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Relationship Satisfaction Instability and Depression
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In the last section we discussed how depressed men, possibly
at risk for suicide, who are narcissistic, often fail to recognize their partners'
feelings. Women then feel their opinions are not being heard. Thus, the couple
engages in a power struggle.
Divorced or separated men are
more than twice as likely to commit suicide than men who remain married.Narcissists abhor and dread getting emotionally intimate. The cerebral
ones regard sex as a maintenance chore, something they have to do in order to
keep their source of Secondary Supply. The somatic narcissist treats women as
objects and sex as a means to obtaining narcissistic supply.
In this section,
we'll look at five techniques to help depressed male clients deal with conflict
in relationships. The five techniques are: the “time-out technique,”
the “power technique,” the “I was wrong technique,” the
“counting technique,” and the “letting go technique.”
As you listen, think of how you can use these strategies in your next session
with a depressed male client who may be at risk for suicide.
colleague, Susan, told me about a couples’ therapy session she had with
Kyle and Wendy, both 28. Kyle, a restaurant manager, was having difficulty ending
conflicts with Wendy. Kyle was in an ongoing battle with depression and said he
could never win their arguments. Wendy, an accountant, said that Kyle never listened
to or cared about what she had to say. Kyle stated, “I sometimes rehearsed
my side of the argument in advance, and I often felt an 'adrenaline rush'during my conflicts with Wendy.”
Both Wendy and Kyle
admitted to bringing up problems from the past. It was a classic power struggle fueled by Kyle’s depression and suicidal theats.
♦ Technique # 1 - "Time-Out"
gave Kyle and Wendy some advice for fighting fairly to help them cooperate instead
of attack each other. Since Kyle was depressed and had trouble controlling his
anger, Susan told Wendy and Kyle about the time-out technique first. Let’s
go over the three steps in this time-out technique:
Step One - The first step is to physically separate from each other during the argument.
For anywhere from 90 seconds to five minutes, couples should go to different rooms
in order to break the old pattern of aggression.
Step Two - Next, both should
relax his/her body. As you know, one cannot be tense and relaxed at the same
time. So simple breathing exercises can help calm down both partners.
Step Three - Finally, each person should use positive self-talk to facilitate change. Like
in the fishbowl technique we discussed in the last section, you must first realize
that your self-talk is harmful.Susan told Kyle that as he was separated from
his wife during a time-out, he could begin to adjust his self-talk to become more
positive. For instance, instead of rehearsing an upcoming argument, the man can
tell himself, “I can get my point across without yelling,” or “I
can argue with her without losing my temper; I don’t have to be like my
father in this way,” or “She means more to me than winning this argument.”
Other examples include “I will not take this provocation personally,”
and “If I feel myself getting angry, I’ll be able to shift my focus
to something more pleasant.”
In the next session, Kyle
and Wendy told Susan they liked the time-out technique. Both said they at least
liked doing something different in their arguments. Imagine your next session
with a male client who is having a power struggle. Would it be beneficial to tell
him about the time-out technique?
♦ Technique # 2 - 6-Step Power Technique
Now that we have discussed
the time out technique, let’s discuss the “power technique.”
Susan gave Kyle and Wendy this strategy to try during the time-out technique.
After the two have separated, this allows them to feel more energetic and more
in control of their anger.
Step One -
“First,” Susan explained to them, “you
get comfortable and refocus your attention inward to your feelings and bodily
sensations. Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and deeply. As you release
your breath, say to yourself, ‘Relax. Let go.’
Step Two - "Continuing this breathing
exercise, scan your mind and body to locate the tension you feel.
Step Three - "Then take another
slow, deep breath and hold it for five seconds. As you release this breath, you
are freeing yourself of all the unnecessary tension that has built up. You should
feel more peaceful and in control.
Step Four - “Now relax for a
little bit. Enjoy the inner strength and peace you have gained and imagine yourself
in a tranquil place. Your muscles should feel relaxed and heavy.
Step Five -
time to energize your mind and body. You should notice a surge of energy flowing
through your head, neck, shoulders, arms, and so forth until the energy reaches
Step Six -
When you feel ready, count from one to five, saying the number as you
exhale. Gradually, you should feel lighter and more alert. By the time you reach
five, you are completely energetic and have the power and self-confidence you
need to return to your partner and resume your argument.”
♦ Technique # 3 - "I Was Wrong"
that we have discussed the Time Out and Power Techniques, as a means of coping
with the depression you feel regarding your arguments; let’s next look at
the “I was wrong” technique. Susan gave the couple another
technique for better arguing, the “I was wrong” technique. As you
know, this exercise asks both partners to talk openly and honestly about their
own mistakes and say nothing of the other person’s mistakes.
