You’re Both Right

During a conflict with your partner, you may find yourself falling into the common “I’m right/You’re wrong” thinking trap. You are on the defense, concentrating your energy on “winning” the argument by proving to your partner all of the reasons why your position is the correct one.  Sound familiar?

When we switch into this mode, we are more concerned with “being right” than resolving the conflict at hand. In doing so, we tune out what our partner is feeling—using a metaphorical red pen to keep track of all the corrections we would like to make once he or she has finished speaking. At this point we are no longer listening.

To avoid falling into this trap, it can be helpful to remember that you can both be right. Each of you is experiencing your own subjective interpretation of events, and all of the emotions associated with them.  Even if you can use logic or deduction to prove your point, you can never disprove what your partner is feeling.  Everyone has a right to his/her opinions and emotions.  And even though you may disagree, you can still respect and validate those experiences.

Some helpful tips:

  • Give your partner your full attention. When you feel yourself starting to become defensive, shift your focus back towards what your partner is trying to communicate.  (And make sure that you are free from any outside distractions -television, cellphone, etc.).
  • Ask clarifying questions. Instead of responding quickly, stay with what your partner is trying to say by asking him more questions.  This will show your partner that you are interested and care about what he is saying.  It will also help prevent simple misunderstandings and save you both from unnecessary heartache.
  • Validate your partner. Everyone wants to feel heard, and a simple validation can go a long way towards preventing an argument from escalating. Let your partner know that you care about her emotions by making a statement about her experience, such as “I hear how frustrated you are.”

To learn more about improving communication with your partner, schedule a couples counseling session with one of our professional counselors:

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

Pre-Marital Counseling: What to Expect

If you are preparing to tie the knot, it is wise to take some time considering both the strengths and potential weak points in your relationship.  Engaging in pre-marital counseling is a proactive, preventative measure that you can take to safeguard your relationship during this stressful time of transition.  It is not necessary for you to have any outstanding conflicts or concerns in your relationship in order to benefit from pre-marital counseling (although it is also okay if you do!)  Pre-marital counseling is a form of future planning during which you and your partner will have open and honest dialogue about your concerns, hopes, and expectations for your future together.

At Artemis Counseling, we do not have a specific formula or timeline for pre-marital counseling.  Instead, we tailor treatment goals that are specific to the needs of each individual couple. Some common topics for pre-marital counseling include:

  • Family Planning: This can take the form of discussions about the desired timeline for having (or not having) one or more child.  It may also mean navigating how to make a smooth transition when introducing a step-mother/father, or integrating a blended family.
  • Finances: Getting legally married means that your finances will become joined.  Creating a plan for managing money, budgeting, and having joint or separate accounts are important considerations.  This can be particularly pertinent when there are large salary discrepancies, spending habits, or debts between you and your fiance.  
  • Division of Household Tasks: As a couples counselor, it a common phenomenon for seemingly simple disagreements about household tasks to flare into perpetual arguments over time.  Setting expectations for the division of household labor and acceptable degrees of cleanliness can prevent this topic from becoming a future point of contention.
  • Relationships with in-laws: Each family has its own unique culture, traditions, eccentricities, and dysfunctions.  When entering your fiance’s family, you may be traversing some new and uncharted territory.  In pre-marital counseling, you can address expectations about the amount of involvement that in-laws will play in your new family.  This may include issues such as holidays, living arrangements, child care, and financial assistance.

To learn more about the benefits of pre-marital counseling, schedule an intake session with one of our professional counselors:

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

The Power of Empathy

As couples counselors, we recognize common patterns of issues that couples tend to struggle with. One of these issues is a lack of willingness to understand the other partner’s perspective. When someone tries to understand where another person is coming from and an attempt is made to recognize how another person is feeling, empathy is developed. Empathy requires you to make a genuine effort to listen and understand your partner’s experience.

When we are upset, it’s not the easiest to pause and join our partner in their hurt or frustration. However, it is highly important to fully listen and attempt to understand your partner’s feelings. We are quick to minimize or try to soothe strong emotions. We don’t like to see our loved ones hurting so we try to make them feel better.

Instead, we encourage you to listen to understand your partner. Instead of telling them it will be okay, try to ask about how they’re feeling. Take it a step further and validate their feelings. This requires you to cast aside any judgment you might have about the situation. Statements like, “You must feel so hurt,” or “I hear you saying that you’re angry- I understand how you could feel that way,” are examples of how you can show empathy.  Statements such as these express that you hear your partner and are validating their feelings.

