The therapist helps the couple process past incidents of failed communication. There is a handout for that. I like handouts because you do not have to rely on your memory. If you forget what we talked about, refer to the handout (PP153- how to be a great listener).
Couples learn how to process their past failed bids for connection using the regrettable incidents handout ( p193) - they can understand how the communication went wrong.
This exercise does not deal with the affair as a whole, because that overwhelms couples. It doesn’t re litigate the problem, it exclusively looks at the communication. It is good to understand what went wrong with the communication, but not to blame. Blame gets in the way. The goal is to continue improving the communication so that you don’t need a counselor.
We are trying to lead to more self-disclosure and vulnerability with these sessions and handouts.
Within phase 2 the therapist teaches new conflict management skills to reverse prior conflict avoidance because conflict avoidance tends to be universal for couples that have affairs.
How can you have confidence that you can be successful with conversations that involve conflict? We will teach you techniques to improve communication and how to manage your feelings so the feelings do not sabotage your skills.
Use the Gottman Rappaport handout (p 173). First the therapist helps a couple address what they feel and need – another two handouts for you ( 163,167) from each other regarding their issue, and to listen and validate those feelings and needs without using the Four Horsemen.
This initial step is followed by the dream within conflict exercise- and two more handouts (177,181) and the compromise exercise to help couples deep in the conversation deal with gridlocked perpetual problems and arrive at a compromise.
The partners may also need help coping with diffuse physiological arousal, or flooding (183) another handout and how to take a break to self soothe.
The couple learns how to create and ritualize every day emotional connection (p216) with help from a handout. How to be a great listener and create a calm ritual of emotional connection.
The skills are simple and straightforward and you are never on your own because there are handouts for each skill.
The stress reducing conversation (p 225) is a handout for sharing the stresses that originate outside the relationship. The couple has a weekly ritual called the state of the union meeting (p239) that helps with taking inventory regularly, pointing out what is good in the relationship, clearing the air if the couple needs help to stop avoiding conflict.