Previous to becoming a Solution Focused Therapist, my approach to couple counselling was to ideally have 2 committed partners in the room and to effect positive change in their relationship by exploring changes on both sides. Unfortunately, this sometimes ended up in an attacking match or what I call a ‘verbal tennis match’ – each partner trying really hard to hit a smasher at the other and me feeling quite despondent about couple counselling and whether I am actually effecting positive change.
Now I adopt a very different approach and one that I would like to invite you to experiment with in your own relationships. A few years ago during my efforts at continuing my professional development, I came across a really passionate couple therapist, Michelle Weiner-Davis. In one of her articles, Michelle Weiner-Davis talks about “IT TAKES ONE TO TANGO”. Up until this point I was constantly preaching the ‘it takes 2 to tango’ approach to couple counselling. What Michelle explains, which I fully agree with, is what I describe to my clients as the relationship dance. From the little I do know about dancing, when you are ballroom dancing, everything you do results in you working together to create a beautiful movement. So if I take a step back, my partner will take a step front to be in sync with me. If he moves to the right, I will also move to the right and so on. Similarly if we use the same logic to relationships, if one partner tries to effect positive change in the relationship the other partner will also change their behaviour to suit the change you have made. So, instead of focusing on the changes our partners should be making, we should be focused on our change which will possibly more readily result in positive changes in our partners too.
We do not have control over our partner’s behaviour but only our own and therefore we can only control the changes we make ourselves. Michelle Weiner-Davis speaks about how we all know how to press our partners negative buttons and that this approach is the reverse – start pressing or figuring out how to press your partners positive emotional buttons. This is, quite simply, focusing on doing the things your partner likes and moving away from the things your partner dislikes. It also comes with no expectations. You continue to do positive things and become alert to how these things affect your partner in a positive way, however you do not expect shifts in your partner’s behaviour.
FOCUS ON YOUR OWN CHANGE INSTEAD.