was really getting it. By the fourth session, she made a number of quotable statements that reflected her understanding of what was problematic in their relationship and how to interact differently.
- “I’m thinking about the words we use.” This statement captures the essence of couples counseling. Words matter and using language that is respectful gives couples a chance to work through issues.
- “I don’t really care about being right, but instead about being heard.” This pattern of being right is a dynamic I see in some couples. When the goal is to win or prevail, it creates contention in a relationship. When individuals insist that they are right, it infers that their partners are wrong. This woman got it when she said she really wanted to be heard. Being heard is what partners are primarily longing for.
- “I’m more comfortable saying how his reaction made me feel.” This is actually an advanced skill. Initially in couples counseling, the therapist is typically giving feedback on ineffective comments. Hopefully by the end of treatment, the partner is able to give feedback on problematic statements. With this couple, the wife understood how to give feedback to her partner—not what he’s doing wrong but instead how his comment made her feel, e.g., upset, criticized, etc.
By sharing some of these insights, I’m hoping you’ll get it too.