Couples often come to therapy in the first of four stages of the marital argument.   In couples therapy, the four stages of marital therapy parallel the four stages of the marital argument.

In the first stage, the couple is in the Attack and Defend stage.  In this stage, couples fail to manage negativity and criticize each other. They respond to criticism with defensiveness.  There is no validation for what they feel and neither feels listened to.

In the second stage of the marital argument, couples make a repair.  Usually, they report how they believe the true intent of their message was completely misunderstood correctly or received.  They make an attempt at correcting what went wrong during their argument.  The parallel of this stage in therapy is the stage of Repair.

The marital argument is about collaboration in stage three.  The Collaboration stage in marital therapy is about validating what each partner says and feels.  During this stage of therapy, the couple’s goal is understanding, not agreement.

Finally, in the last stage of the marital argument, couples find that they can admit their role in the conflict.  The parallel in the fourth stage of therapy is called Admitting.

Stages of the Marital Argument

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