About Couples Relationships

The following quick tips for couples demonstrate some of the key aspects of my approach to couples therapy:

Couples need healthy and productive ways of communicating both their positive and negative feelings. Disappointments and frustrations that are pushed under the carpet often end up getting expressed in the form of “unintended” actions and words that have a negative tone and are harmful to the couple’s healthy communication as well as the quality of their relationship.

Negative anticipations that are all-encompassing, such as “You never …” or “You always...” set both people up for repeating the same patterns. Showing clear and unequivocal appreciation of acts or aspects of your partner that you enjoy is one of the most powerful ways of acknowledging and building upon both individuals’ capacity and willingness to change.

Think about what you hope to accomplish by the things you repeatedly say or do in your relationship. If these behaviors are not helping you accomplish what you want, perhaps it is time to think about a more effective means of expressing your expectations.

Having disagreements and differences of opinion is normal in every relationship. Effective ways of acknowledging and addressing issues that become a point of conflict is much more helpful to a relationship than having the same arguments and struggles over and over again.

Keep in mind the qualities in your partner that attracted you to them in the first place. This is one way of reconnecting with your partner and your own expectations about your relationship on a continued basis.

Life stresses often lead people to overlook the obvious. Therefore, it is worth mentioning here that love, warmth, affection, respect, and caring are human expressions of feeling and shared emotion that nurture and strengthen relationships. On the other hand, blame, sarcasm, criticism, and insults are damaging to relationships.

When disappointed, people often predict the worst, make negative generalizations, use moralistic statements, or induce guilt to get what they want. It is much simpler and more helpful to directly ask for what you want.

It is important to recognize aspects of your relationship that you would like to change. However, complaining about the negative without acknowledging the positive, or holding only one person responsible for creating change in a partnership, is counterproductive.

Back-handed compliments spoil the compliment and are hurtful in the long run.

Having what I call “default arguments,” arguments that happen about the same issue, with the same unresolved outcome, is a sign that you’re not communicating effectively and that possibly there are other things that the default arguments protect you from confronting.

--Dr. Haleh Stahl

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