Althought Therapy

Couples Therapy Sessions: Feeling Understood

Do arguments with your partner leave you feeling defeated or unheard? Are you finding yourself rehashing and replaying what you and your partner said to one another? As you walk away from the argument you are trying to determine what went wrong and what you could have said.

Conflict in a marriage or relationship is normal. However, the goal of conflict is to better understand one another and eventually come to an agreement. If you find yourself feeling misunderstood, couples therapy sessions may help you and your partner.

Couples Therapy Sessions

This blog first details listening and listening skills, which are essential in a healthy couple’s communication. Then the blog dives deeper into how you can feel more emotionally connected with your partner. A deeper connection is how we feel understood and validated in our relationship or marriage.

Finding a Couples Therapist for Couples Therapy Sessions

Finding the right couples therapist or marriage counselor is essential. You want to feel like your therapist understands the specific needs of your relationship. Even more importantly, you want to feel like your therapist understands you and your partner. Working with a mental health professional can help you successfully navigate your relationship issues.

How to Feel Understood

Step One: Listening

Communication is a two-way street. In order to be heard, you need to listen. Oftentimes when we are communicating, especially during a disagreement, we are waiting our turn to talk. We are not actively listening to what the other person has to say.

Here is an example of a couple talking over one another:

Partner A: “I think we should spend the holidays with my family this year.”

Partner B: “We spent last year with your family; it’s my family’s turn.”

Partner A: “But my parents have already made plans, and you always get to decide!”

Partner B: “That’s not true- you never even consider my family’s traditions!”

Partner A: “You’re doing it again, not listening to me at all!”

Partner B: “And you’re ignoring my point of view, like always!”

In this example, both partners talk over each other about holiday plans without truly listening. Both partners are feeling unheard and misunderstood. As the partners feel more and more misunderstood the argument continues to escalate.

Step Two: Listening Skills

Effective listening skills are crucial for healthy couples communication. Here are key aspects and examples of how couples can improve their listening skills:

  1. Active Listening
  • Pay attention to the speaker by making eye contact and avoiding distractions like phones or TV.
  • Show Engagement: Nod, use verbal affirmations (“I see,” “Continue”), and respond with empathy.


  • Partner A: “I had a tough day at work.”
  • Partner B: “I’m sorry to hear that; I would love to hear more about your difficult day.”
  1. Avoid Interrupting
  • Let Them Finish: Allow your partner to complete their thoughts before responding.
  • Pause and Reflect: Before replying to your partner, pause to reflect on their message.


  • Partner A: “I’m worried about our finances.”
  • Partner B pauses to ensure Partner A is finished, then says, “I understand.” Let’s go over the budget together and find a solution.”
  1. Paraphrasing and Clarifying
  • Restate Their Points: Repeat back what you heard to ensure understanding.
  • Clarifying: If something is unclear, ask questions to get more details.


  • Partner A: “I feel like you’re not supportive of my career.”
  • Partner B: “So, you feel like I haven’t been supporting your career ambitions. I would love an example so I can better understand your message.”
  1. Validate Feelings
  • Acknowledge Emotions: Recognize and affirm your partner’s feelings.
  • Empathize: Show understanding and compassion to your partner.


  • Partner A: “The upcoming project is causing me a lot of stress.”
  • Partner B: “I can see how stressed you are. This is a huge project”
  1. Stay Present
  • Be in the Moment: Focus on the current conversation, avoiding bringing up past issues unless relevant.
  • Mindfulness: Practice being fully present and aware during conversations.


  • Partner A: “Let’s discuss our vacation plans.”
  • Partner B: “Sure, let’s figure out the best options together.”
  1. Nonverbal Communication
  • Body Language: Use open and receptive body language, such as facing your partner and uncrossing your arms.
  • Facial Expressions: Show genuine interest and concern through your expressions.


  • Partner A: “I feel overwhelmed right now.”
  • Partner B: (Leans in slightly, maintains eye contact) “I’m here for you; let’s discuss it further.”

