Archive for vulnerable

Couples and Arguing

The Metro asked Coupleworks their views on couple’s arguing styles and the best ways for couples to argue. Here are our answers.

1. What are the main arguing styles someone can fall into?

Before distinguishing one arguing style to another it’s helpful to normalise “arguing”. Couples argue and it’s healthy to communicate one’s point of view. The problem isn’t that couples argue, it’s the way they argue. Learning to argue more consciously and with more awareness helps couples work through every day issues and then more challenging issues between them.

Arguing Styles:

Reactive Arguing: When couples reactive to one another they have been triggered and usually feel hurt and vulnerable. This is when they feel the need to protect themselves and react by withdrawing, stonewall, gaslight and often saying hurtful and damaging things to one another.
Reflective Arguing: This is when couples are conscious of their own feeling and are able to slow down and pause before responding. This is when couples are able to listen, acknowledge, see the others point of view, compromise and let their partner know that the argument isn’t endangering the relationship

2. Is one arguing style the healthiest, or better than another?

Reflective Arguing is more productive and loving for any relationship. Of course, this is a difficult thing to do and takes practice (yes, practice) and refinement throughout the relationship.

3. How can you identify which arguing style you are? 

Identifying the style (either reactive or reflective arguing) isn’t essential but what is important is that each person is attuned to their own feelings and work to identify them so they don’t default into reactive arguing. It’s obvious when an arguing style is not working for a couple because the conflicts are still there (but sometimes buried for a time until they come up again).

4. Why is identifying your arguing style important within a relationship?

I’m not sure it’s as important to identify your arguing style as much as it is to know yourself well. Therapy is one way of doing this but by no means the only way. The key is to learn to become connected to yourself so you can develop the muscle to slow down and reflect before reacting, pursuing or withdrawing from your partner.

It also means knowing when you might be wrong or stepping over the line when acting badly and apologising to your partner. Learning to think that your way of thinking or point of view is not ‘the only way’ is key.

5. How can you make sure your arguments are healthy in a relationship?

Start with the trust that arguing is not a threat but helps your relationship grow

Timing is everything. Don’t start arguing until you feel calm and understand what the issue is and how you feel about it. Communicate to your partner and let them know you need time to think about it, reassure them you will sort it out together.

Remember you are both vulnerable.

Don’t have expectations when coming into an argument. There are no should or shouldn’t. Be flexible in your thinking and don’t assume you’re right. Listen. Slow down and Reflect.

Stay on point. Talk about the issue and don’t get personal.

Be respectful to your partner. The golden rule to treat others as you would like to be treated has never been more true when arguing!

Shirlee Kay

Body Language

The social psychologist Amy Cuddy has given a TED Talk (June 2012) entitled ‘Your body language shapes who you are’. She discusses how our body language influences how we are perceived by others – but that it can also change our perception of ourselves. More than that, we can even affect our own body chemistry by adapting the way we sit or stand – and consciously alter our mood by shifting our body shape.

(Try it now…
Stand up and fling your arms wide apart.
Hold that position.
Now smile with your eyes as well as your mouth.
Hold that position.
How do you feel?)

When we feel confident of love we metaphorically and actually spread our arms out wide.
Think of greeting someone you love. We fling open our arms in a gesture of welcome and acceptance and envelop them in an embrace – bring them close. Our bodies feel full of energy, loose and relaxed
However, when feeling vulnerable we curl into the foetal position. When feeling defensive we fold our arms across our bodies. We shut out the person who might cause us pain and harm. When feeling hurt we can become cautious and wary. We withdraw and become emotionally unavailable. The face becomes closed, expressionless and unrevealing and we avoid eye contact. If we are angry our bodies hold a tension and stiffness and we become unapproachable – ‘don’t touch me!’

Our mental state mirrors our physical state. When feeling under attack, we become defensive and shuttered off from the feelings of the other person. It is a state of mind that is the opposite of ‘open wide’. We struggle with empathy or curiosity. Concern and intimacy, interaction and connection, can be lost.

In her book ‘Marriage Rules’, Harriet Lerner describes defensiveness as ‘the archenemy of listening’.
If you cannot listen without interrupting then, effectively, you are blocking your partner. Dialogue breaks down. There is no room for an acceptance of difference, or an engagement of ideas.
Sentences that begin with ‘Yes, but….’ and ‘No, no…’ are rebuttals of the perceived reality of the other. Both feel unheard.

But how to step out from behind a defensive barricade and start a conversation – not an argument?
Consciously choose to change position from passionate fury to ‘passionate listening’ (Harriet Lerner)
Change the body chemistry. Alter your mind’s position and lower the flood of adrenaline released by the ‘flight, flight, or freeze’ reflex reaction.

Breathe in deeply.
Exhale slowly.
Metaphorically stay present (mind open wide).
Say ‘tell me more…’

Counselling with a Coupleworks therapist offers a safe environment to begin to take this first step towards change.


At a time of seismic upheavals across the globe, we are currently dealing with changes that seemed unbelievable not long ago.
Change brings uncertainty and loss, and can sometimes be so unsettling that we can feel we lack the resources to know how to cope.
Twice in the last weeks, many of us have gone into a night expecting a political resolution which has been completely overturned by daybreak. And now we have to learn to live with realigned European systems and a movement in the USA, both of which recognise an anti-establishment feeling that has become so heightened that people have risen to take different controls.
In therapy, we see the uncertainty that seems to ripple out when the accepted norms are overturned.
First we have to accept what has happened and examine our worst fears. Shine a torch straight at the monster under the bed, don’t deny it but check what size it is – probably not as big as the imagined one.
Now, believe you aren’t alone. Others can understand what is happening, so talk your thoughts through with family and friends. Therapy can be a terrific sounding board and a safe place to unpick fear. Being vulnerable is normal and allows us to examine real feelings.
Humans have always changed and adapted to new situations, it’s part of life, but can be scary if we feel that the change has been imposed on us.
As the serenity prayer says:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference
(You can, of course adapt this to whichever God is yours)
Change will bring growth, it involves learning and seeing things in different ways. There are always other possibilities and it can be where the unexpected happens that things become interesting.
‘Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’ 
GB Shaw.
A client leaving today turned at the door saying ‘goodbye, and keep the faith’
Let’s do that together.

Christina Fraser