Moving from gridlock to dialogue and from disconnection to connection:
When couples disagree, most repeat the following disruptive pattern: blame, criticize, defend, express contempt, distance, and emotionally or physically withdraw.
Distress is not about how many fights you have or even if you resolve the fights. Distress is about how you fight, and whether you can retain some sort of emotional connection after the fight.
While traditional types of marital counseling and coaching tend to be open-ended and seek to solve immediate problems, such as continual arguing, by focusing primarily on behavior change and communication skills, our approach hones in on increasing a couple’s appreciation for how each partner feels in order to build trust and a secure base they can each rely on. In this approach, couples learn to recognize the negative cycle they are stuck in, where one person criticizes and the other responds defensively or withdraws. Couples learn to identify the needs and fears that keep them in that cycle. They learn to identify and express their underlying emotions. Partners learn to empathize with each other and become more supportive of each other. Partners come together through the emotional needs they are each expressing, and can begin to comfort each other’s needs.
Until a couple is able to identify, acknowledge and ultimately forgive injuries, an emotional gulf persists between them. No matter how dissatisfying things have become and how unhappy or angry partners may be, they each need to feel safe in coming together to work out their problems. Each partner needs to understand the emotions dictating their actions. The emotions behind perceived problems are the key to understanding each other.
Signs of a couple in crisis:
• Difficulty communicating well, especially when you disagree.
• Avoidance/Withdrawal-one or both partners choose to avoid or withdrawal from conversations as a result of negative discussion.
• Invalidation-when one talks negatively about the beliefs, feelings, thoughts, looks, etc. of the other partner.
• Negative Interpretations-when one partner believes that the other partner is constantly behaving/speaking in a more negative way than is actually the case.
• Escalation-when in a discussion, one or both partners begin to escalate the conversation to hostile levels.
• Not handling disagreements as a team.
• Unrealistic beliefs about marriage.
• Difference in beliefs about important issues.
• A low level of commitment to one another (infidelity, no long-term goals, etc.)
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