Mina's report on working with couples

Couples work is challenging and emotionally provocative. Feelings of frustration, pain, anger and discouragement alternating with relief, hopefulness and excitement are common among couples who are trying to resolve their marital discord . Common issues of Iranian couples are: in-laws( 80%), child-rearing (60%), finances (60%), sex (55%), household chores (40%) and adultery (30%). Almost all couples report that jealousy, control, criticism, self-centeredness and emotional withdrawal cause anger and dissatisfaction with their marriage.

Although each couple is unique, the following principles hold true in treatment of the majority of the couples.

1) Inability to resolve problems -- not the problems themselves -- lead to separation and divorce.

2) A good marriage requires both spouses to psychologically separate from their family of origin and shift their primary love and loyalty to each other. An individual cannot fully participate in an interdependent relationship without being first an independent and autonomous person. This change seems particularly difficult for most Iranians.

3) creating a balance between fulfillment of "my needs" versus "our needs" is crucial. A spouse who is self-absorbed and lacks consideration causes the other spouse to feel neglected and unimportant.

4) Effective communication is necessary for intimacy and connectedness. The silent treatment, pouting, blaming, contempt and defensiveness are destructive.

5) Learning how to tackle the problems as a team rather than fighting one another is hard but rewarding.

6) Being aware of one's issues and their impact on the relationship is crucial. Couples learn that, they have the power to change their relationship by changing themselves. The following story illustrates the significance of this point.

The Story of a Bottle of Water

During one of my counseling session Mrs X bitterly complained about her husband's temper. "When he gets angry, he explodes. He screams, slams the doors, breaks things and calls me horrible names. I can not go on like this any more," she said crying.

Mr X calmly turned to me and said "Mina Khanoom, I am not a violent man. I work very hard all day long. When I come home I want to have some peace and quiet. But my wife does not leave me alone. She constantly criticizes me. She nags, complains and makes my life a living hell." Mr. X paused, sighed very deeply, and added, "You see I am like a bottle of gasoline. As long as I am left alone nothing happens. But if someone put a lit match to me, then of course I explode."

I thought for a second and said, "Mr X I have a very important question for you that I would like you to think about. "How do you think things would have been different if you were a bottle of water?"

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