Spouses come to marriage counseling (couples therapy) wanting to feel heard by their partner and desperately wanting less tension and conflict in the home. Career and daily life are stressful enough—thus coming home to more tension can make life feel unbearable. Of course if kids and/or financial stressors are involved, it raises the stakes even higher.
What I help people see fairly quickly is that there are things each spouse can do immediately to decrease the hostility and create some much needed calm in the short term. In some cases where it is necessary, I have couples agree to a "cease fire" so that tempers can cool down and the dust can settle. If the issue is less about intense conflict and more about "being distant”—there are simple things I recommend that promote the necessary communication needed for couples therapy to go forward in a helpful way. Couples appreciate the structure and the accountability that my approach to therapy provides, and they see early on that they are not passive recipients of therapy. They are active collaborators in the process of making their relationship and their lives better.
My work in marriage counseling helps couples see how marital discord results from certain types of relationship patterns—and that these patterns can be identified and changed in any relationship. Couples are often pleasantly surprised to find out that the patterns they are caught in are much more common than they think. Behind closed doors, couples in crisis often think of their own marriage as "a failure" and they imagine that other couples are getting along just fine. I help them understand that this is simply not true and that marital discord is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Seeking help takes courage and commitment, and I make sure that my clients are fully able to accept that fact.
The marriage counseling process includes helping each spouse put into words how they see the relationship and what they want from their partner. This is important because most couples have never taken the time to sit down and truly clarify what it is they are wanting from their partners; the idea of verbalizing needs and wants in a relationship—in a clear, calm and loving way—is a pretty rare phenomenon. The safe and respectful environment I create with my clients in marriage counseling allows for new types of conversation, expression of emotions and constructive self-expression.
Throughout the years, my approach to marriage counseling has been deeply informed by many mentors, colleagues and writers—including Harville Hendrix’s Imago Relationship Therapy, John Gottman’s seminal research and Debra Tannen’s ground-breaking work on communication theory (You Just Don’t Understand).
Chris Kingman | Therapy
156 5th Avenue (at 20th St)
New York, NY 10010
Chris Kingman | Therapy