In the final installment of “Stop the Fighting,” Staff Clinician Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, discusses a third “red flag” fight that couples have — feeling as if they have dramatically different points of view.
Red Flag #3: “We don’t live in the same reality.”
When a couple recounts a fight in a therapy session, the therapist sometimes wonders whether the partners were even in the same room when the fight happened because their stories are so different. This can be a reflection of a deeper problem which is a lack of willingness or ability to work collaboratively to create a story of the relationship that honors multiple realities and differences in perspective. If this continues, it can feel demoralizing and lonely. When there is untreated addiction, untreated mental health problems like anxiety or depression, or relational abuse of any kind (emotional, physical, and/or sexual), spouses are particularly at risk of feeling like they live in two different realities.
- Commit to living and loving with humility. Your reality is ALWAYS shaped by your perspective and is ALWAYS limited.
- Lean in to your spouse’s view of the problem and actively look for pieces of his/her story that you can buy into and empathize with. In other words, work with your spouse to create a shared couple story of the problem.
- Try to look at the fight from the perspective of a neutral third party. This is why couples therapy can be so helpful. The couples therapist has the advantage of being able to look at the dance between partners rather than being stuck in one partner’s story or the other and he or she can help the spouses begin to hold this “third story” view as well.
Each of these “red flag” fights — “You don’t have my back”; “I don’t believe in us”; and “We don’t live in the same reality” — can be worked out. If you see these red flags in your relationship, be sure to talk to your partner and work on the tips. Do not be afraid to reach out to a couples therapist to work through a bump in your relationship road.
Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Read more about Dr. Solomon on our website.
The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. We have a team of clinicians dedicated to helping couples strengthen their relationship. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.