Dear Christine, Seeking Peace in Southgate

  • Posted on July 23, 2019 at 10:23 am

Dear Christine,

My partner and I love each other very much. We have been together for 35 years.

However, our skills of effective conflict resolution are very weak. Would you be able to help us get better at resolving conflicts.  Just recently I was feeling I’d have to leave her to get the peace I want to live with for my last  20 years.  I never told her I’m leaving before. I told her we should go to therapy to save our relationship.  What would you charge to help us to learn healthier ways to resolve conflicts?

Signed, Seeking Peace in Southgate

Dear Seeking,

Thirty five years is a long time to live with and love each other with “weak conflict resolution skills”.  What have you done to resolve conflicts, misunderstandings and tension all these years?  I wonder if one of you has subsumed your identity/wants/needs under the other?  Or you both are tough characters who will keep a commitment, even if it kills you!

If you read this blog, you know I encourage psychotherapy to develop healthy coping and conflict resolution skills, along with self-care.  If your partner refuses to join you in couple’s therapy where you both could learn skills together with no secrets, then definitely seek individual psychotherapy for yourself before telling her you are leaving her.
Therapy is not cheap.  I, like many psychologists, social workers and professional counselors, take some insurance companies reimbursement, but most plans these days have a deductible of hundreds to thousands of dollars before your benefit kicks in.  By August, many people have met their deductible or have a Health Savings Account (H.S.A.) to assist in meeting these costs.  Then there may be a copay after you meet the deductible.

Most insurances do not cover couple’s counseling (or stress relief or parenting.  Just stingy) except HAP.  So you might have to pay cash.  That amount can vary from one therapist to another.  Some offer sliding fee scales, based on household income.  Some have a flat rate per hour.  You need to find someone who you both feel comfortable with as well as afford.  Therapy is not cheap, and could easily cost anywhere from $100 to $200/per session or hour.

However, it is the tuition for the college of life lessons.  Learning how to identify your own needs, communicate them clearly and directly, and then learning how to listen to the other speak her needs will lead you to the need to negotiate.  Negotiations always require you to ask for 100% of what you want, but also be open to hearing “no”.  Only then, after you both ask 100% of each other, then you can negotiate.

Negotiations involve wants, not needs.  Needs (air to breathe, water, food) are non-negotiable.  You need them to survive.  You might be able to postpone eating for a few days or up to a month, but a few minutes without air or a couple of days without water will kill.  So, wants get defined, and you each get to listen to each other, responding with ways to try to meet as much of both of your wants as may be possible.  That means you usually have to give up something to meet her half way to find a solution.  And vice versa.

So, therapy is an investment in your life, your relationship and your conscience to know that you have tried everything before leaving.  Talk together about doing couple’s therapy together, and you might even want to do your own individual therapy as well.  What you will learn will benefit every relationship in your life, with family, neighbors and friends, work and marriage.  Together you need to explore what therapist will be the best match for the two of you.  Contact several therapists by phone or email, check out their websites, and consider an initial meeting to see how the 3 of you feel about working together.  Some therapists are pretty booked up (including me these days) but someone will have the schedule and fees you need to make this happen.  Good luck to both of you.

Christine C Cantrell, PhD

Fully Licensed Psychologist

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