We know what it's like-- you and your partner have brushed over the idea of couples therapy post argument quite a few times. One of you mentions it, the other says it might be a good idea, but then... nothing happens.  Don’t worry! This is normal. After noticing a problem, it takes couples an average of six years to begin attending therapy. While we don’t recommend waiting this long, there are some tips and tricks we can recommend to help you figure out how to navigate disagreements at home in the healthiest way possible.   Notice and shift your mindset Pay attention to your internal dialogue. How often does your partner do something totally benign, like forget to empty the dishwasher, and you skyrocket into remembering all the annoying things they do on a regular basis?  Humans are wired to notice and remember the negative rather than the positive. While this makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, it means you are going to have to be intentional about noticing all the tiny positive things your partner does on a regular basis. But listen-- if our bodies are wired towards negativity, it is not realistic to entirely wipe out noticing all the things that frustrate you. Instead, just try to add in noticing two or three positive, helpful, or adorable things your partner does each day. This is a small and effective way to begin to rewire your brain to look for positives in your partner instead of the negatives.   Take note of what happens before, during, and after an argument This is really about trigger recognition. The word “trigger” typically means something that reminds someone of a trauma. This being said, I am using the word “trigger” here as something that starts an argument or escalates an argument.  This is crucial for a ton of reasons, the first and foremost being accountability. The ability to identify your triggers gives you power over your feelings, and allows your partner to know what things really set you off. This makes it easier to avoid walking on eggshells, and can even shift you towards feeling more comfortable with each other.  While noting what happens before and during an argument is a great way to increase awareness of triggers, noting what happens after an argument gives you agency in identifying what makes you feel better, and what continues to escalate you.  Avoiding thought patterns like rumination will make it easier for you to gain control of your emotions, and will help you and your partner move towards repair rather than remaining in a cycle of anger and frustration.  Create rituals If you and your partner are inching towards disconnect due to chaotic lives, find a moment or two for a nightly ritual. Daily rituals create a sense of identity for the couple, and can even lead to an overall increase in relationship satisfaction (and can be helpful for business relationships, too!).  Rituals do not have to be anything groundbreaking, and can be as simple as sharing a cup of coffee in the morning, or as deep as spending some time each evening reflecting on your favorite moments of the day. The goals are really to 1. Create security and warmth in a pattern, and 2. Increase both symbolic and actual connection.  If you two are packed with careers, children, family commitments, and other parts of life that make this feel impossible, remember that rituals do not have to be an addition to your daily routine. Instead, you can focus on just completing some of your tasks together (i.e. coffee in the morning, or cooking dinner together).   Talk about your future The goal with this tip is to really help you and your partner gain some clarity about how to move forward. It is really common to get into the weeds during arguments and to focus on minutiae detail and historical accuracy. This can make it feel impossible to get to the root cause of what is going on. So, instead, try thinking about the future. What do you want it to look like? Do you have common goals? Do you picture your future together? Spend a couple of minutes writing down what you want the next five years to like, and share it with one another. This can be a scary activity, but is a really effective first step towards figuring out where to go next.   Be patient… All in all, be patient. The topic of couples therapy can feel daunting, especially when there are years of built up emotion to address. Take it one step at a time, and start with these small tips.  If you feel like you are ready, or want to sort through your options, give us a call-- we are here to help!  Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW  ​

You two have been stuck for a while. You and your partner are having the same arguments, the same frustrations, the same headaches. It seems like your choice is between a screaming match or hours of silence.  Finally, you gain the courage to chat with your partner about the potential for couples therapy. You have friends who did it and it was immensely helpful for them. Yet, somehow, this has also ended in a screaming match.  We hear you, and we know you don’t want to live like this anymore. Check out the below main questions we get from clients/prospective clients to help your partner understand where you’re coming from a little better.  How do I get my partner to hear me when I say I want to go to couples therapy? Start by being crystal clear on what you believe will be helpful about couples therapy. Make a list of what could change if you were going to couples therapy: How would you communicate differently? What would feel different during your day to day? Let your partner know how invested you are, and that you are confident you both can feel better in your relationship. This is a great start to a team focused approach that your couples therapist will definitely highlight!  Another idea for broaching the topic of couples therapy is to think about how to position it so your partner does not feel attacked. While it is super frustrating for your partner to not listen when you say you want to go to therapy, pointing this out will probably not motivate them enough to get them in the counseling room.  It is really common to use “you” when people are frustrated. Saying something like “you need therapy” is a really effective way to get your partner on the defense mode. Try focusing on your needs instead. “Hey babe, it would mean a lot to me if we could go to couples therapy to work on our relationship together” might not feel as powerful in the moment, but it is much more likely to elicit the response you want than the “You...” approach.   What do I do if my partner doesn't want to go to couples therapy?Trust us when we say that both parties are rarely thrilled about being in couples therapy. But listen. Remember that you cannot force your partner to be in couples therapy. All you can do is grow in the ways you can, and hope your partner evolves with you.  While it is true you cannot make them go, you can reiterate why it is important to you, and how your life could look different. Use a softened startup to help your partner know what you appreciate about them, and what you feel you both can work on to make your lives better.  Another great way to get your feet wet is to take a class or go to a couples workshop! Stay curious about what exactly your partner is hesitant about in attending couples therapy. If they are uncomfortable airing dirty laundry, or talking to a stranger, a couples class/workshop could be an excellent way for you two to just learn about what tools couples therapy can offer you. Check out these other suggestions on what to do if your partner does not want to go to couples therapy.   What does the first session look like? The first session is really just designated as a “getting to know you” appointment. The therapist wants to learn about you two and what your relationship trajectory has looked like. With this, it is equally as important that you get to know your therapist, how they work, and how they view couples therapy.  Keep in mind that your therapist does not want to solve anything in your first session. Your therapist wants to understand where you two got stuck, and what goals you have for yourselves as a couple and individually. The therapist will need this information for guidance on how to maneuver thoughtful treatment. To get a better understanding of what exactly those first few sessions look like, check out our post. A huge part of any therapeutic process is trust-- in each other, and in your therapist. All parties must work together to assume the best intention from each other. Building trust in your therapist is a crucial part of taking the work seriously, and achieving the goals you are driven towards. So ask questions, and figure out if your therapist is someone you can be comfortable with!   What happens if I disagree with my couples therapist? Amazing! If you’re disagreeing with us, that means you’re thinking critically and thoughtfully about couples therapy. The therapist will absolutely say things you disagree with, there is no avoiding this. Your therapist knows about theory, but knows nothing about your relationship until you tell them.  Your disagreements are how your couples therapist learns about you. Please let them know when you disagree! Sometimes they may give you push back, and sometimes they may shift. But without the information, they cannot do their job effectively. Check out this post on how to give your therapist feedback. Don’t worry about hurting your therapist’s feelings. They are trained to make it NOT be about them. They want your treatment to be the best it can possibly be-- that is why they went into this field in the first place. Their job is to help you, and in order to best do this, they need all the information possible!  *One caveat. Remember- you cannot change their mind, and you cannot force them to attend couples therapy. All you can do is provide your partner with the information they need in order to make an informed decision. Patience, patience, (communication) and patience.  ​

