Five Ways To Prevent Arguments After Couples Counseling
Often when couples come into counseling, they have reached their limit, have had an offense or betrayal, and are uncertain of how to proceed. They both may not be happy with their current relationship. They come into counseling and start discussing their perspective of the problem. They may not have the tools to communicate in a non-offensive way, and likewise, their partner may not be able to objectively hear what they are saying without personalizing the comment. Sometimes there are unspoken words that are causing difficulties for them. The counselor can help the couple restructure what is said so that difficult conversations can become productive, trust can be rebuilt, and a new way of communicating can emerge.
When a problem comes up in a counseling session and it is not resolved, or is brought up at the end of the counseling session and there is no time to address it, what can you do to prevent it from becoming a bigger problem on the ride home, or fuel for arguments throughout the upcoming week? Here are five suggestions to help avoid arguing after couples counseling:
- Remember why you are in counseling to begin with – to repair or improve your relationship. Resolve emotions, not the problem. Throughout the ride home, and the following week, remember that you both went to counseling, you both made an effort, and you both would like improvement. We might say, “I know we might not see this issue exactly the same way, how can I help you to feel better about it in this moment?” or ”We both don’t want to be arguing about the topic that came up in counseling, is there something I can say in this moment to show you that I care for you?”
- Stop ruminating about what was said. Ruminating is not good for our physical or mental health. Often people that ruminate are not aware that they are thinking endlessly about the same issue, like a broken record. They think they are trying to solve the problem. The first step in stopping, is to become aware that your thoughts are spinning. Give yourself a time limit on thinking about the difficulties you are facing. Make sure that you are brainstorming solutions. If there are no solutions coming to mind, interrupt the thinking by visualizing the image of a stop sign. Remind yourself to do something healthy instead. Get outdoors and breathe the fresh air. It is good for you and your relationship to learn ways to stop this kind of unproductive thinking.
- Remember to focus on what impact you can have. The first person that you want to impact is yourself. You want to get yourself into a better frame of mind. Disengage respectfully and nicely. Think about what kind of action you can take that will move you into a better space. Can you exercise, get some fresh air, listen to some music, create a soothing environment for yourself?
- Make sure your time together is productive and helpful. Be intentional about the time you are spending together. Take time to be nice to one another. If you are going on a date, make that enjoyable. Don’t discuss counseling topics over a dinner date or in the car on your way to your date.
- Learn the skills in counseling to improve communication, negotiate appropriately, heal wounds, take responsibility for self, and set boundaries. Each week in counseling, work on a skill that will improve the way that you engage with each other on difficult topics. Start with the positive and easy things to do. Notice what is helpful and what is working and mention that to your partner.
Couples counseling can help you get to a better space for yourself and your relationship. Sometimes it is a matter of understanding or engaging differently, sometimes it is switching from noticing the negatives to remembering and acknowledging the positives, and sometimes it is working through trauma and creating something completely different than what you had in the past. We are always changing throughout life, and learning what has value for us, and what is possible to do can help us move into a better space for ourselves and our relationships.