I have just finished listening to another wonderful seminar in my Psychotherapy course. This seminar was led by Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, The Divorce Remedy, and The Sex-Starved Marriage. I completely agree with her belief and approach to couples counseling in the way that even when we believe there is no other option than to part ways, there are multiple ways to learn to communicate anew.
In the following post, I discuss some of the key points that I learned in this training session.
The vast majority of problems that couples are having, which cause them to want out, can be solved. It is important to come first from a place of "this marriage can be saved". This is not always the case, but it is a better place to start from - and this is not coming from a religious perspective. She watched more experienced clinicians shift the conversation really quickly to divorce topics once it became "established" that the relationship was not salvageable. As she watched this happen, she thought, I wouldn't have done that ... I could think of many different options to help this couple out.
We come complete with values, beliefs, and assumptions that affect our life choices. Many therapists feel that they can't do anything for a couple if only one person shows up. That a lot of them feel like if only one partner is present, the marriage is DOA. Time and time again, she herself would cancel a session if, for example, only four out of six family members showed up.
Imagine a mobile, and if you set one piece of the mobile into motion, then the entire mobile begins to move. Relationships are like this. It just takes one piece to set the entire framework into motion. Many people don't think this could be effective; however, many times it is considered that a session will be ineffective without a proper 'head count'. But it has more to do with what the therapist has to say, and not so much about interactions.
Another prevalent myth is that you need two people in order to solve relationship problems. The truth is, in many ways, we are doing our clients a disservice if we allow our clients to believe that the only way to have any impact is through words. The truth is, there are many people who are much more action oriented - men in particular. We tend to ask men to talk more and open up, but rarely do we ask women to become more action oriented. Most divorces these days are initiated by women.
Stereo-typically speaking, women are the relationship caretakers. What tends then to happen is that a woman's concerns about certain things spill over into other aspects of the marriage. And rarely does a man, when his wife begins 'nagging', want to spend more time with his wife! Women will generally then decide the relationship is over, and this leads to her growing quieter, because in her mind, there is nothing left to bother with. Ironically, the husband will then think, 'Great! She's not complaining anymore, things must be fine now.'
Many women say, 'I've said everything I can say, and it goes in one ear and out the other' and of course in many ways she has said everything. But there is a clue in there - if nothing is smoothing over, perhaps less talking and more doing needs to happen. We don't have to be extreme. Helping people be more action oriented, changing how they approach things can make a huge difference.
We all know how to push the buttons of our partners, we all know what to do to get a shift in their behavior, or to get a reaction. So it may be true that we can't change other people, but we can change the way that we do something in order to get a different response. For example, let's say someone gets nervous when their spouse is driving too fast. Rather than saying it to them each time, they begin to tap their foot - their 'braking' foot - and their spouse begins to clue into this. Chances become good that they will slow down in order to save the confrontation or argument.
Look for solution oriented responses. It is difficult for most people to do this. Try to turn negative statements into positive ones.
It is important to know what your goals are, so that you can remain aware of whether you are moving closer to or further away from your goals. It is important to know what 'improvement' looks like through the eyes of your partner. Identify what works - even a little. Identify what has worked in the past - even a little. If a couple fights on a Monday, then they have a great week until they have another fight the following Monday ... this can lead to a belief in each of them that they fight all the time. Call to mind the times where things were working.
Sometimes hurt can be translated into anger. This can be commonly seen in a couple after the birth of their children, when there is less time for each other. In what ways does your partner communicate to you their emotions? You may want them to say a specific thing to you, such as "I love you", but are they a verbal communicator? In many cases, when asked, one partner is able to call to mind numerous ways that they know for certain their spouse communicates their love.
If you are interested in checking out this Psychotherapy course for yourself, please go here.
Michele Weiner-Davis is an internationally renowned relationship expert, marriage therapist, and professional speaker. Michele is the director of The Divorce Busting® Center in Boulder, Colorado. Her work has been featured in most major newspapers, magazines, and on shows such as Oprah, 48 Hours, 20/20, The Today Show, and many others.
Welcome! Thank you for visiting my blog space. In this place, I will share writings of my own, along with other events and musings from the world of Movement Medicine, Dance Therapy, Yoga and Shamanic Healing.