Lots of couples think they come to the Houston marriage counselor because their spouse is a jerk, doesn’t care, won’t listen, and so on. But in reality, that’s not quite accurate. Relationship problems are rarely caused by actions, but by how those actions make the other person feel.

In other words, you not taking out the trash isn’t ruining our relationship. But when I ask you to do it and you ignore me, or when you act like it should be my responsibility and it puts more stress on me, then it becomes a problem.

Unfortunately, we’re rarely good at recognizing and rationally explaining emotions. Instead, we tend to latch onto specific actions and behaviors as “bad” things that our loved ones do and punish and insult them for those behaviors. Not surprisingly, that strategy often backfires.

Approach Problems with Emotions, Says Houston Marriage Counselor

Initially, thinking about addressing a problem emotionally may seem like a mistake. After all, getting emotional about something can often cause it to become blown out of proportion. Except that isn’t what we’re talking about here.

Getting emotional tends to mean directing the power of your feelings at someone or something, and it’s true that that can often lead to more trouble. I’m talking about approaching issues from the standpoint of emotions or feelings.

For example, if we were having trouble with our spouse going out too much, many of us would probably say something like, “You spend too much time with your friends. It’s like you don’t even care about me!” But that creates defensiveness and can lead to more arguing and, ultimately, serious relationship problems.

Here’s a better approach: “Lately, I’ve felt lonely and sad because you’ve been spending more time with your friends than you do with me.” See the difference? Instead of attacking and insulting, you’re appealing to their desire to make you feel wanted and loved – something that both people should always want for the other person in a healthy relationship.

The Houston Marriage Counselor Can Teach You to Speak How You Feel

Speaking how we feel isn’t normal or natural for most of us. We’re taught to suppress our emotions because that’s how people behave in society, and much of the time this is for the good, but when we need to express ourselves in our relationship it can become an issue.

Understanding both the difference and the relationship between feelings and thoughts is essential.   Thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) produce emotions (aka ‘feelings’), which are word labels created to describe how my body is experiencing my thoughts. Both my thoughts and my emotions need to be closely monitored, and together they have a wealth of information about me, who I am, and why I behave the way I do.  It’s important for me to feel my emotions, and it’s perhaps even more important to happiness and wisdom to MANAGE my thoughts.  Psychotherapy, like a conscious marriage, is a great opportunity to do this sort of work on one’s self, and help one’s partner, too.

If you’re having difficulty understanding or vocalizing your emotions without blaming your partner, or if you’d like to learn more about how to practice showing intentionality, talk to the Houston marriage counselor.