Couples Counseling Can Feel Like The Kavanaugh Senate Hearing. If you’re following the Kavanaugh Senate hearing you most likely have your personal opinion about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Both have their perspective about their narrative and both feel strongly about it. Judge Kavanaugh appears aggressively defensive which is what most of my clients display when they are in a hostile-dependent relationship where they are either incapable of or choosing to not to show empathy toward the other. Dr. Ford, on the other hand, remained calm and collected and showed “grace under fire” sharing what she believed is her truth.
As a Marriage Counselor, I experience what some of you heard/observed today in working with my couples in Marriage Counseling Couples Counseling. We all tend to have our own perspectives when sharing our point of view about situations/conflicts. When working with couples who have a perspective that is on opposite sides of the spectrum, a solution-focused conversation can be frustrating. That coupled with excessive arguing, can present as a toxic relationship dynamic that can destroy a marriage/relationship. I refer to these couples as Hostile-Dependent or Conflict-Avoidant. A hostile-dependent dynamic is defined by conflict where a conflict-avoidant dynamic is defined by fear
The hostile-dependent couples tend to be in a competition to be right (power struggles), where there is a lot of finger pointing and blaming in an attempt to be in control. Sessions typically involve lots of mediating and pointing out who is not exercising appropriate behavior.
The conflict-avoidant couples tend to fear the emotional risk of speaking up which outweighs the potential benefit of getting the clarity they need to work through issues. Conflict-avoidants are individuals who contort themselves to be acceptable (avoid problems) to avoid being rejected or abandoned. These couples compromise their needs and wants, as well as their identity, and hide their authentic selves.
Whether a couple is Conflict-Avoidant or Hostile-Dependent, I want to emphasize what is needed for these couples to survive. In any new relationship, couples start off being nice to each other. As differences begin to show up each person’s value system will fall back on whatever coping mechanism is familiar to them. If there is conflict avoidance people tend to avoid bringing up issues because they don’t want to risk a conflict, so they compromise themselves. In the moving forward process, couples need to go through the uncomfortable process of “differentiation.” Where each person has to identify their values and communicate them to the other. While acknowledging that their partner will have different values from their own.
In couples counseling, I teach couples how to validate each other’s perspective and develop the self-focus to understand how they contribute to or limit themselves in any situation about to go south. Developing a greater sense of “sense of self” helps with the differentiation process. Striving for becoming a healthy relationship isn’t easy. It takes two people who are committed to behaving like the grown-ups to make this happen. You can’t just say you’re going to be better you have to demonstrate consistent adjusted behavior to know that you are not lowering yourselves to the lowest common denominator.
Bottom line, when couples say what they need to say to each other and learn how to have a mature dialogue, validate the other’s perspective, and show empathy for the other there can either be a breakthrough or a break-up. You actually have a choice in the matter.
For more information about healthy relationships please contact me at (858) 735-1139