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Couples: Put the Scorecard Down for a Win – Win

In a recent NY Times column, a couples therapist wrote, “There is danger in wanting a partner to change too much.”  In my own experience in working with couples, the “danger” or unlikelihood of improving the relationship may result when one partner believes that the other needs “fixing” without being willing to prioritize mutual understanding. Let’s face it, we don’t partner with our twins, and differences which we find compelling at first, may evolve over time into qualities and behaviors that generate a fight, flight or freeze response, any of which may be toxic to the mix.

Criticism, blame, and shame will not help your relationship.

A common dynamic among couples seeking counseling is for one partner to pressure the other into session with the intention of pointing out flaws and wanting professional support for finding fault.  Changing your partner in positive ways through criticism, blame or shame is highly unlikely. While change is a goal for seeking counseling, putting your partner on the opposing side and trying to prove them wrong, will not result in victory.

By allowing each partner to fully express their points of view in a respectful manner during our sessions, I give couples the opportunity to maintain their individuality while increasing safety in the interaction. The need to defend by raising walls or hurling criticism lessens and useful information about one another is learned.  Change occurs in perspective, attitude and behavior when patterns of unresolved conflict are disrupted and understanding is deepened.

Sharing of feelings and tolerating your partner doing so without interrupting, contradicting or shutting down may be a first for many couples and it is something that requires practice in and out of session to experience the benefit.  You may be surprised at how much you will learn about yourselves let alone each other when the space to fully express is encouraged, and trust is increased.

Couples counseling can help…

Are we able to make changes in ourselves? Absolutely. But we need to see a good reason to try things a little or a lot differently and need to feel the support we sought in joining with our love partner in the first place. Change can feel risky.  Coming into counseling willing to work together, raises the possibility of positive change in interaction considerably. So, relax your pointed finger, breathe, and let’s take the first step together down the road toward a safer, more satisfying relationship.

Couples Counseling, Midtown Manhattan, NYC

I offer counseling for couples through my private practice in Manhattan, NYC. Please contact me to discus further.

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Joan Warren, LMFT

Joan Warren Therapy

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New York, NY 10016


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