Around 50% of my practice is working with couples (or other partnered systems), and I am often faced with the difficulty so many folks struggle with in understanding each other. Especially after our last election, I can’t help but see striking similarities between the ways that folks bunker down and become defensive and antagonistic in their relationship with the current state of affairs in our society post-election. Regardless of where someone stands politically (and in my clinical work, I try to stay out of politics), one thing is clear– if you find two folks who each voted for the two different candidates, you’ll find that they are living in two very different realities.

This is often the case, but on a more micro level, with the couples I see in my practice. Both individuals are so wrapped up in their own subjective reality, that they have no room left for understanding the subjective reality of their partner. As a result, their relationship is filled with frustrations, disappointments, and unnecessary conflicts over who is right or wrong. Instead of working together as allies, these folks are engaging in a battle over realities, sparring to see whose reality will come out on top and victorious. In the end, no one wins. A battle between realities is a zero sum game, in which one individual needs to win while the other loses. However, this only means that everyone loses, since a relationship filled with a ledger of wins and losses is a most unhappy relationship.

Some of the biggest signs of progress (and most rewarding times for me as a therapist) are when I finally start […]