3 Rules for 'I Was Wrong'
The rules in
this technique are extremely important:
-- Rule # 1 -
First, one person begins by saying, “I
was wrong to…” and says something he/she did to contribute to the
-- Rule # 2 -
After this, the other person makes a similar statement.
-- Rule # 3 -
they must go back and forth two more times. The idea behind this technique is
that each statement becomes more revealing and more helpful in stopping the argument.
Here’s an example of an argument Kyle and Wendy started in this way:
-- Kyle: “I was wrong to slam the door when I came home.”
-- Wendy: “I was wrong to roll my eyes right away.”
-- Kyle: “I was wrong
to not tell you what was bothering me.”
-- Wendy: “I was wrong to
not consider how you were feeling.”
-- Kyle: “I was wrong to ignore
what you were saying.”
-- Wendy: “I was wrong to get defensive and
assume you were trying to hurt me.”
After this kind of talk, Kyle and
Wendy could go back to their argument. Do you have client for whom sharing the
“I was wrong” technique would be beneficial?
♦ Technique # 4 - Counting
the next session, Susan suggested the counting technique. This technique involves
counting during an argument. While listening to Wendy talk, for instance, Susan
suggested to Kyle that he count silently in a calm, even rhythm. He had to maintain
focus on Wendy in order to really hear what she was saying, but he could also
stabilize his emotions by creating a steady rhythm in his head. The counting technique
is an easy way to buy time and to maintain your emotional energy.
♦ Technique # 5 - "Letting Go"
Susan gave Kyle and Wendy some advice for recovering after an argument. Kyle
was having trouble letting go of his anger and forgetting an argument after it
occurred. Susan told him to do the letting go technique, and here are the steps.
Susan said to Kyle:
-- Step 1 - “First, make a tight fist and keep it tight as you count
out 60 seconds. When you reach 40 seconds, intensify your squeeze with each count.
Continue to hold your fist tighter and tighter, even as the pain gets stronger.
This physical pain is like the emotional pain of his anger.
-- Step 2 - “Now,
once you reach 60 counts, you can begin to relax your grip very slowly.
-- Step 3 -
15 seconds to open your hand, and you’ll notice the pleasant feeling of
the tension melting away. You are freeing your hand of discomfort, just as letting
go of your anger can free yourself of emotional pain and suffering.”
reminded Kyle and Wendy, “It is your choice to either cling to their anger
or let go of it.” Letting go of anger would help with Kyle’s depression
and would strengthen their relationship. Would a male client of yours benefit
from the ‘letting go technique?’
♦ ABCs of Change
Kyle and Wendy that the ABCs of change are affect, behavior, and cognition.
For “affect,” developing empathy was the key. Kyle had learned to
listen to Wendy and try to understand her feelings. For “behavior,”
it helped to physically calm down, engage in positive self-talk, and begin statements
with “I was wrong.” And for “cognition,” little reminders
of what he wanted to do, like stay in control of his anger, helped Kyle to fight
more fairly. Kyle later stated, "Fighting more fairly seems to make me feel
Think of a male client who is experiencing
depression with possisble suicidal ideations who might benefit from any of the
time-out technique, the power technique, the “I was wrong” technique,
the counting technique, and the letting go technique. I sometimes find it helpful
to modify these exercises depending on the individual client, and you can add
your own strategies to the list.
In the next section, we will
look more in-depth at anger and how it relates to masculine depression adding
to their risk for suicide.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Mahalik, J. R., Sims, J. P., & Di Bianca, M. (2021). Men’s head and heart: Health beliefs mediating depression’s relationship to heart-healthy behaviors. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 22(2), 422–426.
Nadeau, M. M., Balsan, M. J., & Rochlen, A. B. (2016). Men’s depression: Endorsed experiences and expressions. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17(4), 328–335.
Spendelow, J. S. (2015). Men’s self-reported coping strategies for depression: A systematic review of qualitative studies. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(4), 439–447.
Su, T. (2021). Does family cohesion moderate the relationship between acculturative stress and depression among Asian American immigrants? Asian American Journal of Psychology.
Whitton, S. W., & Whisman, M. A. (2010). Relationship satisfaction instability and depression. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 791–794.
Yao, E., & Siegel, J. T. (2021). Examining the role of interpersonal relationship on attribution, emotion, and depression support provision: Experimental evidence from the People’s Republic of China. Motivation Science, 7(1), 46–55.
What are five techniques for fighting fairly? To select and enter your answer go to .