When this is the case, I sometimes find both people looking to me as the therapist to tell the other “You're wrong” or “See! I was right!” Although this response would be great for one partner to hear and make one partner feel better, it is often important to look past the content of what is being fought over or argued about, and look at the process of how this argument or fight occurs. If a couple has been having the same disagreement for years, it can often result in a build up of frustration, which can turn into resentment or contempt overtime. Not feeling heard or understood is an isolating experience, and can leave one or both partners in a place where they feel disconnected from the other in a painful way.
In order to make progress in couples therapy, it is so important to hear more than just the ‘facts’ of what the fight is about and really listen to your partner’s experience of what it feels like to have this same fight over and over again. Likely, both partners have a similar struggle of feeling sad, frustrated and unheard. It is important to listen with full attention, and not with the intention of firing back on the defense- which we so often do without realizing. When we listen without worrying about what we are going to say next or how we are going to defend ourselves, we are able to get to a more compassionate and understanding place. When this happens, there can be a large shift in the way that things are talked about and heard.
As a couples therapist, it is my job to help couples get to this place, where they can both speak and listen with their guards down- often guards that have been put up after years of having the same conversation over and over with no resolution. This is a process that takes time, but when it does, can be very healing and transformative. It is hard to ‘back down’ from the shield we have been putting up for so long, but it is also imperative when wishing to make real progress with your partner.