Here are two important things you need to make sure you learn from your couples therapist.
- Discover The Hurt Beneath The Punch
It's absolutely critical that the couples therapist helps you to re-frame your arguments. Every couple fights differently and most of the time what they're fighting about isn't the real argument. Some deeper hurt or frustration usually gets triggered by the way they express themselves if something is bothering them. For example:
- "You said were going to help me shop and you didn't because you just don't give a damn about me."
- "You never even bothered to tell me you couldn't come to mom's dinner because you had to work late."
- "I'm supposed to jump with joy when you clean the kitchen and take out the garbage. The last time you bothered was over a month ago."
In each of the above accusations, only the angry feelings get expressed. The deeper emotional need of the complaining lover never get's touched. Even worse, much of the time couples sweep their real emotional needs under the rug until one just blows up at the other.
The couple's therapists job in the first meeting will be to re-frame or re-label arguments, so you can see what's underneath the anger. Each of the above accusations could be restated in the following manner:
- "I was so exhausted when I left work and it was really important to have you there, not so much to help me lug the groceries, but just for you to be there."
- "I really missed you at dinner and I know this will shock you, but so did my mother."
- "I was so grateful when you cleaned the kitchen and took out the garbage. It made me realize how much I need you to help me more often with the other household stuff."
- Discover What You Need Deep Down From Your Lover
Here is where we construct what marriage and family therapists call a genogram or family tree for each of you. Getting a rich narrative of your life stories before you fell in love is very important because unconsciously we all pick lovers whom we feel will give us some of the emotional nourishment and validation we missed out on as we grew up.
It's why we fall in love. This special person comes along in our adult lives, like no one we've ever known before, and hope wells up in our hearts that this person will get us, really see and validate us the way no one up until now has ever been able to.
So, the second goal of the first meeting is to uncover the deeper, hidden emotional needs that you each bring to your relationship. This knowledge will set the stage for you to gain greater emotional intimacy and help you to love each other smarter.
If you think about it, how can you love someone unless you know what they really need to thrive in life, deep down, emotionally?
Andre Moore, Director of Marriage Couples Counseling and Life Coaching in New York City
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