My husband and I are both Marriage and Family Therapists, and people often ask me what our fights look like. The answer is… uh, interesting.
The other day Jeb and I were setting up an office, and as is typical in this situation for us, I was GLARING at him with my most judgmental of looks because he had just insisted that we measure the distance from the mirror to the wall instead of just eyeballing it. I’m thinking, “Who the hell measures that stuff? I mean REALLY!!!” He feels my eyes burning through his back and says sarcastically, “Thanks for the contempt” (which is relationship-therapy language for the cardinal sin in relationships), to which I reply defensively, “YOU are not being open to my influence!” (In heterosexual relationships, a man’s openness to his wife’s influence is a good predictor of satisfaction in a relationship). As you see, our fights are impressive because we have all the lingo to launch the perfect insult!
Just in this moment our admin walks in, and can feel the dance we’re engaged in. She is too nice to say anything, but has to be thinking, “Oh, God, this is so awkward!” And, I’m sure she also noted what incredible relationship role models we are.
But the truth is that I adore Jeb and know that he is the best partner in the world for me, and he tells me that he feels the same. We have fantastic relational esteem, which is good because being divorced would be bad for our business! We have blunders and flare-ups like any other couple. But our reactive engagements don’t last long because sooner or later one of us remembers that we have tools to navigate. And we’ve gotten good at doing a lot of proactive complaining and appreciating, and therefore we are always recalibrating.
Our relationship skills are in no way natural– we have done tons of our own personal therapy, couples therapy when we were even just dating, and we continue to learn new methods that we apply to our relationship. Our own personal growth in learning to be relational makes us confident that if we can learn these skills, it is absolutely possible for others to learn and use them as well.
So, if you really want to know how two marriage and family therapists fight, just come on over to The Relationship Therapy Center— you’ll probably get to see for yourself! And, please also notice how well the pictures are hung.