Caitlyn and Alex have been together a decade and a half, but now they hardly talk to each other. They both want to save the marriage—although they have their doubts—and both are willing to work on the problems in their marriage. Their ability to escalate in session is so great I rarely have them talk to each other during the couples counseling session.
In our last session, I asked each of them what they needed to work on. Alex said he needed to slow down being reactive. His words could sometimes be off track, but what Caitlyn was mostly reactive to was his angry/frustrated non-verbal demeanor.
Caitlyn said her work is not to personalize. She perceived Alex’s reactions as intense, aggressive, and angry, but she wanted to think that his feelings were about stressors in his life rather than about her.
We spent the rest of the session working on this. Alex worked on modulating his reaction, and Caitlyn would inquire what was going on for Alex without assuming it was about her. Rather than blaming each other, they were now working on themselves.