One of the typical stated reasons that couples see me for therapy is that they are not communicating. The couple arrives, and everything about their interaction or attempts at non-interaction (ignoring each other), communicates. Of the two stances, silence or quarreling, the couple seems more disturbed by their arguing.
The truth is that ignoring one another is more problematic than are negative exchanges. Other than being sexually intimate, arguing is the other time that couples are typically fully engaged and have each other’s undivided attention.
The question that I ask is, “What are you not doing because you are engaging in verbal altercations? Some couples look at me for awhile, before they can recall times when they were respectfully affectionate one with another.
Anger is a symptom of latent problems in the relationship
What I explain is that anger is not the issue but a symptom of something gone wrong-like having a fever is not the real problem but an indication that the body has inflammation. The fever needs to be addressed immediately then the source of the problem corrected.
What appears to make couples angry is fear. A particular grievance is of little consequence when viewed in the moment it occurs; however, when past incidents overshadow the present and the future appears unmanageable, couples will quarrel over what otherwise are inconsequential incidents. Like, someone is late for dinner. No big deal, unless this is viewed as a pattern of disrespect and the future of such happenings seems too much to bear.
I ask couples to basically draw a line in the dirt. Say aloud, in my presence, how their needs have not been met; apologize and move forward, toward what they want to see and hear happen in their relationship.
Direct your passion towards positive things
The misplaced passion spent in arguing can be directed toward their bucket list of items that they want to do together. Rather than strive towards that end, I ask couples to embrace their relationship and have all the things that they have and all the things that they hold pass the scrutiny of their test in regards to answering the question, “Will this holding, this thing enhance our relationship?”
I admire couples who make the solemn determination to redirect their passion toward sexual intimacy rather squander their energies in ways that are destructive. Noticing the arguing and taking corrective action by seeing a therapist is a smart thing to do. The couple has years in the relationship times the 2 of them and are smart to give this important investment primacy.