Why pair therapy does not work in alliances with emotional abuse



Why pair therapy does not work in alliances with emotional abuse

Does your partner hurt you? Does he scream at you, does he insult you? If yes, there is a chance that you have already been to therapy for couples. And probably it only worsened the atmosphere in your family. Why it happens?

Faced with emotional violence in our own family, we try to make our existence easier by all means. Partners who suffer from spousal abuse often suggest that the partner go to a psychologist together. But many are disappointed, because it is precisely in the families where the abyss reigns that some therapists do not work. Why is this so?

Stephen Stosney, a psychologist and specialist in domestic violence, is sure that the matter is in the personality traits of those who came for help.

There is no progress without control

Counseling couples suggests that participants in the process have self-regulatory skills. That is, both parties can control feelings of guilt and shame, which inevitably manifest themselves in the process of therapy, and do not shift the blame for their own wounded dignity onto each other. But in a relationship weighed down by emotional abuse, at least one partner cannot precisely control itself. Therefore, working with couples often disappoints those who asked for help: it simply does not help if the necessary conditions are not met.

Psychologists have an old joke about pair therapy: “Near each office there is an inhibitory trace left by the husband who was dragged into therapy.” According to statistics, men are 10 times more likely than women to refuse therapy, the author notes. And that is why therapists consciously pay more attention to husbands than wives, trying to keep their interest in the process.

Let us give an example of the session at which the wife came with her husband, who allows himself to offend her.

Therapist – wife:

“It seems to me that your husband is angry when he feels that he is being condemned.”


– It’s right. She literally condemns me for everything!

The husband approves the partner’s efforts, and the therapist helps him restrain emotional reactions. At home, of course, everything will return to square one

Therapist – wife:

“I’m not saying that you condemn him.” I want to say – he feels like he is being condemned. Perhaps if you formulated the request so that your husband does not feel that you are condemning him, his reaction would be more acceptable.


“But how do I do this?”

“I noticed that when you ask him about something, you focus on exactly what he does wrong.” You also often use the word “you.” I suggest you reformulate: “Dear, I would like us to talk for five minutes when we get home. Just talking to each other about how the day went, because when we do so, both of us get better and nobody screams. ” (To husband): Would you feel condemnation if she spoke to you like that?

– Not at all. But I doubt that she will be able to change the tone. She doesn’t know how to communicate differently!

“Can you speak with your husband in a non-judgmental tone?”

– I didn’t want to judge you, I just wanted you to understand …


“Why don’t you repeat this phrase for fidelity a few more times?”

Without the skills of self-regulation, the husband immediately shifts all responsibility to her so as not to feel wrong

And so it turns out that the problem now is not at all the inadequacy of the husband or his penchant for emotional abuse. It turns out that the real problem is the judgmental tone of his wife’s voice!

The husband approves the partner’s efforts, and the therapist helps him restrain emotional reactions. At home, of course, everything will return to square one ….

In a less “explosive” relationship, such a therapist’s advice would be beneficial. If the husband was able to control his emotional manifestations and question the feeling that he was always right, he could appreciate the efforts of his wife, who reformulated her requests. Perhaps he would begin to show more empathy in response.

But in reality, their relationship is riddled with violence. And in the end, the husband feels guilty due to the fact that the wife made more efforts to calm him down. Without the skills of self-regulation, he immediately shifts all responsibility to it so as not to feel that he is wrong. This spouse did not speak to him as it should, she uses an accusatory tone, and in general she tried to make him look bad in the eyes of the therapist. And so on and so forth. But where is the husband’s responsibility here?

Often people who are prone to emotional abuse make complaints to their partners when they leave the therapist’s office. They attack the spouses for raising threatening reputations or embarrassing topics during the session.

Border is locked tight?

Psychologists often recommend that women who are married to partners who are prone to emotional abuse learn to set boundaries. They give similar advice: “You need to learn to make your message heard. Learn to say, “I will no longer tolerate this behavior.” The offended person must be able to set boundaries that really mean something to his partner. ”

Imagine that you sued the vandals who grind your car with spray paint. And the judge says: “The lawsuit was rejected because there was no“ Do not paint the car! ”Sign next to your car. Advice on borders is essentially the therapeutic equivalent of such behavior.

I wonder if psychotherapists who give such advice glue notes with the inscription “Do not steal!” On valuable things in your office?

Only by integrating your own values ​​into everyday existence can you remain yourself and increase your significance

We leave aside the pernicious and unsubstantiated arguments in favor of the fact that people are subjected to violence because they could not set boundaries. This kind of point of view completely overlooks the character traits of the other. Manifestations of anger, insults and offensive words on the part of your partner are not related to whether you know how to set boundaries or not. As well as the subject of your dispute. A partner resorting to any kind of abyuza has big problems understanding deep human values, says Stephen Stosni.

The psychologist suggests protecting oneself not by setting certain boundaries that the partner will not respect anyway. Only by integrating your own values ​​into everyday existence, making them part of reality, you can remain yourself and increase your importance. And first of all, you need to abandon the distorted image of yourself that your aggressive partner is trying to impose on you. The powerful belief that you are you, and you are not at all what he is trying to present, will help you find the right direction.

If you can hold back the first emotional reaction that arises in response to the provocations of a partner, then you will help yourself become yourself. You will become the person you were before your relationship with a partner cracked. Only then will your other half understand that you will have to change your attitude towards you. And there is simply no other way to maintain a relationship.

About the Author: Stephen Stosney is a psychologist and specialist in domestic violence.
Prepared by: Maria Lavrentieva
Photo Source: Getty images

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