Growing Closer – How Couples Become Their Own Counselors
Of all the ways partners can grow closer to one another, the most important one is to speak and listen to one another from their hearts. One sure sign of this kind of communication is when I hear a husband say “I could see that my wife was angry but I suspected that she was really feeling hurt because I hadn’t helped her with some chores” or when I hear a wife say “I could see that my husband was pulling away and I thought perhaps he was worried he would disappoint me…so he decided not to say anything at all.”
Statements such as these are a signal to me that each person is beginning to see situations not only from their own point of view but also through the other person’s eyes and is viewing their partner from their heart and with compassion. There are many steps between blaming each other and viewing each other with compassion and understanding.
Interestingly, the process begins with being compassionate toward ourselves. Often, a couple begins therapy blaming each other for the problems in the relationship. Through listening and coaching, each partner is able to identify the underlying fear and hurt that the relationship is triggering. Sharing those fears and hurts helps them to move beyond blame to statement like “he doesn’t really want to abandon me …he gets quiet because he’s afraid he’ll disappoint me” and “she doesn’t mean to be critical…she is trying to get my attention.”
From there people can begin to identify the feelings and thoughts connected to those negative patterns as they happen in the moment so that they can intervene and change the pattern right away, before it escalates. Partners can then repair the disconnection and regain closeness. In other words, the goal for couples is to become their own couples counselor!
Wanda Sevey, M.Div, LMFT is a Senior Staff Therapist and Director of Council for Relationships’ Voorhees and Lawrenceville, NJ offices. Request an appointment with her today!