Have you and your partner fallen into a pattern of constantly fighting and arguing?
Do you and your partner have heated arguments where one person threatens divorce?
Are you to the point in your relationship where the same cycle keeps repeating itself and you are almost ready to call it quits?
If any of these questions hit home for you, then this post about couples counseling will likely help you find a path forward.
It is common for couples to come into my office feeling absolutely hopeless, helpless, and defeated because they seemingly cannot put an end to the cycle of having knock-down, drag-out arguments. Not only do they feel a deep sense of feeling hopeless, but they also tend to feel quite hesitant and afraid of another blow-up taking place.
Naturally, after these heated arguments, partners tend to keep their distance and stay away from each other for anywhere from several hours to several days. Sometimes the distance between the couple will last weeks. The couple believes that the “cooling off” period is their only choice and during this silence, they will only communicate and speak to one another about issues concerning logistics and keeping their daily lives in order.
While this strategy of staying away from one another may “keep the peace” for a while, it also creates another possible issue—it keeps the couple disconnected and is not addressing the thousand-pound elephant in the room.
Couples naturally gravitate toward this approach of taking time away from each other after heated arguments and intense fights. At the moment it may make sense because it feels like the safest option. However, this form of separation, or in other words known as stonewalling, can be quite destructive as it leaves room for resentment to build, mistrust to grow, and avoidance as a pattern that gets set into motion as a default response for future quarrels.
This pattern of fighting, followed by silence and separation, then gradually coming back together creates a roller coaster of sorts. And with enough of these volatile fights, couples may begin to feel as if “this is how it’s going to be” and often feel like they have only one option left—divorce.
While this can feel like the relationship is crumbling and falling apart, in my work with couples, I have also seen this as the most fertile ground for growth and healing. While this is a breaking point and both partners likely feel a deep sense of hurt, betrayal, and possibly resentment, it is also a massive opportunity to connect and use the emotions that are present as a way to connect. What do I mean by this?
The Value of Strong Emotions
Many couples who find themselves falling into a repetitive cycle of fighting and arguing think the answer lies in no longer having these strong feelings and emotions. They believe the solution is peace and putting a stop to all the fighting. And peace and quiet in this situation would feel like water to a man stuck in the middle of the desert, it is not the route to true healing in a relationship. Rather, I encourage both partners to bring all their feelings and emotions into the room, regardless of how strong or volatile they are. While some of these emotions may feel lethal and dangerous to the relationship, I prefer nothing to be kept inside.
By avoiding, hiding, or denying one’s true feelings, it only keeps partners feeling more disconnected and distant. Imagine keeping a secret from a friend. Is that most likely going to bring you closer to that friend or put a wedge between you? Holding in emotions is akin to keeping secrets—it only creates more disconnection. Not allowing and trying to eliminate emotions in couples counseling is the surefire way to falling apart, growing more distant, and harboring even greater resentment.
Emotions as the Currency to Intimacy & Connection
As I work with couples, I encourage them to bring all that they are feeling to their counseling session. I believe emotions are the currency for greater intimacy, connection, and trust. And when I say emotions, I mean all of them, including those that are thought to be negative like anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, and resentment.
This is the moment where change becomes possible. I encourage all the couples I work with to bring their honest feelings and share the truth of their own experience. And while in the past this brutal honesty might have been a spark to the explosion, in the context of a couples counseling session, it will be explored and expressed in a different manner. At this point, my purpose is to help couples share and communicate differently.
My focus is twofold. Firstly, I am committed to creating a space of safety where each partner feels comfortable to find their voice and share their experience. Second, I serve to facilitate a process in which couples can share their honest feelings and perspective in a way that one’s thoughts and emotions can be heard, understood, and accepted. I help couples communicate in a non-defensive way where they no longer feel attacked, criticized, or judged. I am not asking couples to change the way they feel, more so I help them learn ways in which to express themselves and receive communication that creates connection, understanding, and trust.
I believe the goal of couples therapy is not to prevent all disagreement, conflict, and fighting but rather help couples to learn how to come together in moments of tension rather than move apart. Ultimately, many couples discuss how when they start couples counseling they feel like they are on opposite sides and in a sense are enemies filled with a lot of hurt and resentment. And as they work through the counseling process, they talk about how they feel more like a team, experience a greater sense of support from their partner and feel a deeper sense of trust and safety that they can come to their partner with difficult feelings, issues, or challenges. Couples report the most rewarding part is the skills they learn and the awareness they build along the way. They discuss feeling like they are now armed with the tools necessary to grow in their relationship and create a deeper and more loving relationship rather than just surviving, getting along, and trying to avoid blowups.
Xavier Heditsian, MA, LPCC
Reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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