When the Argument Never Stops: 4 Ways Couples Counseling Can Help
Do you feel like you and your partner are always arguing? Do one or both of you avoid difficult conversations, fearing that it could escalate? Every relationship has its ups and downs, but for some couples, additional help might be required. That’s where couples counseling can help.
Providing a Safe Environment
Meeting with a counselor who specializes in helping couples can provide an emotionally safe place to express feelings. The therapist can act as a referee, making sure that tensions don’t get blown up into conflicts, while allowing each person the opportunity to talk. Having someone else create the structure for the conversation takes some of the pressure off you and your partner, helping to prevent things from spiraling out of control.
Talking about Difficult Issues
Another advantage of attending couples counseling is that it makes it harder for either of you to avoid talking about difficult subjects. When we are having interactions with our partners, we may just try to avoid talking about the tough topics as a way of preventing a larger argument. In some cases, we may even avoid the house altogether, for fear that we will start arguing. Although this may keep things calm in the short run, the unsaid feelings and emotions can build, becoming a bigger problem and spilling over later on down the line.
Learning New Communication Tools
Couples therapy can be a place where partners learn new communication skills they can apply outside of the therapist’s office. Improved skills include:
- Practicing the art of active listening.
- Reflecting on what the other person is saying back to them.
- Avoiding the practice of blaming others for your feelings.
- Taking accountability for your actions.
- Knowing when to take a break from the discussion.
- Being able to create separation between a person and their actions.
- Becoming aware of nonverbal cues that you display, indicating that you are not listening.
Your therapist can provide “homework assignments” that you and your spouse can practice outside of session, and then report back when you all meet again. During the session you can debrief with your therapist about what happened and strategize on how to improve for next time.
Appreciating What You Both Do Well
Couples counseling isn’t all about focusing on the problems that you both have. As Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. says in Psychology Today, a couples therapist can also highlight the strengths of your relationship and what you are doing well. For example:
- Acknowledging when either of you does “the little things” that benefit the relationship, like saying “I love you.”
- Recognizing when one of you is stressed and the other provides comfort or space.
- Taking the initiative to give back to your partner, such as cooking a meal or doing the dishes.
- Providing affirmation when one of you uses a communication skill used in therapy.
Taking a strengths-based approach can help you to find greater appreciation for your partner, build on what you are doing well, and use this momentum in other areas of your relationship.
Couples counseling can help you and your partner to learn new communication skills, talk about the difficult issues in your relationship, and to build on the strengths of your relationship in order to improve and grow as a couple.