(STOP) ARGUMENTS CLINIC
None of us know what to do when our husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend (that is, partner*) does something that really bothers us.
We could say something, but that will likely start a fight that puts distance between us.
We could keep it to ourselves but that will likely build resentment that put distance between us.
We all feel like we’re in a no-win situation.
This “can’t-say-something, can’t-keep-it-to-myself” problem is rarely a reflection that people have a bad relationship. It’s almost always about a skill-set that is missing or is insufficiently developed or improperly developed.
Simply put, most people do not know how to argue well. By that I mean, most people do not know how to discuss important, difficult, emotionally-laden topics and situations, in such a way that the relationship, post-argument, is actually stronger, better, closer BECAUSE of the argument.
Almost everyone says they hate to argue. I say it too! It isn’t really the argument that we hate. It’s more that we hate is the feeling that we have something important to say, to discuss, to explore BUT whenever we try to say it, discuss it, explore it, we get nowhere. In fact, half the time we feel like we LOST ground. And who wants that?! Nothing gets solved by the discussion and we fear, rightly so, that the discussion has actually hurt the relationship.
Here’s the actual truth about arguing with our partners: we hate it because we’re poor at it. And generally we’re poor at it because we think the goal of an argument is “to win.” When we become good at arguing, the idea of “defeating” our partner doesn’t even make sense!!
concept of “the fights.It is a skill that is important to master, because, as hard as this is to believe, when you stop arguing, you stop connecting, and when you stop connecting, you are sowing the seeds of a problematic relationship, one that sometimes ends in divorce.
Being able to create, on an ongoing basis, a better relationship out of naturally-occuring conflict is one of the four pillars of a healthy relationship. It is the only one, I think, that cannot be learned via reading, video, webinar, or other kinds of self-study. It’s the bulk of the couples’ work I do in my office behind closed doors. It’s also the section of weekend long Marriage Strengthening workshop that couples most comment on as “transformative.”
Schedule: generally 2-3 workshops/month (usually none in Jul, Aug, Dec)
Three workshop prep VIDEOS (access granted as soon as you enroll)
One workshop prep WORKBOOK, written by Dr. Helmrich, that accompanies material presented on videos
Two passes to argument clinic
Access is STRICTLY LIMITED to those who are enrolled in or have completed these programs: Marriage Regeneration, Marriage Mastery, Marriage Journey. In other words, you cannot do an Argument Clinic in an “ala carte” way. It is always a part of a program where the couple has access to pre- and post- consultation with me.
This is an actual WORKshop. You will learn by doing and by watching others “do.”
Non-alcoholic drinks and snacks
The argument clinic is experiential workshop; you will learn by doing and by watching others “do.” Content WILL be delivered during the workshop, but it mostly intended to give participants actual hands-on experience fixing real issues in real time and discovering how fighting creatively actually STRENGTHENS relationships. You and your partner will be invited to participate in understanding and managing conflict and differences between you and, in such a way that the two of you become CLOSER to each other through the process. Many have described the positive effects of working with Dr. Helmrich on their marital conflicts using this methodology in these ways:
I know this sounds hard, and it is. But being stuck in your marriage is at least as hard. Here’s what just a few couples who have learned this process have said about it:
- “the turning point in our marriage, for the better, of course.”
- “helped us breakthrough the logjam we’ve experienced for YEARS!”
- “I see my wife in completely new way, and will be able to work through these issues. What an eye-opening experience.”
- “intense, but fun, surprisingly.”
- “I am sending all my friends to this workshop.”
- “we continue to do the challenging relationship work; you have a gift …it was through your guidance and encouragement that we are closer to being ‘marriage masters’ than ever.”
Q: What is an “Argument Clinic?”
A: It’s a four-hour workshop for 6 couples with Dr. Helmrich, where she demonstrates positive communication strategies for difficult issues for couples.
Q: What is it for?
A: To learn how to argue with your spouse (commited partner) in such a way that the fight does NOT HARM the relationship. In fact, this method of “arguing” it will ACTUALLY STRENGTHEN your relationship.
Q: Why are they necessary?
Recently, I have realized that the skill would be better learned if it was the ONLY focus of small group experiential learning event AND if couples could also “practice” the skill of understanding another on marriages other than their own, as well as on their own. Hence, I created “Argument Clinics.”
Q: How does it work?
The week before the clinic, every participating couple gets a link to videos wherein I 1) describe the process, 2) describe roles and responsibilities of everyone present, and 3) discuss pre-clinic homework that I encourage all participants to do.
On the day of the clinic the couple arrives at my office, checks in with receptionist, gets some refreshments and grab some chairs in the space used for the clinic. This space open but cozy and perfect for our purposes. It is about 15 feet wide and about 40 feet long and looks like this:
At the front of the room sits a couple (husband and wife), in chairs facing each other. I am sitting with them in a chair with wheels.
In the middle part of the room sit 5 other couples at tables with paper, pens, and “cheat sheets.” On the “cheat sheets” are words for emotions and a formulaic structure for “speaking for another,.”
In the back of the room are 2 or 3 graduate students and one of my staffers. They see to the creature comforts of everyone in the room (water, coffee, chocolate, tissue, more paper, better pen, etc.).
After I do brief reminders of everyone’s roles and responsibilities and of the process described in the Pre-Argument Clinic video that all participants have received, we begin. The couple begins a particular argument that they have had dozens of times before, only this time I help each one of them make their case better.
When the husband is speaking to his wife and gets stuck, I speak to his wife, “for him” in first person, paraphrasing what he has said and expressing more clearly some of the deeper, more vulnerable emotions that he has hinted at.
When she responds to the case that is being made and gets stuck, I roll my chair over to where she is sitting, and I speak to her husband, “for her,” in first person, paraphrasing what she has said and expressing more clearly some of the deeper more vulnerable. This continues for 10 to 20 minutes. Then I turn to the other 5 couples in the room.
Prior to the start of the argument, each of the observing partners has been assigned to listen deeply to either the husband OR the wife at the front of the room. At this point in the workshop, I ask each of the other 10 workshop participants to do as I did, i.e. speak, in first person, to the partner of the person they have been assigned to try to understand deeply. They can to use the “cheat sheets” as necessary to help them with words that fit the emotional meanings they pick up; they can use the formulaic sentence structure if they want; or they can speak directly from their own heart about what they have heard. This goes on for about 10-20 minutes.
Then we switch couples and the process starts over. We do this until each couple has had a chance to have an argument with the support of me and 10 other people in the room.
The workshop is for 6 couples only; it lasts 4 hours. About 30 minutes is spent on each couple’s situation. The remaining hour is for preview and a review of the creative conflict management principals.
On the Sunday after the Argument Clinics are over, there is an optional 2 hour “talk-back” session for all 18 couples to come together and discuss their experience, ask more questions, connect with each other.
Three Arguments Clinics are held on one weekend. This happens only once a month.
If you want information about the next argument clinic, click here.
To be put on the waiting list for Argument Clinics, click here.
* I use “partner” to denote any one in a committed relationships. I use the one word for ease and for inclusivity, to be sure, but also and mostly, I like it because it implies relationship responsibility that is “beyond roles.”