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SELF HELP SERIES: Fixing Relationships

Updated: Feb 15


Most couples, when they argue, are arguing about completely different issues, not on the same topic together. They are like ships passing in the night. There will never be a solution until they can learn how to discuss rationally, only one issue at a time, leaving emotion out of the discussion. The basis of couples therapy is that both must learn the rules of conversation: never shout, never talk over one another. Never walk away! Take turns discussing one problem, and one problem only, at a time. If the other person brings up another problem, a “yes but, you …” comes up, simply write it down on a piece of paper to be handled as a separate issue at a later time. One issue, one problem at a time please!


I use the Beck Behavioral Method to treat relationships. I teach them to start like this: Both start by agreeing to these rules of problem solving. Person A begins by calmly stating the issue or problem. It is best that the issue be presented not “You always …!” Or “You make me …!” It is better received by the other person B when A uses “When you … I feel ...” Blaming is avoided. Blaming leads to retaliation. The manner with which you present an issue in a non-inflammatory reasonable calm rational way can make all the difference in couples working out their differences.

Next step is for person B is to paraphrase the problem back to person A. When person A agrees with B’s paraphrasing, discussion can begin. AND both people are discussing one issue toward completion.


After discussion (staying on the one and only one agreed upon topic), hearing each other’s points, in a calm manner, it is customary for person A to offer a compromise or solution; such as, “Well , I would be willing to ….” We have moved toward solution and it has been my experience that couples are bright people and can find satisfactory solutions together. Simple ain’t it - following the Beck guidelines.


A therapist can guide you through the process at first. Usually relationship therapy sessions are one and a half hours in length and entail three to five sessions over three months. Both persons must commit to each session. Relationship therapy is behavioral communication training.


One note: Should infidelity or addiction be in play, that must be brought out and SOLVED before couples therapy begins. It is my experience that neither of the above problems need break up a relationship. However, the indiscretion must end NOW - No excuse! No exceptions! A decision to end infidelity is immediate and it must be in writing signed by the person guilty of such. The therapist mails the letter.

Regarding substance abuse, Therapy is suspended until the guilty person completes 3 to 6 months in a residential addiction program such as MARR in Atlanta, or the like. Anything less just doesn’t cut it. The success rate for treated addiction is 10%. So don't try to skimp by. Enroll into a long term 6 month residential program pronto. Take it very, very, very seriously!

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