Couples often wait too long before coming in for counseling and the hurt feelings have been growing for a long time. Whether it is marriage counseling or pre-marital counseling or couples who are in a relationship, the most common hurts come from one person thinking/feeling/believing that the other person doesn’t really care about them because they have told their partner, often many times, that something is either important to them or bothers them and then the partner continues to either ignore that, forget that or continues to do that behavior. For the person sending the message that this is important to me, the message they are receiving back is that it’s not important to their partner which translates to “I am not important to you!” That is not usually what the other person is really trying to say but that is often the message the other person is receiving. Again, it’s the meaning I am assigning to the behavior that creates my feelings/response! So they both need to work on their part of the communication around this issue. The sender of the message can reframe or re-assign meaning to the behavior as something other than their partner doesn’t care about them to maybe their partner is very much a creature of habit and still needs time/practice to change that habit. The receiver of the message also needs to re-assign meaning to the message their partner is sending! Some things I have heard in couples therapy in my Ventura practice that cause problems are: “oh he/she is just nagging,” or “he/she is so sensitive,” or “he/she just gets upset about things that don’t really matter,” or one of the worst, “this is just the way I am and they need to accept that!” The receiver of the message can choose to re-assign meaning to what their partner is saying to something like, “well, my partner has brought this up more than once so it must be important to them and since they are important to me then I need to make an effort to pay more attention to this.” Remember, when we are in relationships with anyone we need to get out of our “self point of view” and remind ourselves that a relationship with anyone NEVER works from a “world according to ME” view. We all have to meet some place in the middle in order for relationships with anyone (family, friends, spouses, co-workers, children, siblings) to work.
Putting the Pieces Together (So We Make Sense of Ourselves, Others and Our World)
Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD
Couples Therapy Ventura, California
©2014 Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD