Taking sides in couples’ therapy has historically been seen as a big “no-no”.
I’ve learned differently. Siding with nothing ensures no real or lasting change, just a feel-good moment with a very short half-life.
A few years ago I met a married heterosexual couple in their 40’s. Upper middle class and with a few minor children in tow, they were both charming and well-liked in their community. They came in because the husband had told his wife he wouldn’t partake in any more social gatherings with her. She was beside herself because socializing was a big part of their lives. The reason? He had ran out of ways to tell her that it was no longer tolerated by him that when she got upset she’d curse and insult him. The tipping point was that as of late, she was doing it in front of the kids. Her explanation was that she was sure any less punch in her delivery would be weak and useless.
At any given moment we are intentionally minding our words and actions or we are shooting from the hip. Once we get comfortable in our relationships (after 1.5 to 2 years) we tend to ease into the roles that originated in our childhood and developed over time.
Sometimes, we learn to depart from unhealthy patterns, get self-aware, psychologically grow and develop new healthy ways to relate. Sometimes we just don’t.
If say, one partner in a couple argues with harsh words, a loud voice and does not know how to self regulate or repair afterwards, that person needs to be made aware of that, connect the dots to its origin, and clearly see the damage that that is doing internally and to those around him/her. Most importantly, that person can use a new relational map so that arguing does not end in cumulative rupture or used as a weapon.
There is a rhythm in all relationships and it is important to help each see how one thing feeds the other but in no way, someone that acts harshly towards the other is an equal contributor of the rhythm.
I gather data and ask for examples from each to get a real clear picture of who does what, when, where, how often and how deep it goes. But it is not the same offense, my friends, to leave the toilet paper roll empty, be overly chatty, have a messy closet and some crumbs lying around than to attack someone’s character when upset.
I do take sides. I do it thoughtfully and well timed but I do it if what you are seeking is to live in full-respect and with relational integrity.
If you are interested in experiencing this and other great relational skills, join me and my awesome friend and colleague, Bonny Slim, LMFT on April 29th and 30th, 2021 in an all virtual Relationship Bootcamp Workshop.