Empathy allows our partner to feel heard and understood. Empathy deepens our ability to see the world from our partner’s point of view. Ultimately, this allows for greater connection and understanding. Listen closely, imagine feeling the way that your partner does, and reflect that understanding back. It takes practice, but a little empathy can go a long way.

If you are struggling with empathy in your relationship, one of our couples counselors would be happy to help. Click below to schedule:

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life

Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.

How to Apologize Effectively

As couples counselors, apologizing is a topic that we are highly familiar with. Apologizing is a crucial communication tool in healthy relationships. We often work with couples on how to apologize effectively. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a half-hearted apology that just doesn’t feel genuine. It takes a genuine apology to help us move forward in our relationships.

We recently listened to the Freakonomics podcast episode, “How to Optimize Your Apology” and were excited to hear about the research that has been done surrounding effective apologies. Cultural sociologist, Karen Cerulo, partnered with fellow sociologist, Janet Ruane, to study the effectiveness of an apology. They looked at the format and content of the apology to determine which apologies are most effective. Here’s what they found is the most successful apologies:

  1. Pay special attention to how you start and end your apology. What you say first and last in an apology is what people remember. The first thing you say is a “primer.” Show remorse at the very start of the conversation and intentionally end with how sorry you are.
  2. Avoid talking about yourself. The most successful apology focuses on the person that was hurt, not on the apologizer. Steer clear of talking about yourself or justifying your actions. The research shows that why you did it is less important than your regret or remorse. People don’t want context, they want to know you are sorry.
  3. Apologize for what you did. Cerulo points to many apologies where people say sorry for a misunderstanding. This does not show ownership of a mistake. Apologize for what you did, not what someone else thought. Highlight what you did to offend someone. (Read: “I’m sorry you thought I was being rude.” Compared to: “I’m sorry that I was rude to you.”)
  4. Apologize sooner rather than later. You should make an apology close to when the offense occurs. We know that waiting to apologize tends to build frustration in the hurt partner. Owning up to your mistake earlier rather than later allows for repair attempts to begin.
  5. If possible, commit to doing better*. Expressing a desire to do better next time shows true remorse. If you are unsure of how to do so, ask. Start with, “How can I do better next time?” This shows that not only are you remorseful, but you also want to grow and learn from the mistake.

*If you offer a solution or make a promise to do better, you must follow through. If you do not follow through, your apology becomes empty words and is ultimately ineffective.

As a general rule, exhibiting authentic remorse is the most important part of an apology. Let your partner know that you are sorry and you mean it. We are all going to mess up in our relationships- its par for the course. If conflict is inevitable, then so are apologies. Remember: be quick to apologize, keep the focus on who you’ve hurt, and be intentional about sharing your remorse.

If you or you and your partner would like to work on apologizing and other communication skills, please schedule with one of our counselors below:

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life

Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.

Keeping Your Side of the Fence Clean

We can all think of a nosy neighbor (or at least one on TV) that is constantly “looking over the fence” to check out what the other neighbors are doing. Usually that includes pointing out what the other neighbors are doing wrong. That nosy neighbor is so busy paying attention to what everyone else is doing wrong that she forgets to take a look at what’s happening on her side of the fence.


Couples therapists know this situation all too well. There’s no physical fence, but it happens often when couples come in for therapy and say something like, “I need you to fix him.” Like the nosy neighbor, partners can usually list off a bunch of problems about the other partner. “He never listens to me. She doesn’t help me with anything. He doesn’t communicate.” The list goes on.


We are so quick to “look over the fence” and make note of all the things our partner is doing wrong. It’s definitely a lot easier that way! But, where do you fit in?


It brings this quote to mind: “You can’t control others, but you can control you respond.” If we can take a look within, we have more control of enhancing the relationship.


Think: What could I being doing differently? How can I make changes to better the relationship? What is my role in the distress?


Oftentimes when we take the time and energy to better ourselves within a relationship, our partners will take notice. Think of it as a ripple effect. We don’t have control over another person, but we do have control over ourselves. So scan your side of the fence and do some clean up. Odds are that your partner will notice and might be motivated to clean up their side too!

If you could use some help cleaning up your side of the fence, reach out to one of our counselors. We would love to help!

