Are you curious where to learn relationship skills such as fighting fairly, stating needs clearly without being offensive, and understanding who your spouse is? When we get angry in a fight with our partner, our body can initiate a flight or fight response. Remember what your body does when you get pissed off? Pulse racing, blood running to your head, can’t wait to get out of there. Couples counseling can teach you adjustments to this very normal flight or fight response. To respond when this reaction happens, couples counseling teaches these tips:
-Remind yourself your body is acting normally, just primitively.
-Try to stand or sit in a relaxed posture, breathing gently.
-Really angry or upset? Try a time-out to collect yourself. Take a walk and come back to talk later.
-Respect each other by keeping a reasonable distance.
-Avoid raising your voice. Remember this is a person who cares about you.
Then get to the point.
Help your marriage through marriage counseling, to learn the following:
-See where they are coming from first. Ask open-ended questions with who, what, how, when, where? Avoid asking “Why?” in the beginning, which can make the other defensive.
-Repeat what the other person is asking you. This gives you time to clarify for yourself, and it’s respectful of both.
-Avoid “you” statements, which is “blaming” or “attacking” language. Keep it in the “here and now”, on the current subject.
-One problem to solve, so avoid adding more. No “gunnysacking”, which is bringing up several other issues or past fights.
-Look for several solutions. Try to keep a sense of humor.
What if we can’t get to a solution?
Different core values do come up at times in fights. Or, not having the continued energy level to deal with deeper issues makes the option to seek marriage counseling with a therapist important. It’s a sign that you value a healthy marriage when you seek marital therapy.
Stating needs clearly, without being offensive, is a learned skill many couples can benefit from. Here are a few tips that have worked with my clients who want increased emotional intimacy:
-Remember to use “I” statements.
-Prioritize what you need to wishes, wants, and needs. Something you wish for is a fantasy, a hope. A want is sensed as more than a wish, but you could live without it. A need is bottom-line, something you can’t live without.
-Remember that your partner can’t always give you what you need. Can you give it to yourself?
-Try to communicate in a specific way. An example: “I need to be picked up at work about 6 p.m., since my car is in the shop. Would that work for you?”
Who AM I married to?
Understanding who your partner is seems simple enough, though clients continue to seek marriage counseling when one person fails to see or understand their partner clearly. Being seen for who one is can be very calming, and it rarely happens. Author John Gray says that men and women communicate, act, think, feel, and love in completely different ways. Doesn’t it feel that way sometimes? He says men favor efficiency, success, independence, power and are more interested in aims and results that in relationships and people. What counts for women is communication, feelings, self-sacrifice and intimacy. I don’t think either gender has a lock on any of the differences, though I do see that it is healthy for you to look carefully and really get, remember, and understand what your partner values the most!
Tips for deepening your capacity to see who you are involved with include:
-Asking them what’s going on with them, then LISTEN.
-Stay aware of THEIR values.
-Realize that you are radically different from your partner. Understand and accept your partner, which will reduce your frustration and disappointment over what does or doesn’t happen.
-When you understand your partner, you are more likely to be able to give your partner what they really need.
-Concessions can feel like no big deal, which is important to the development of a satisfying relationship, one that can fight fairly, state needs clearly, and understand each other.