One of the first things I teach couples in couple’s therapy is to talk about themselves. This might sound strange, but people usually talk about their spouses and how they need to change. It’s one of the most common things I hear as a therapist – “He isn’t treating me well!”, or “She needs to get off back!” These statements might both be true, as a client shares them with me, but the problem is that you can’t change your spouse. You don’t have control over that. You do have control over your own actions and how you respond to them not treating you well or being on your back.
Speaking about yourself makes you vulnerable and being vulnerable is scary. Opening up to your spouse, the one person in this world that can hurt you like no other person can, makes you exposed. It’s hard to imagine them not blasting you after you open up, given what you know about them or have seen in the past, right? So instead, you tell them what to do so that you feel safer. You tell them how they need to change so that you can then tell them what you are really going through emotionally. This, simply, doesn’t work – and if it seems to work, it only works for a little while and then things go back to not being good.
So, the trick is, I teach my clients in therapy, to start talking about your own emotional experiences and needs rather than your spouse and what they need to do. You can share with them how their actions impact you emotionally, that’s fine. But when you start to interpret their behavior for them (for example – “You don’t call and let me know you’re coming home late because you don’t care about me!”) or when you pretend to be their boss (for example – “So, you need to start calling me!”), then you continue the cycle of hurt and pain.
A good therapist will be able to help you through this. We just moved our counseling center to Orem, Utah, by the mouth of Provo Canyon. We’d love to help.