Perhaps you don’t fight fair and realize that your relationship is in trouble. The way you attempt to resolve conflict goes nowhere. You get into the same relationship dynamics that keep you stuck. Of course the two of you try to do everything you know how to do to move forward, and get nowhere. You reach out to your partner to see if he or she will go to couples counseling with you. The answer is no. What can you do?
How You Can Fight Fair
There is actually a lot you can do, whether or not your partner will come with you. I’d encourage you to come in solo so I can teach you how to fight fair. We can work on your piece of the conflict and the dynamics you bring to the table. Guess what? Once we recognize your piece in the interaction we can work on changing your response and the way you relate. Do you know what happens when you change? It will force your partner to change. They can no longer react the same way as they have in the past. He or she will have to react differently as they won’t be able to go back to the same song and dance.
I can also teach you appropriate boundaries, which is critical if you want to fight fair. Maybe your partner invades yours, or you invade your partners. Boundaries are there to protect you. You get to decide what is appropriate for you. Everyone is different. When you set up boundaries when they were not there to begin with, the other person will not like it. They are being told/taught that what they had done in the past is no longer OK.
If you are setting new boundaries, it is critical to keep them firm. What do you think happens if you set a boundary, then the other person throws a fit, and you let go of that boundary? You have now taught that person that as long as they act out, they will get their way. If you stick to your boundary, they will learn to readjust, as you will no longer accept the old behavior.
I know this is all easier said than done. Sometimes when we set new boundaries, the relationship may no longer work. You have to decide if you can live with the old way of interacting, or need to end the relationship. Now, you can always set the boundary that the other person comes to therapy with you, or you are going to have to separate or end the relationship.
Get Your Partner in the Back Door
Another way that you can ‘back door’ the therapy is to come in for an individual session. Then let your partner know that you did, and that I asked him or her to come in so I can help you in therapy. The notion will be that the other person will let me know about your problematic ways of interacting. Often times if you can just get your partner in the door, he or she will realize that I am not going to attack or blame them. I am there to teach you communication skills.
Ease Your Partner’s Fear of Couples Counseling
What is your partner’s reservation? Why not ask him or her? If you are able to ease their fears or concerns they may come in. Are they afraid that they will be the one to blame? Realistically a therapist is not going to play the blame game, or else no one would come back. The problem is not with you or with your partner. The problem is in the way the two of you interact.
Or perhaps your partner has been taught that only crazy people go to therapy. Nothing can be further from the truth. Life and relationships are hard. It’s often hard to understand where the other person is coming from. Most of the people I work with are well functioning adults, just having a difficult time in their relationship. Many people don’t have parents who teach them step by step how to resolve conflict. We tend to pick up on things from our family of origin. Of course this could easily have been dysfunctional.
Your partner may have been taught that we don’t involve others in our stuff, or there is a sense of shame in not being able to figure it out on your own. Well the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In therapy we don’t need to get deep into your stuff. The stuff isn’t really what matters. The only thing that matters is that you are able to work it out. I can teach you communication skills that will go a long way in not only your marriage, but also your friendships and working relationships.
The important thing is to learn how to fight fair in a way that you will each feel heard, understood and respected. Please call me at 713-304-6554 if I can help you out.
Debbie Grammas, PhD