Couples therapy can simultaneously be a challenge and a gift. It only makes sense that partners encounter conflict and disagreement during their sessions. You are talking about a long-standing issue, and in a flash, you both feel triggered. It doesn’t matter if there’s a therapist present. The two of you are upset, and it shows.
What I’m saying is this: it’s not unusual to fight in therapy. You probably signed up for counseling because you have problems. Airing out these problems — in front of someone else — is tricky. Arguments occur. This is normal, and under the guidance of a skilled practitioner, it can end up being very helpful.
What Happens If You Fight During Couples Therapy?
Your Therapist Learns a Lot
This is not to imply that any therapist is hoping you and your partner will fight. But if you do, you are giving a mental health professional a front-row seat to your dynamic in action. It is one thing for each of you to talk about your perspective on the conflicts you experience with your therapist. It is something quite different for them to see it happen in real-time.
Honesty is Happening
When your relationship is distressed, you may feel self-conscious about putting it on display. You know you need help, but you’re ashamed of how it might look. When a fight happens, it’s painful. However, it’s also a sign that you’re allowing your true feelings to be revealed and, thus, explored.
Welcome to a Teaching Moment
If you had the same fight while driving together, it might result in the same outcome. Things could play out as if you were reading from a script. In the presence of an unbiased guide, it becomes an opportunity for change. There’s nothing like learning conflict resolution in the heat of the moment. By the time that session ends, you may have received lessons in areas like:
- Knowing when to take a “timeout”
- Identifying the patterns each partner slides into
- Developing deeper listening skills
- The role of body language in escalating or de-escalating an argument
- Analyzing word choices
- Recognizing how you feel when in the midst of a fight
A New Appreciation for Healthy Communication
At the roots of the fights — in or out of the therapy room — there is certainly a communication issue at play. So, the focus need not be on the specific reality that you are your spouse are fighting during couples therapy. Rather, as stated above, seeing this as a teaching moment opens up so many possibilities within the realm of communication. The couple that can express their emotions, ideas, wants, and needs in a productive way is the couple ready to repair broken bonds. They are ready to unlock the door to new progress and deeper connections.
Trust Your Therapist’s Intentions and Reaction
A fight during couples therapy is not viewed as a way to assign blame. Your therapist will not automatically make negative assessments of your relationship. That fight you have during a session offers a window of understanding, e.g.:
- What your fights are about
- How you fight
- The current status of your conflict resolution skills
Every couple fights. Inevitably, such an argument occurs at an inopportune time in an inopportune place. This does not spell disaster and is not a cause of shame. Be grateful when it happens in a session because you are ideally situated to find silver linings and valuable lessons.
If you are contemplating couples therapy, please don’t hesitate because you are worried about fighting. Take the leap in the name of new approaches and invaluable discoveries. Let’s connect and talk about all this soon!