July/August, 2023

CBT for Couples

Sometimes we cannot communicate with our partner no matter what we do. It is like we are constantly fighting water which becomes alternatively calm, then churns, then foams and hurls and throws us against rocks. Where we had once been efficient and communicative, we are now clumsy and combative. It seems that everything we say provokes an enraged response.

We enter treatment, wanting relief, determined to stay together. But something happens - it gets worse. All the emotional volatility, pent up emotions and wounds from the past are triggered.
Things fall apart. We project and blame.

Now what?

The following protocol is both personal and clinical. It comes from years of practice with my own relationships as well as with my psychotherapy clients.

The protocol requires an open mind, discipline, and willingness. And a little humility from time to time.

There are three unequivocal agreements.

The first agreement is this: the couple agrees to practice the exercises for 30-90 days.

The second agreement is this: the couple refuses to threaten to leave the other during this time, no matter what.

The third agreement is this: the couple agrees to “stretch” if things escalate. Stretching is a family systems term which consists of the following: she says something which triggers him. He wants to snipe or say something ugly, or worse, turn and walk away. Instead, he says: “I feel activated. I am going to (take a walk, go in the other room, go into the bathroom), and I WILL BE BACK.” Now, being back can be anything between 5 minutes and overnight. It depends how long it takes that person’s nervous system to calm down. The important thing is to use words and return.

Before the exercises begin, everyone spends time contemplating and writing the following CRAP exercise. The understanding in writing this – and it will not be shared until the end of the allotted time – if then – is to keep the intention of retrieving and re-establishing harmony in the relationship. This can only be achieved by giving the relationship space and by removing the obstacles of emotional volatility and anger.


CRAP ANALYSIS: (This is the only part of my protocol which isn’t original. If I could remember where I read it, I would give that person or data credit.) Please sit quietly and reflect on the following, and please take as long as is needed for this contemplation. Write the answers clearly and completely. This will be read and shared later with your partner if this is the agreement at a later date.

C: What is the Conflict? What is the conflict as you see it in you? What is the conflict you see as a couple?
R: What is the Resistance? What resistance do you see in yourself personally to achieving success in this relationship? What resistance do you see in your partner?
A: What Anxiety are you experiencing? What anxiety do you experience if you consider the end of the relationship? What anxiety do you experience if you consider the success of the relationship?
P: What is the biggest Problem that you see? What problems prevent you from succeeding in this task? What problem prevents you from achieving your goals in general?

Now, to begin the work you will do as a couple.





MINDFULNESS (This exercise and several meditations are attached)*

DAILY INTIMACY EXERCISE (This exercise is attached separately) **

The stretching exercise has been explained. This exercise has saved more relationships than almost any other! Then, there is another on-the-spot exercise which either can “call” when trouble arises (and trouble is any emotional escalation). One or the other says “PAUSE!” I described this in my book, “First Kill all the Lawyers”, and interestingly, it got more requests for more information than some of the other energy interventions and/or legal suggestions.

This is an acronym for:

P = Pause. Just stop whatever is happening and take a breath.

A = bring Awareness to yourself and your partner. Practice a true moment of mindfulness.
Notice your surroundings. Where are you? What is he/she wearing? Pay attention.

U = bring Understanding to yourself and your partner. This means you enter the great compassionate heart. You might do a mini-Tonglen exercise on the spot. You might have compassion for all beings who are experiencing what you are experiencing in that very moment.

S = Surrender. Just surrender in this moment to what is. Surrender completely to life on life’s terms. Just love what is in this very moment.

E – Experience whatever is happening to you in your body. Experience the room where you are standing or sitting. Experience YOU right now.

All of this will begin to take a very short time. Less than 30 seconds. It is done individually, and it is meant to bring mindfulness to the individual as well as to try and break a cycle of activation.


*These exercises are not included for reasons which should be evident. They need mediation and
instruction. They are also protected by copyright.

**These exercises are not included for reasons which should be evident. They need direction in
order to be employed for the first time. They are also protected by copyright.

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