It’s a busy season as fall comes around; when kids are going back to school, sports are starting up again, and couples start to get wrapped up not only in their jobs, but their kids schedule as well.
Alan Fruzzetti talks about how to optimize your time together in his book, High Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy & Validation. When couples are in conflict, sometimes it feels easier to just avoid each other instead of actually trying to resolve the problem. When a couple finally does have time together, instead of being able to sit and enjoy the time, each person is hyper aware and on “red alert” to anything else the other person might be doing that would signal dislike and cause further distance.
It’s a very natural response, but the exact opposite of what a healthy response can be. In Chapter 4 of his book, Fruzzetti focuses on finding ways to bring couples closer together when they are physically with each other, letting go of negative emotions, letting your guard down, and being together when you are together.
Finding a Safe Place
I know that it sounds easier said than done, but with work, you will be able to let your guard down and be present with each other again. One helpful tool that Fruzzetti has found is to pick a safe place in your house that you guys can turn into a recharging and balancing place. This place should evoke no negative feelings and should be a place where you have not had arguments or retreated to when you’ve gotten upset. It does not have to be a specific room, but it could be something like a chair in your favorite part of the house.
When you go to this spot, take a few minutes to think about how important your spouse is to you, how much you love them, and after a while, this spot will become associated with loving feelings towards your partner, your relationship, and your marriage. Therefore, when you are upset with your spouse, it’s better to go somewhere else, because this spot should be for only one thing, thinking about your partner in a loving way. Once you have this space, it is easier to let go of negative emotions and let your guard down.
Once you have let your guard down, being together can actually be about just being with each other. Despite being lonely, when partners are in distress, they often turn away from each other.
This can be very isolating and make things worse, which means you might need to force yourselves to increase time with each other. It means being physically together, but also cognitively and emotionally together. Whether this means you do something with only the two of you outside of the house, or even doing things with each other in the house, you need to focus on being emotionally present as well as physically present.
If you feel like you and your partner might be having a difficult time with each other, but you can’t see yourself being able to take these steps for your relationship right now due to a number of factors, again I remind you, you are not alone. It’s okay to seek support, and I am more than willing to meet with you both to provide the support you are looking for. We will work together to reconcile past experiences, live in the present and work towards the future to be able to live a meaningful life together. Don’t hesitate to call today!
Written by therapist Alex Parlette
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