by: Valery Vengerov, M.Psy. R.P.(Qualifying)
One of the most common experiences that couples report having after an unresolved argument is the daunting, heavy silence that follows. The lack of resolution of an argument leaves each partner feeling misunderstood and often in a state of resignation. Each partner might think: “I give up. He/she will never understand me. Why even bother? I’ll deal with this on my own.” This lingering silence can be a protest. The longer and more frequently couples remain in this space of estrangement from one another, the more stressed and dissatisfied they become with their relationship as a whole (Liu & Roloff, 2015). Resentment builds, and distance develops as the ‘couple’ unit starts to feel unsafe.
In therapy, couples have the opportunity to safely share the accumulated hurt and resentment that underlies and results from these silences, and that threatens their relationship. They can experience the relief that comes with being heard and listened to. They also find out more about their partner, who becomes more accessible and available to them as a result of therapy. Couples can learn how to repair conflict faster and more effectively in therapy, and reduce the amount of time they spend feeling disconnected and resentful of one another (Gordon & Chen, 2016).
Whatever challenges you and your partner want to address in couples therapy, improving communication is vital.
Evidence- and science-based couples therapy will help both of you to define your thoughts, feelings, and desires to each other with openness and empathy.
A therapist in CFIR’s Relationship and Sex Therapy team can also help you to arrive at a better understanding of each other’s point of view. You can collaboratively set your treatment goals to ensure that you or you and your partner’s concerns and needs are adequately addressed.
Gordon, A. M., & Chen, S. (2016). Do you get where I’m coming from?: Perceived understanding buffers against the negative impact of conflict on relationship satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110, 239-260.
Liu, E., & Roloff, M. E. (2015). Exhausting Silence: Emotional Costs of Withholding Complaints. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 8, 1, 25-4.
Valery Vengerov, M.Psy., R.P. (Qualifying), is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto. She works with individual and couples clients, to help them resolve a wide range of difficulties related to depression, stress and anxiety, trauma and loss, and relationship conflict and betrayals.