Therapist Sharon Rivkin believes that most couples endlessly recycle the same basic (and poignant) argument. Get to the root of that, she says, and you'll profoundly alter the way you see yourself and your partner.
"We've been fighting constantly over the dumbest things," the young couple told Sharon Rivkin. They had come for their first session of counseling, and they both looked profoundly embarrassed, like children who'd been sent to the principal's office.

"What do you argue about?" Sharon asked. After more than 20 years as a marriage and family therapist in Santa Rosa, California, she's not easily startled.

There was a long pause, and then Clare said, "Well, if you can believe it, the latest was cookies."

"Yes?" Sharon said.

Clare continued: "Our daughter and I baked them the other day. Some were for the family, and some were for Jeremy to take to work. I expressed myself very clearly—but somehow Jeremy managed not to hear me, and he took almost all of the cookies to work. I was furious and hurt."

Jeremy had his own story, of course. He simply wanted to be sure he took enough for everyone in his office. He thought he'd left plenty for the house, and didn't think Clare would mind if he took a few extra to work. He seemed genuinely perplexed that she was so upset about something so minor. "I mean, it was only cookies," he said. Clare, too, seemed surprised by the intensity of her reaction.

Was it "only cookies" that they were arguing about?

Next: Jeremy and Clare get to the source of their conflict.


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