Most couples are not very aware of a powerful and deep way of interacting that happens between them. I often see it in the office. One person has feelings, usually anger or frustration (though it can be other feelings) and the other individual responds, often matching the feeling intensity of the first. There are many times that the second one to respond has an even stronger response. There is nothing wrong with this pattern in and of itself, but there are many times that couples head into increasing emotions, changes of topic, and a loss of any chance at resolution about the original topic. In the typical pattern just presented, there are many places a therapist can intervene. For example, helping the couple to get back to the original issue can help to resolve the original issue, keeping the couple focused on that issue. One person feeling emotion almost always causes emotions to occur in the others who are present. And because couples can have a pattern of wanting the other person to change, the second person in the scenario may well be feeling defensive and/or attacked as well as just have feelings in response. The brain is faster (some say three times as fast) at this kind of perceiving and feeling than at many kinds of thinking, so your emotional response will be significantly faster than your thinking. It is important for you to be aware that you are having feelings when others are feeling “towards” you or even with you.
So for couples, they often don’t see that they are responding strongly to the others feelings. Just being aware of this fact can help you to work to be a little more objective, to sit back when you are in an emotional conversation and not just respond because you have been “activated.”