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Using Who You Are to Revive Your Relationship

You’ve always been one of those people who understands the importance of establishing your unique character and relishing in it. You took time to develop who you are and have defined the things that you enjoy and are meaningful to you. You truly like who you’ve become. 

 

Of course, your partner loved who you were, which is why you found each other. You looked forward to each other’s company and adored one another. How is it now, you may ask, that you feel so far apart? Why does it feel like your partner doesn’t feel the same about the person you’ve worked so hard to become?

 

 

Reconnecting with yourself

 

Relationships have so many important things to attend to. Giving attention to your spouse and family, meeting household needs, and completing your work responsibilities can prevent you from being in touch with yourself and the passion of your early relationship. 

 

Believe it or not, making more time for yourself may be the key to rejuvenating your earlier excitement

 

You owe it to yourself and your loved one to re-awaken that part of you that makes you feel uplifted. So let us break down how to reconnect with yourselves, and resurrect what you both enjoy most about one another! 

 

 

A story you can relate to...

 

Jamie* delighted in Mark*’s bold entrance into the dinner party. Mark filled the room in a most lively way and captivated everyone he spoke with. Jamie caught Mark’s eye also. There was a quiet air of confidence about her. He liked that Jamie seemed to know who she was and was able to command respect from others. 

 

Jamie and Mark fell in love and later got married, but eventually often found themselves in conflict with one another. Jamie often accused Mark of wanting to dominate her. She complained of his unrelenting minimization of her suggestions for financial management. Mark found himself increasingly annoyed with Jamie for ignoring his input and implementing her own way with the finances. Both Jamie and Mark sensed that they were becoming more distant and found themselves hesitant to be the confident people they were, which led to other identity issues and relationship problems. Who are we to our partners if not our truest self?

 

 

Why does this happen, and how can I fix it? 

 

People can lose touch with themselves when they forget what is most important to them. Not feeling in touch with your own identity can take other forms as well. Perhaps you no longer connect with your original sense of creativity. Or maybe you’ve lost the spirituality that kept you grounded and able to inspire others. 

 

But keep this in mind- you cannot maximize your marriage if you do not make space for self-appreciation through developing and maintaining who you are. 

 

Take time to remember what you enjoy about yourself and how it made you and your partner feel. It also helps to understand any current relationship insecurities. Understanding and accepting the reasons behind your insecurities may help you learn more about yourself and your partner. Integrating what you enjoy about yourself with the needs of your relationship can create deeper joy and connection for both you and your partner.

 

Think of some specific activities that have made you come alive. If you are still interested in them, indulge in them again. If there are new activities that energize your soul, make time for them. If you and your partner enjoyed them together, make time to enjoy them together again. It may be what you need to reawaken your passion for one another. 

 

 

Remember Jamie and Mark? 

 

The things they loved about one another later felt conflictual to them. It’s important to strike a balance between the things you enjoy doing and the things your partner needs from you. Enjoy who you are, while being able to use various other parts of yourself to respond to the needs of your relationship

 

Perhaps it would have been helpful to Jamie and Mark if they had set time aside to engage in activities that made them feel in touch with their strong selves as well as time to be vulnerable with one another, lending other parts of themselves to respond to each other’s needs. 

 

You may feel that you do not fully know yourself yet-- who does? Take time to discover, enjoy and value new experiences that speak to who you are apart as well as together. Continued discoveries about life, yourself, and your partner is a vital part of building a relationship of integrity and respect. When each of you upholds your own integrity, the needs of the relationship can be addressed on what is real. When you are honest with yourselves, it becomes easier to focus on what’s right between you.

 

 

How do we get there?

 

Therapy is a great way to get intouch with our inner joys and needs. Therapy can be a place of discovery, a place to slow things down a bit; enough to take an honest and safe look at your strengths that can be maximized to help a meaningful relationship flourish. Therapy can also be a place to speed things up toward progress in a way that might not have if there were no therapy. Therapy can be a good way to unlock the barriers to rediscovering yourself and what your relationship can be. We are here if you two decide to give it a shot! 

 

*These are fictional characters and not based on a real example.  

 

 

Jacqueline McIntosh, LCSW

 

 

 

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