Couples counseling helps you understand and deal with conflict. Couples counseling will give you the tools to communicate better, deal with differences, and solve problems in a healthier way.
We will work on what is getting in the way of a happy relationship and work on activities to improve the situation. Couples counseling is an active process that is about trying new ways of getting along.
Couples get in conflict in a number of ways. John Gottman, Ph.D. focuses on specific ways couples communicate ineffectively:
The main difference between criticizing and complaining is that criticism involves attacking the person’s character instead of focusing on a specific behavior. For example, a wife is bothered by how late her husband sleeps on Saturday. A criticism would be: “Why are you so lazy?”, whereas a complaint would be: “It really upsets me when you sleep until 11am. I’d like to spend more time with you on Saturdays.”
Contempt is when we start attributing negative intent toward our partner. When our memories of the admirable things about our partner fades, and our thoughts center around thinking our spouse is acting a certain way just to make us angry, we have moved into contempt.
Defensiveness creeps into the relationship when we stop listening to issues our spouse has and instead defend our actions. We do this in a number of ways:
a. Minimizing is when we react by saying “It’s not that bad. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
b. Another defensive strategy is what I call Popeye-ing. I remember the Popeye cartoons where he would say to Olive-oil: “I yam what I yam!”, meaning: “I’m not going to change…this is the way you married me.”
c. The third defensive strategy I see is what I call “The best defense is a good offense”. This is when, instead of focusing on the issue our spouse has about us, we instead bring up an issue we have about our spouse in hopes that the focus of the conversation will switch away from us.