Why is it we sometimes say the nastiest things to the person we love the most? How is it that seemingly simple negotiations sometimes end up with partners screaming at each other? How do we end up snapping and acting in ways we swore we would never do again? What makes people who love each other sometimes get really anxious when approaching each other, or leads us to avoid talking about important matters? And more importantly, how can we learn to stop long-standing patterns of destructive conflict, develop the skills to manage our negative emotions and destructive urges, and learn how to talk and listen in ways that lead to understanding, validation, negotiation and closeness?
Mary and John have had the same predictable fight week after week for almost five years. They have it down to who says what when. They both could benefit from DBT.
Imagine — Mary and her husband, John, have the same predictable fight week after week. John cheated on Mary five years ago and she can’t let it go. When John is late getting home from work, which happens frequently, she obsesses he’s having another affair and is going to leave her. By the time he gets home, she is so worked up she accuses him of cheating and threatens suicide if he leaves. He dreads walking in the door because he knows what’s coming. By the time he pulls in the driveway, he’s just as worked up as she is. According to script, he rages while she cries and begs and throws things. He starts drinking and she goes to the bathroom to cut away the pain with a razor blade. The next morning, she apologizes and he goes about his business silent and hung over. She calls him six times over the course of the day to apologize. He refuses her calls. In between calls, she beats herself up for what happened. She can’t let go of the thought that he is going to leave and it will be her fault.