As a couples counselor, I find myself devouring books and articles from other marriage therapists and couples counselors. Marriage counseling can be so effective and there are various research supported approaches that help couples and relationships over hurdles that can, in the moment, seem insurmountable.
One book I came across recently is the Audible book Fierce Intimacy : Standing Up To One Another In Love. Couple's therapist Terry Real highlights the 5 losing strategies for getting what you want in your marriage.
The first losing strategy is unbridled self-expression. Real defines unbridled self-expression as saying whatever is on your mind without kindness or respect.
Unbridled self-expression includes sharing how hurt, furious, and enraged you feel. This type of speech is more akin to a chaotic venting than healthy catharsis.
The main reason unbridled self-expression is a losing strategy is that it won't get you what you need from your partner. It will result in your partner shutting down or retaliating with similar vitriol.
There has to be a healthier way to communicate hurt and frustration to your partner. Terry Real calls this approach shifting from complaint to request.
There is a place to stand up to your partner in love and express how they hurt you and what they need to do to make things better. The key word here is love.
Unbridled self-expression usually devolves into personal attacks and emotional whiplashing. An emphasis on request focuses on the bad behavior and seeks a way to repair what's been broken.
How to Shift from Complaint to Request in a Marriage or Relationship
Why did you ______________?
What is your problem!
You know I don't like it when you________
I wish you would _________, or I wish you would stop _______.
Wow you're so _____________(sensitive, rude, mean, etc.)
These statements are dead ends. They do not leas to productive conversations where partners understand each other.
A request focuses on behavior rather than the person. If your husband forgets to do the dishes, a request would be "Honey I noticed you forgot to do the dishes. You said you would do them. Can you please try and get them done."
Unbridled self-expression attacks the person's character and makes an issue universal. An example would be, "You're so lazy. You never do the dishes! Why don't you care about me!"
A request also focuses on a solution. Venting can feel good in the moment but it rarely leads anywhere constructive in a relationship.
A request emphasizes what you need from the other person to get back into a state of connection.
An example of a request would be:
"I noticed you were late from work the other night. I understand things happen. Next time would you mind texting or calling so that I don't worry so much"
A complaint, on the other hand, comes across very different:
"You're so selfish! I freak out when you're late and don't call me. Why do you have to be so thoughtless. Do you not care about my anxiety?"
A complaint attacks the other person and blocks the possibility of a common solution. A request holds the other person accountable and helps them understand what they need to do to make things better.
Marriage Therapy or Couples Counseling Can Help You Communicate More Effectively
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About the Author
Quique also has a passion for helping teens, young adults, and adults who may be on the Autism Spectrum. He has a talent for connecting with and helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If you're ready to start your healing journey in marriage counseling or couples therapy, you can call us at 346-202-4662 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.