|Clinical Excellence Future of Psychotherapy Attachment Theory Mind/Body Diets Men in Therapy Narcissistic Clients Wendy Behary Attachment Symposium 2012 Ethics Brain Science Great Attachment Debate Clinical Mastery William Doherty Couples Therapy Linda Bacon CE Comments David Schnarch Mary Jo Barrett Trauma Alan Sroufe Etienne Wenger Anxiety The Future of Psychotherapy Gender Issues Couples Challenging Cases Mindfulness Community of Excellence|
|In Consultation - Page 3|
First, partners have to recognize the injustices done, both to them and by them. For repair to occur, you have to stop fighting about "who hit first," because when you feel hurt, you're likelier to remember what caused you to return fire than to recognize the damage you've done. Bob and Sandy had both done harm, but initially it was easier for them to point fingers. I laid it out for them: Bob's utter conviction that he was right led to his blaming Sandy. He not so silently thought his family was better than Sandy's, and he therefore appropriated the moral high ground. I challenged his perception and his idealization of his family's way of relating. After all, his parents had pulled the same behavior on him: "We know better; we're right and you're wrong; there are no shades of gray."
Sandy then had to recognize that her e-mail friend wasn't a friend of the marriage, and that she'd made little effort to incorporate this former boyfriend into her life with Bob. In fact, as we discovered in the session, she'd used this friendship to maintain a subtle form of power over Bob by e-mailing him for sympathy when she was mad at her husband. Next, I helped her realize that she was doing to Bob what her mother had done to her: asserting control by not truly considering another's perspective.
To heal, they had to own up to the harmful consequences of their behavior. This isn't a whitewash ("Okay, we both did damage; we're even"): it's taking a full share of responsibility. When you relate accountably, you owe a fair and genuine hearing if you want to get one. There are two stumbling blocks to this process: first, the sham apology ("I'm sorry you felt that way"), which is tantamount to telling the other person, "Too bad you're too sensitive, neurotic, or easily offended"; and second, building a better mousetrap, where you continue to make your case for being right for the sake of winning.
The next step in repair was making a claim to restore fairness. Each owed it to themselves and to each other to identify what changes, large or small, were needed so both of them could feel fairly treated. First, each had to find validity in the other's request and negotiate from there. Bob had to consider the possibility that Sandy truly valued this friendship, while identifying how she could maintain it yet make it feel safer for him and for them as a couple. He asked Sandy to neutralize the friendship by letting the friend know that she'd no longer turn to him when she was mad at Bob; triangulating their marriage was a slippery and potentially dangerous slope. She had to close the window on the exclusivity of this friendship and truly make it a friendship of the couple's. In turn, she had to acknowledge that Bob could legitimately feel threatened by how she'd conducted this friendship. Her immediate request was for Bob to stop attacking and blaming her. A longer-term request was to help her retain the friendship on new terms. She reassured Bob that she was way past any romantic feelings for her friend, but felt a strong link because of their shared history.