By Abby Glaser, Client Advocate at Encompass
Someone recently asked me how we determine what a couple needs when they come in for intake. For those who may not be familiar, I often provide free intake appointments for couples who are in crisis. The goal in that 45 minutes is to evaluate what is happening in their relationship and what the best next steps would be.
Keep in mind that I am not a marriage therapist, just a social worker! Thinking through that question in the days after of how we determine what a couple needs, I realized that I am looking for the presence of one thing and the absence of another…
The first thing I’m evaluating in that small space of time is the presence of vulnerability. Even in crisis, is this couple willing to open themselves up with each other to find healing?
Generally when there is a lack of vulnerability there is a very good reason for it. There is often a long history of hurts predating their encounter with me that have damaged their ability to be vulnerable with one another. The great news is lack of emotional safety or vulnerability is something we can work on! Often under the guidance of a skilled counselor couples are able to find that safety together again.
The second thing I’m evaluating is the absence of contempt. Does this couple show contempt for one another? I would like to clarify that contempt and anger are very different feelings. It’s one thing to be angry with your partner (dare I say normal). It is something else entirely when I witness the individuals having contempt.
Oftentimes that contempt has clouded every interaction and every view they have of their partner. They are no longer upset at something their partner has done but have moved into being upset at who their partner is. This one is a lot harder to overcome. It usually requires lots of hard work, digging deep into past hurts and the willingness of both parties to find healing.
So something to think about for your own relationship:
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Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.