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life
Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.

How to Manage Criticism

Ugh, criticism! We’ve all been on the receiving end of criticism and we know it usually doesn’t feel great.

Criticism is one of Dr. John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: behaviors that occur between partners which research shows can be predictors of divorce. Gottman defines criticism as a character attack, which implies there is something globally wrong with someone. It is not just a complaint, but rather aims at who your partner is at their core.  As you can imagine, this often leads to defensiveness. While criticism can be a predictor of divorce, how criticism is managed determines the success or failure of the relationship.

Recognize that criticism and feedback are different. Expressing a complaint focuses on you and how you feel about something, while criticism places blame on your partner.  We’re all human and we are bound to experience criticism in our relationship at some point. It will happen, but it is important to make sure it does not become a pattern. Here are a few ways to express yourself effectively, without feeding into the blame game:

  1. Use a gentle start-up: Another tried-and-true Gottman method. This skill communicates respect and places focus on your feelings. You can use “I” statements rather than “you” statements to avoid blame. “You always ________ or You never ________, “ places blame and creates defensiveness off the bat. Focus on stating what you need rather than blaming your partner for what you are not receiving to more effectively be heard and get your needs met.
  • “You” statement: “You never help with the dishes. You are so selfish!”
  • “I” statement: “I know I was grouchy tonight. I’m feeling overwhelmed with doing all of the dishes. Could you help me tomorrow?”

2. Focus on how to improve: Sometimes we need to give feedback to make changes. Use specific behavior, not character traits to suggest improvements. Describe what you’re seeing. This will help you be specific about what you would like to change in the future.

3. Express appreciation: Soften your feedback by also showing some appreciation. Don’t be afraid to point out a positive when giving feedback. Even when you’re upset or in conflict, you still love your partner! Showing that helps create warmth in the midst of difficult conversations and makes requests feel less combative.

Great job if you’re incorporating some of these tips already! Be intentional and always communicate respect. Conflict is never easy, but working on how you communicate will make it occur less over time.

If you or you and your partner would like some help managing conflict or criticism, please book with one of our expert couples counselors. 

Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life

4 Ways to Practice Gratitude for Your Partner

There are so many things we take for granted every day. This can be especially true in relationships. We tend to get caught up in the day to day and forget to show gratitude for our partner. We probably think about it, but we likely aren’t showing it enough. Researcher Sara Algoe has found that couples that practice gratitude are more likely to have an enduring relationship. Research has shown that gratitude increases satisfaction and attachment leading to greater emotional connection between partners. So we know gratitude is highly beneficial, but how do we put it into practice? Here are some ideas for how to use it in your relationship:

1. Ask questions (& listen)! Sometimes we’re tired at the end of a long day and we don’t really have the energy to ask about our partner’s day. Do it anyways! Ask “How was your day?” and then follow up with more specific questions. “What was the best part of your day today? What was hard about today? What made you laugh today? What was interesting about your day?” More specific questions help us understand our partners better and show that we appreciate them and care.

2. Say thank you. This one sounds really easy. I’m not talking about thanking them for the mundane tasks they do, although that is important too. It’s nice to be thanked for doing the dishes or putting the kids to bed. But you can go further. Thank them for noticing you had a long day and did these things. You’re thanking them for caring and noticing, not just doing the task. This shows gratitude for who they are and how they show up.

3. Give compliments (generously). A compliment feels really nice. There are often many compliments early in a relationship and sometimes they dwindle as the relationship lengthens. A compliment is a very easy way to show your appreciation for your partner AND it’s a confidence booster.

4. Consider your partner’s love language. If you aren’t familiar with love languages, here’s a brief run down. We all prefer to give and receive love in different ways. You might feel appreciated when you’re thanked verbally, but your partner may not care as much about these words of affirmation. Your partner may love a hug after a long day, but you may feel more loved by your partner buying you flowers. Think about how your partner feels loved and use that to show gratitude, in a way that speaks to them. Be thoughtful about what makes your partner feel appreciated and loved.

Gratitude is all about showing appreciation and giving validation. If you start practicing gratitude, odds are your partner will catch on and it will become a natural part of your relationship. Look for opportunities to show gratitude and do it often. We all crave validation. It reminds you that you value your partner and it makes your partner feel values. Win-win. How can you show your partner gratitude today?

This blog post was written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.