I've been a marriage counselor for a while now and I've gotten to the point where I don't think I hear anymore surprises. Wait — that's not true. I still hear some now and again, but for the most part I'm getting to the point where I've heard most of it.
Some of the more common things I hear are actually things that couples shouldn't say in therapy. I know, I know. We're supposed to listen and reflect but frankly there are some things that just aren't doing you any good and your time would be better spent talking about other things. Here are a few things that you should not tell your marriage counselor.
1. "Don't tell my husband/wife this, but ..."
Sorry, as marriage counselors we're not supposed to take sides and we can't keep important secrets from your partner. If you don't want your partner to know about it, don't tell your marriage counselor about it. But then, why would you not want your partner to know about it? Maybe that's something you should talk to your marriage counselor about.
2. "No, I think you're wrong"
You're supposed to be the one to make what you want out of your relationship. When we give you some input or some directives of things to try, it's only for your own benefit. So if you're aversive to our advice or just downright combatant about it, it tells us something — and you'll probably end up spending some time in therapy talking about what makes you so aversive to the suggestion.
I'm not trying to say we're right all the time, but there's no use in trying to argue with us about it because we're not bothered one way or the other. Like I said before, it's your relationship. If our advice doesn't work for you then it doesn't work. Use some of the skills you're learning in therapy to give us feedback and we can all move on to some stuff that does work.
Meaningless threats don't get you anywhere in therapy (or in your marriage for that matter). In fact, they become a topicfor therapy. How do we know this one is meaningless? Because if you really wanted a divorce you wouldn't be in our office; you'd be in a lawyer's office. But we can help you work through this frustration with your partner and help you learn distress tolerance so you can have more productive conversations.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.