Marriage Counseling Insider secret for Saving Your Marriage: Can Expressing Your Feelings Eliminate Your Ability to Get Your Partner’s Support?
By Fred Talisman, Licensed Marriage Counselor
For over 20 years of doing relationship counseling, I‘ve specialized in saving marriages that were on the verge of ending even when only one person still wanted the relationship to work and even when they had no hope that it could be saved.
One of the most common problems I’ve run across over the years of doing couples counseling is that most people don’t know how to successfully ask for what they want. They think that if they tell their partner how angry, hurt, disappointed and/or frustrated they are with them that they’ll get the support they want. In doing so, they usually get back the opposite. So, I wrote the following brief article to give you some better alternatives. Here it is:
When I was a child, I was the kind of kid that adults that didn’t like kids liked because I was so quiet and shy.
When I went to a couples therapist when I was older, one of the best things I got out of those sessions was that my therapist taught me how to get in touch with my feelings, own my feelings and express my feelings. I was very proud of mastering the ability to do all three. I especially liked telling my partner of the time how I felt when they upset me. It was a great formula for creating more relationship problems.
My couples therapist never focused on the fact that just because I could now express my feelings, especially feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger and frustration, it didn’t mean that my partner would welcome that expression of feelings. In fact that expression was downright unwelcome. When I was dating, my “great communication skills” usually lead to even more relationship problems and ultimately to the untimely death of that relationship.
When I trained to do couples therapy, I was taught to teach others what I was taught, to get in touch with, own and express their feelings. That inadvertently made me what I think most couples therapists are by accident, a relationship ender.
Now, I’m a relationship saving marriage counselor. Here’s what I teach my clients to do with their upset feelings. Don’t stuff, them, don’t express them to your partner and don’t deny them. Well, what’s left?
Here’s what to do instead:
1. When your partner triggers negative feelings in you, give yourself a time out. If you can’t think of what to say, just say, “I need to take a bathroom break.”
It’s not wrong to communicate when you are in negative emotion. It’s just guaranteed to make things worse between the two of you.
2. When you’re calm, resume contact with your partner and rather than telling them what they did wrong do “positive alternative communication.” In other words, with all positive language ask for what you want instead. Positive language is not better or more accurate than negative language. It just is much more likely to get you the positive responses and change in behavior you’d like to get from your partner.
For example, rather than saying “You’re such a jerk. You’re so rude and disrespectful to me. When I talk to you you’re always distracted, texting one of your friends…”
“It’s really important to me that when you and I are spending time together that we both turn our phones off and give each other our full attention. Would you be willing to do that?”
You can’t have it both ways in the same conversation. You can either get things off your chest which is most likely to cause your partner to withdraw from you, defend their position or verbally attack you OR you can use “positive alternative communication” when you’re calm and have a much better chance of getting what you want from them.
I want to share my gratitude.
I am grateful that you are in my community. Thank you for allowing me to share my knowledge and experience with you as a marriage counselor.
Here’s to you successfully asking for and receiving what you want from the people in your life.
And, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Feel free to forward this blog post to anyone you think can benefit from it.
I have a question for you. Given where you are in your relationship right now, what is your most burning question that you want to have answered and what relationship problems do you most want to have solutions for?
If you have an immediate need for my help, feel free to Contact Me or give me a call.
Fred Talisman MFT
Licensed Marriage Family Counselor
Saving relationships of married and unmarried couples for over 20 years
Author of: Save Your Relationship
A proven system to rescue your relationship and to keep your family together.
Contact Me here OR email to:
Cell: 310 429-3658
P.S. As part of the marriage therapy I do, I sometimes recommend inspiring movies for couples to watch together. I just saw an inspiring DVD I rented through Netflix: “Mao’s Last Dancer.” It’s a true story of a famous dancer’s defection from China to the U.S.
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Fred Talisman MFT
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My husband and I personify the saying, “Opposites attract,” and one Saturday three months ago we’d finally hit the wall; We were in that make it or break it moment. This was especially frustrating because for the ten months prior we’d been seeing a highly recommended psychologist who seemed to make our emotional situation worse. Every session went about the same: we’d air our discontents, yelling would commence, tears would fall, and the psychologist would “arbitrate”, but offer no tangible alternative ways of dealing with our conflict and emotions when he wasn’t there with us. Then he’d conclude that while we were both, “intelligent, kind, loving people, maybe you’re just not cut out to be together.” Nothing felt more awful than being told by a professional that our relationship was probably doomed. We knew we loved each other – and I knew there had to be some better way. In desperation on that particular Saturday I googled “how to save my marriage” and that took me to Fred’s website. Half an hour later we had him on the phone (on a Saturday, no less!). He asked us both one simple question, “Are you committed to saving your marriage?” Even though we were raw with anger, resentment, and hurt, we each said yes. And then he scheduled us a session for later that day. Ever since that first session Fred has been gently providing us with relationship skills we hadn’t been taught before. His approach is non-judgmental, and deliberately – remarkably – simple, and his techniques do work quickly if you are dedicated to following the steps he’s laid out for you. He provided us with time-tested ways to stop our fights before they start, and the techniques one needs to function more healthily in their relationship. Best of all he’s started to give us a way to better accept each other the way we are – rather than try to change one another. And he does this without psychoanalysis or psychobabble. It is a very refreshing approach to couples counseling; He’s not just a relationship saver, he’s a relationship builder. Thanks Fred!”
