COUNSELING STEPFAMILIES: SOME RULES TO ENHANCE STICKY COUPLE COMMUNICATIONS PROBLEMS
by Robert Klopfer, LCSW, Co-Director, Stepping Stones
Many couples find they get bogged down in certain painful, frequently
repetitive disagreements that do not go away over a long time. The issues
discussed become highly charged with emotion and both adults are easily
bruised when they go into this battle. The couple is stuck in a
communication quagmire and needs help to get a new view of their differences
and the ability to move on past these disagreements.
James Bray, author of the excellent book, Stepfamilies: Love, Marriage, and
Parenting in the First Decade, has come up with a list of helpful
suggestions for the couple to use to move ahead in their ability to resolve
these issues. . We believe they are well worth trying to help couples
deepen their understanding and trust in each other. Here are Dr. Bray's
- Make an appointment to talk things over. These issues are too important
to be left to a spontaneous dialog and an appointment honors their
- Bring a list of what you want to talk about to the appointment. The list
keeps you focused so you do not waste the opportunity to get to the key
- Bring a notepad and pen, have a clock clearly visible, and employ
standard debate rules. The goal is to "listen", rather than thinking about
how you are going to defend yourself or what you are going to say. Try not
to interrupt your partner.
- Speak in "I" sentences. Avoid "you" directives and generalizations.
Establish an accusation-free zone. The point is to have your mate hear your
version, your experience-not to feel belittled, attacked , or criticized.
- Determine that it is more important to understand what the other is
feeling than it is to win the argument.
- Reward yourselves afterward with a-nonverbal-Date Night. Do something
fun that does not involve much talking. You did that already.
- If you are still having trouble, join a stepfamily group. Call us for
help in finding one.
- If you are still having trouble, find a good stepfamily counselor.
Stepping Stones therapists are available to help you work out these