When my husband and I had our second baby, we had 3 months off together. And while I’m grateful for the time off, adjusting was HARD. Our newborn just wanted to nurse and sleep. Our then 3-year-old wanted our attention and his #1 spot back. His adjustment meant potty training regression. Getting back to a semi-normal life felt impossible and spending time alone wasn’t even on our radar.
We weren't communicating or getting a good night’s rest. There was so much resentment built up. When we couldn’t take it any longer, we decided to force ourselves to talk to each other via 30-minute couch sessions. As soon as the kids went to bed, we sat on the couch and awkwardly faced each other. We turned off the music, TV, and our cell phones. We took turns hashing out whatever was on our minds. 30 minutes, no holds barred (any longer, honestly, and we’d fall asleep). While it was your turn to do the “verbal vomiting,” you could speak, uninterrupted, while the other person’s only job was to listen. We focused on our feelings and ended up discussing things that happened so long ago, we thought they were buried. Only after the speaker said they were done could the other person respond. There were nights I didn't even want to respond. In all honesty, I'm not great on my feet during times of conflict - I prefer to walk away and write down my response. In fact, I liked pre-planning my agenda of frustrations. I'm a natural born list-maker, so going into a 30-minute hash session with an agenda in hand made me feel organized and in control.
This isn't the only self-therapy we've given our marriage, but it made all the difference. And you don't have to do it consecutively like we did for it to make an impact. Even years later, we still have impromptu couch-sessions when things start to get hairy. Try it, trust me - you can never communicate too much with your partner.
30-minute couch session therapy
Duration: 30 minutes; Requirements: Your spouse, yourself + a couch+ no distractions
- Turn it all off. Whatever your current life’s distractions are, set them aside. This means no phone, music, TV, pets, family or children in ear’s shot of the room.
- Look each other in the eye. Sit down facing each other on the couch. This is awkward, but essential. To actively listen, you must make eye contact. Push through any discomfort.
- Decide who goes first, set a timer and start talking. Any topic they want, for as long as they want. The listener’s only job is to stay silent until the speaker says they are done whether it’s 5 minutes or the full 30 minutes.
- Switch roles and repeat. Instead of being defensive about what you heard, take a minute. Share how it made you feel to hear their issues. Respond as you wish. Keep switching places until the 30 minutes are up.
- End with gratitude. This part is important - thank each other for the time, even if you’re in tears.
- Plan the next session. Be sure to pencil in your next session now – if you wait, life will get in the way.
Have you tried this? Tell me about your experience. Have any tips to share?