-Nichole and Jake Chambers
“By the time I found Fred Talisman, Cindy was ready to break up with me. I was devastated. She is the person I love more than anyone. She is my soul mate. She felt that she could never trust me again and that she could never forgive me. Before I found Fred, I had tried other things and spoke to other people, but not only were their methods ineffective, some actually made things worse with her! I saw couples counseling with Fred as my last resort but she wouldn’t do it with me. I worked with Fred on my own while working with his home study course, ‘Save Your Relationship.’ I’m not geographically close to Fred’s office, so I worked with him by phone. To my amazement, working with Fred by phone was more valuable than any help I’ve gotten in person.
Thanks to Fred, she gave me a last chance. Fred gave me hope beyond hope. I was impressed with his depth of understanding and compassion. I saw the first improvements with her almost immediately after the first session I did with Fred. Cindy and I got married almost a year after the crisis that Fred got us through. Using the things that Fred taught me, my wife and I are now stronger than ever as a couple. Our relationship gets better everyday."
And that’s not all! She is now pregnant going on 20 weeks! I am so incredibly excited about what this little life will become. We are ecstatic. Everything is working really well. It’s amazing. I’m very grateful and thankful for all of Fred’s incredible help. The skills he taught me have also improved every other relationship in my life, including my friends, relatives, work mates and casual acquaintances. If everyone learned Fred’s skills and put them into practice, the world would be a much better place. I really can’t thank Fred enough and by the grace of God, I am on a much better track now with my wife. Fred not only showed me how to save my relationship. He also forever changed my life for the better. What I got from Fred is the most valuable help I have ever received.” What a difference he has made to our lives. Words do not say enough about how grateful I am. Thank you again Fred. I can’t thank Fred enough for all that he has done for us.”
“I called you because I really wanted to save my relationship. I feared that it was a lost cause and that we couldn’t get past the infidelity, the lack of trust and his fear of commitment. I want to thank you for the guidance, support, and help you have provided. I have learned so much about myself, relationships, and how to communicate to others from you. Everything you said makes sense and everything you taught me to do worked and continues to work. I realize I can use your skills not just to keep my relationship strong but for the rest of my life. You’ve given me invaluable life skills. I teach all my friends what I learned from you so they’re all getting the benefit of your help too. Thank you for showing me how to save my relationship. It’s in a really strong place and keeps getting better.”
Can I help you save your relationship and help you to keep your family together? Probably. The best way to know if I can help you is for us to have a conversation. Call me now. I’m glad to spend some time talking to you. Once I hear about your situation I can tell you how I can help you. You can call or text me now at 310-429-3658, Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I serve the South Bay, Westside and San Fernando Valley communities. I do sessions in person, by FaceTime, by Skype video and by phone.
I'm really good at saving relationships. To get an idea if I can help you here’s some of the relationships I’ve saved in the words of my clients and what others have said about me as a relationship saving marriage counselor:
“Before we came to Fred Talisman, my wife and I were on the verge of divorce. Issues had become so complex and intertwined that we couldn’t begin to sort through them. Also, the emotions associated with the issues were preventing us from being able to work them effectively. Trust had been breached as we “acted out” in various ways to relieve the stress. Fred provided both a supportive, safe container as well as the feedback necessary for us to separate the issues from our emotions and the issues from each other. He also taught us how to compartmentalize issues, breaking them down into simple negotiations. With his help, our marriage has transformed into a place where we can manage our relational and situational challenges in a way that brings us closer together, rather than pushing us apart. Thank you, Fred, for helping us save and positively transform our marriage!”
-David and Christina Litman
“When he and I were in crisis last February, and looking like we were about to end our relationship, we agreed to get help as a last gasp attempt to possibly save “us.” I began the search for someone local, knowing that anyone we chose was a crap shoot at best. And I was feeling like if we are going to do this, I wanted to give us the best possible shot at a positive outcome. I found your info online, and I wish I could tell what it was that resonated with me, but something did and I convinced him to participate, at least to give it a try. Fred, it is hard to express in words the process, or how it worked (not trying to make it sound mystical here) but there is no doubt that it did. You brought clarity to so many issues and enabled us to rediscover the joy we had shared in each other in the past. We learned to laugh with each other again, and we have tools to keep any conflict from developing into something unnecessarily weighty. I believe we both feel that our communication skills and our depth of feelings for each other have been enhanced by the time spent with you. I wouldn’t hesitate to share your contact with anyone who confided in me that they were concerned about the future of their relationship–thanks to you, ours has a future and it is bright! Thanks for being the catalyst for this rebirth–YOU ROCK!”
Fred was instrumental in helping my wife and I work through a very difficult chapter in our life. After helping us work through the immediate ‘crisis’, he went further and gave us the communication skills necessary to having a healthy relationship. These tools have transformed the way we interact and have allowed us to reach mutually beneficial agreements on items that had long been a source of conflict.”