We get told to ‘go and deal with’ or ‘process’ our issues all the time. But what does this really mean.
As an online therapist, let me break down how I would help a couple ‘processing’ something in couple’s therapy.
I’d start by asking each partner about a past incident, and we’d review it together. Note here that memory is biased and not a perfect recording of the past, so respecting each partner’s view of how it went down is important. I’d also ask questions about how, whatever it was that happened, went badly and why this sucked for each of you respectively. I always let both partners express their perspectives on the issue.
Often when people get a chance to express how they truly feel about something and to explain why it is important or so hurtful to them, they get surprised by themselves and end up learning more about themselves as well as learning about their partner.
For example, I had a client who’s partner was irritated with her for refusing to put away the Christmas decorations weeks after Christmas. When she got the chance to talk about this together in therapy she realized that, Christmas was the only time that her family were happy and nice to each other during her childhood.
She figured out that the reason that she wanted the Christmas decorations to stay up was because things were going so well and she was actually a bit scared that she and her partner would start fighting like her parents used to when the decorations were down and Christmas was over. In a way, she didn’t want Christmas to ever end, and by keep the decorations up, she subconsciously thought she could trick herself and her partner into believing that it was still Christmas time.
`She wasn’t consciously aware of this before discussing it in therapy and learned more about herself that day. Her partner was way less irritated with her now too, as he understood where she was coming from.
We also looked at why having the decorations up, irritated him so much and he said that he gets really anxious when things are left around and not put in their place. He was already stressed about work and desperately needed his house to be a place that he could come home to and relax. But seeing the decorations there week after week caused him to get more and more anxious and irritated. Before this talk he just could’t understand why his partner wouldn’t let him take them down, and that made him feel unsupported by her.
Now having both shared their perspective and gotten in touch with their emotions around this issue it was time for them to make a change. They were able to reach a compromise and agreed to leave the decorations out until 2 weeks after Christmas.
Pro tip: A good way to check that a couple has fully processed an incident is to bring it up again at a later stage and see if you are both able to talk about it calmly without getting back into an argument.
If you have some things you need to process in therapy, you can book a session with me today.
I look forward to meeting you.