Does couples therapy not sound very appealing to you? Do you subscribe to any of these four beliefs? If so, follow the suggested beliefs to increase the quality of your relationship and decrease the chances of landing on a couples therapist’s couch.
1. My goal in an argument is to win and/or prove I’m more right than my partner
Guess what? Both people in an argument are right (i.e., their thoughts and feelings are real and valid) so fighting to prove who is “more right” is a waste of your time. Focusing only on proving your point often involves attacking your partner, which is experienced as hurtful and damages your relationship. A belief that is much more productive involves one that focuses more on attacking the problem instead of your partner.
Suggested belief: My goals in an argument are to identify the problem, understand my partner’s point of view, express my point of view, then work together to pick a potential solution.
2. My life should go exactly how I think it should go
You can not add something to your life without giving up other things. When you chose to be in a committed relationship, you chose to give up parts of the single life you had. Part of what you have sacrificed by choosing to be in a relationship is making decisions with only yourself in mind. Your preferences are only one vote now instead of the only vote, which means that you will not get your first choice every time. This is good news! This helps us mature, grow, and try new things.
Suggested belief: I have chosen to share my life with my partner, which means major decisions will need to take both of our preferences into account.
3. My partner is responsible for my happiness
While your partner’s behavior may contribute to feelings of joy or pain (both temporary states), only you are in charge of your happiness (a more stable state that is a result of how satisfied you are with your life and the experiences on which you focus). It is likely romantic comedies are to blame for the perpetuation of this belief. Story lines of these movies tend to show a sad person whose disposition dramatically changes after finding love. While there is truth to the temporary joy experienced in the beginning of the relationship, after the “new relationship” feel wears off, we go back to our happiness baseline. This is when people assume something is wrong with the relationship because their partner is not “making” them “happy anymore.”
Suggested belief: While my partner may contribute to feelings of joy or pain, I am in charge of my happiness by focusing on positive experiences and behaving in line with my goals.
4. My partner is being ridiculous/crazy/unreasonable
It is very common to not fully understand your partner’s reactions and unreasonable to think you will always understand why your partner has responded to something the way they have. After all, you have not lived the exact life your partner has or share the exact same belief structures. Because our brains do not like being confused, we reach for the easiest explanation when our partner’s behavior is confusing, which is often that they are being ridiculous. The problem with this belief is that acting on it can be damaging to the relationship and actually increase the problematic behavior you are seeing. A more helpful belief focuses on understanding your partner’s reactions. Ask questions until you understand. Also, remember understanding and agreeing are not the same. You do not need to agree the behavior was acceptable to understand it.
Suggested belief: If my partner’s behavior seems unreasonable, my job is to ask questions until I understand what was upsetting.
If you are having a difficult time following the suggested beliefs and are uncomfortable with the idea of pursuing couples therapy, please reach out to our office with your questions and concerns. We are happy to answer your questions and give you an idea of what to expect in couples therapy to help you make that decision.