Couples can improve their communication by using listening skills. This can help them talk to each other more effectively. It can also help them understand each other better. Ultimately, this can lead to a stronger relationship between the couple.

Step Three: Feeling Heard

Once you’ve practiced the basic listening skills it is time to get deeper. This where having a psychologist or therapist present can help you two feel truly understood. There are different types of therapy such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy. Both are great options for truly learning more about your partner.

Root Cause Analysis and Addressing Core Problems in Couples Therapy

A critical component of couples therapy is root cause analysis. This method aims to identify and address the fundamental issues underlying relationship difficulties. Couples can make lasting improvements in their relationship by focusing on the main issue rather than just the surface problems.

This approach allows them to address the root cause of their issues. By doing so, they can create meaningful changes that will positively impact their relationship in the long term. Here’s how this process works in the context of couples therapy:

  1. Identifying Patterns and Triggers

Recognizing Repeated Conflicts: Therapists help couples identify recurring patterns of conflict, which often point to deeper, unresolved issues. These patterns might manifest as frequent arguments about finances, intimacy, or communication breakdowns.

Uncovering Triggers: Understanding what triggers these conflicts is essential. Triggers can be specific words, behaviors, or situations that evoke strong emotional responses. For example, a partner’s dismissive comment might trigger feelings of inadequacy rooted in past experiences.

  1. Exploring Historical Context

Personal Histories: Each partner’s personal history, including family dynamics, past relationships, and significant life events, plays a crucial role in shaping their current behavior and emotional responses. Therapists delve into these histories to uncover how past experiences influence present interactions.

Cultural and Social Influences: Cultural and societal expectations can also impact relationship dynamics. Exploring these influences helps couples understand how external factors contribute to their issues.

  1. Understanding Underlying Emotions

Emotional Layers: Surface-level conflicts often hide deeper emotional issues such as fear, insecurity, or unresolved grief. Therapists guide couples in peeling back these layers to reveal the core emotions driving their behaviors.

Emotional Validation: Acknowledging and validating each partner’s emotions is crucial for healing. When partners feel understood and validated, they are more likely to engage constructively in addressing core problems.

  1. Addressing Core Problems

Defining Core Problems: Once the root causes are identified, therapists work with couples to define the core problems in their relationship. These might include issues like trust deficits, unmet emotional needs, or poor communication habits.

Creating Action Plans: Therapists help couples develop specific, actionable plans to address these core problems. This might involve setting communication guidelines, establishing trust-building practices, or seeking additional support for individual issues like anxiety or depression.

  1. Implementing Change

Skill-Building: Couples learn and practice new skills to replace dysfunctional patterns. This might include active listening techniques, conflict resolution strategies, or methods for expressing needs and boundaries clearly.

Consistent Practice: Implementing change requires consistent effort and practice. Therapists support couples in applying these new skills in their daily lives, providing feedback and adjustments as needed.

  1. Monitoring Progress

Regular Check-Ins: Ongoing therapy sessions provide opportunities to monitor progress, celebrate successes, and address any setbacks. Regular check-ins help ensure that couples stay on track with their goals.

Adjusting Strategies: As couples grow and change, their needs may evolve. Therapists adjust strategies and interventions to reflect these changes, ensuring continued progress and adaptation.

Root cause analysis and addressing core problems are fundamental aspects of couples therapy that lead to profound and lasting improvements in relationships. By identifying and understanding the underlying issues, therapists help couples move beyond surface-level conflicts to achieve deeper emotional connections and healthier interactions. Through a structured and supportive approach, couples can transform their relationship dynamics, fostering resilience and fulfillment in their partnership.

About the Author

Dr. Awalt, a professional psychologist, specializes in couples therapy, couples counseling, marriage counseling, and premarital counseling. She owns Althought Therapy and is based in Lakewood, Colorado, conveniently near Denver and the Denver metro area.