An interesting point I have recently been reminded of emphatically while working with couples: the points of dispute brought into the room are almost never where the juicy stuff lies. (With the couple I am thinking of right now, those points of dispute were particularly angry ones, too!) The truth is that it’s really all about the dynamic in the room. Whatever problems they’ve been having thus far are still ongoing, or they wouldn’t be in therapy. So I can watch those problems play out without having to refer to old incidents to make the point.
What’s more, throwing past incidents at each other – known in the business as “kitchen sinking” – rarely does more good than harm. It just invites more hurt, defensiveness, and aggression. (This is something useful for all of us to keep in mind when we get into arguments with our spouse – or with anyone – launching repeated accusations over past events will only hinder the process rather than helping it.