Fun Relationship Experiment #1: The Switcheroo

When you are in a relationship it is easy to get stuck in a pattern of having the same fights about the same issues over and over again. It can be so frustrating when important issues seem to never get resolved. It can also be boring — nothing engages you, there’s no new information, and everything is very serious.

So, I thought it might be helpful to offer some suggestions for some fun experiments you can try to get your relationship out of whatever boring pattern it might be stuck in. In Gestalt therapy we often use these kinds of experiments to allow people to try out different behaviors, to raise awareness of thoughts and feelings, and to look at situations in a new way.

The Switcheroo

The next time you are starting one of your typical arguments, stop yourselves for a moment. Then switch places (physically) and roles. Continue your argument, each of you taking on the role of the other, trying your best to imitate the other’s mannerisms and speech patterns and to give the arguments the other would give. Have fun with this; be good actors and really try to get into the role of your partner. It’s OK to exaggerate in good humor, but don’t be mean and mock each other. Keep going as long as you’d like. Then, switch back to your own places and roles and talk about what the experiment was like. Here are some questions to consider about the experiment:

  • How accurately did each of you portray the other? What did you get wrong?
  • What was surprising about this experiment?
  • Did you find that you could have the argument just as well as you can when you are in your own roles? If so, what does that say about the argument you were having?
  • Did this experiment make you feel more understood by your partner or less understood? Why?
  • What was it like for you to argue with (your partner pretending to be) yourself? Did you find that “you” were frustrating or unreasonable in some way? Did it help you understand why your partner might find the conversation with you difficult?

In my opinion as a couples’ therapist, the content of what you are arguing about is far less important than the process of how you are arguing. If you can learn to communicate with each other better, you can resolve almost any problem together.

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