Blaming and finger-pointing is not going to get you want you want. Photo of finger-pointing is by Jason Rogers
Linda Esposito, a psychotherapist and a friend of mine wrote a comment to a post here on the blog: “How to get the most benefit from couples therapy”. I liked her comment and the questions she asked so much that I decided to allocate a post to address the issue.
Here is Linda’s comment:
Wow–this is a really extensive list Irene. Question: what’s a good exercise for couples who understand when they’re in a rational, adult-thinking place that they need to refrain from blaming one another, whining, engaging in resentful compliance, etc., but regress when they’re emotional and under stress? I guess it’s helpful from a therapeutic standpoint to have them reenact or review an argument, but it seems like there should be better ways to address the “acting out” tendencies…
Hope this makes sense! TY .
What a great question Linda!
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN REACTIONS UNDER STRESS
To move forward from our “acting out” tendencies, we have to do the needed individual work and start changing how we react and deal with difficult emotions like anger. Both partners have a personal responsibility to work on their own reactions when under stress. I know that we would rather want to point out how our partner is the problem. How much easier it would be if he/she just would change. The problem is that our partner is thinking the same. This is painful work! But we need to be willing to look at our own reactions and decide to stop blaming our partner for how we feel.
Here is my take on how you can start working on your individual issues in the context of the couples work:
DEAL WITH YOUR ANGER BY RESPECTFULLY EXPRESSING HOW YOU FEEL – SELF EXPRESSION
Talk to your partner about how you react when under stress, and how you would like to be able to act instead. Focus on how it is for you – your perspective, thoughts and emotions. You need to express all your emotions, not only your anger. Try to find your “softer” emotions that are hidden underneath your anger. “I am angry at you, but I realize that I also feel hurt, sad, afraid etc.”
REACH OUT TO YOUR PARTNER IN ANY WAY YOU CAN THINK OF
Have your partner tell you how he/she typically reacts. Be sure to listen. Now is not the time to let your anger out. You are going to hear your partner’s perspective and you will want to make sure you understand. Recap and ask questions.
SUPPORT EACH OTHERS INDIVIDUAL WORK
Now talk about how you can support each other in this important individual work that you both have to do. It is not something we learn by talking about this once. We have to continuously be aware and mindful of our own triggers and reactions. We can reach out for help and we can influence each other, but we can’t blame and attack our partner and expect that he/she will listen and change. Being resentful and focusing on how impossible your partner is being in silence (avoidance) is not going to work either.
IF YOU ATTACK YOUR PARTNER OR WITHDRAW FROM EXPRESSING HOW YOU FEEL – TAKE A TIME OUT
Ask for a time out, calm yourself and remind yourself what is important to you and why you are doing this hard work. Reflect on what kind of partner you would like to be. When you come back from time out, make sure you respectfully express your thoughts and feelings to your partner. If you are not sure how, think about how you would like your partner to talk to you.
FOCUSING ON YOUR INTENTIONS IS SOMETIMES EASIER THAN FOCUSING ON HOW ANGRY YOU ARE
Explain what you want and what you would like your partner to help you with. By doing this you are focusing on your own goals for yourself, which is a whole other story than blaming your partner for hurting your feelings.
For more help on how to communicate more effectively go here
Interested in learning more about couples therapy and how to get started go here
How to ensure a positive couples therapy experience go here and how to get the most benefit go here
For new couples entering therapy go here
Ask an experienced and trained couples therapist for help if you need to. Photo by worak
This work is not easy, so make sure you ask for help if you need to. This blog gives advice, and is no substitute for couples therapy. By having an experienced and trained couples therapist by your side you have a neutral resource person to help you navigate these turbulent waters. Call (954) 806-2974 for help in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area.
This site has over 50 articles offering relationship advice so you on your own can improve your relationship!
WARNING! Reading the advice is not enough. You have to follow the instructions and do the exercises with your partner, and remember that it takes practice before you master a new skill.
- If you partner is not yet willing to do the exercises with you – don’t despair – do them yourself and show your partner than you are holding your end of your relationship.
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Thanks for visiting – Hope to connect with you!
Photo by Desi on Flickr
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