Marriage Counseling provides “The Magic Words”

April 30, 2010 by

In marriage counseling we see that the biggest mistake couples make in their communication is blaming one another. Imago Relationship theory takes this one step further and asks us to stop all blame, shame and criticism.  When I first heard this I wondered if I was ever going to be able to talk to my partner again!

In Imago therapy we teach couples the concept that what each of us feels or reacts to about the other is more about us than it is about them.  Pia Melody, the marriage counselor and codependency expert put it this way, “What I think, what I feel and what I do, is more about me than it is about you.  And vice versa.”  Most marriage counselors agree. We believe that whenever you are upset with your partner (or anyone) that only 20% of the upset is about the other, and the other 80% is about what it is stirring up in you. However, if you are like most couples who come to marriage counseling, you reverse the ratio when you discuss your upset with your partner. In your attempt to be understood you talk about their responsibility in your upset 80% and your own internal issues and reactions only 20%. To your partner this approach is received as blame and your desire to be heard and understood goes unmet.  And of course it goes unmet, because your partner would have to be a saint and a psychic to understand you deeply if you aren’t really sharing about yourself.

Marriage counseling tip: focus on sharing about yourself

Good marriage counseling teaches couples to use “Magic Words” that will help your partner be curious with you instead of furious at you for blaming. When you are upset and want to talk to your partner try starting this way:  “I know these feelings are more about me than they are about you, but it would help me to talk about it.” Can you imagine how differently you might feel if your partner approached you this way when they are upset? The words are magic because they create safety for the listener and assure that the speaker will actually get what they are after…felling understood and connected.

Harville Hendrix, world famous marriage counselor once said that one’s upset is, “less about the house we live in and more about the house we grew up in”. When you use the Magic Words you can share how it was growing up, the meaning you are giving to the other’s behavior, the need you have versus the demand your inner kid wants to make.

Get your real need met, that of being understood and connected, by talking about you 80% and the other only 20% at most. When you use the Magic Words you will give you and your partner a dose of marriage counseling.