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Your Inbox Intensive

By Couples Therapy Inc.

Module 4 – Softened Start-Ups

Keep your momentum going at home after the intensive with this exclusive program for Couples Therapy Inc’s retreat couples. Start with a self-assessment, review an important lesson for relationship health and finally, determine what your next steps should be.


The Inbox Intensive relapse check-in

This Relapse Check-in can help couples assess and prevent relapse and understand how to seek additional intervention if relapse occurs. Please give your frank evaluation of the following items by selecting either “doing fine” or “a problem now” for each item.

Start The Check-In

Start the check-in

Please give your frank evaluation by selecting either “doing fine” or “it’s a problem now” for each statement below.

Communicating regularly


Softened start ups

Softened start ups

The way you start a conversation predicts how it will end over 90% of the time, according to a six-year research study. Saying tough things in a marriage is very important, but how you do it is equally essential. Those first 3 minutes of your conversation will lead you to a productive exchange or greater frustration and anger. 

The choice is yours. 

Start out hostile and critical and end with defensiveness and reflected anger. Criticism begets defensive criticism. Contempt begets contempt.

Softened Startups demand that we take our complaints seriously enough that we start them in the most effective way possible. If we have something challenging to say, consider how we’re going to say it. Consider the impact it will have on our partner. Pick a time when both of you are rested and well-fed.

And talk about yourself, and your own feelings, not about your partner and their shortcomings.

We’ve learned that there is no such thing as “constructive criticism.” 

All criticism is hurtful. Don’t look for who’s at fault and don’t accuse or blame. Be upset, if you are upset, or frustrated if you are frustrated, but keep in mind that your partner is imperfect, just as you are. 

And people, as a group, are annoying. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we believe that we, ourselves, shouldn’t ever have to be annoyed, and that’s just unreasonable.

Couples Therapy Inc. has created a greater structure for making complaints. Learn these six steps. When you have them down, feel free to improvise. The important point is to complain and to complain often! It’s important to express your frustrations and even anger but do so productively instead of destructively.

Lesson at a glance:

  • Expand your “Lovemaps”
  • Expand your “Lovemaps” by learning about your partner’s daily stressors.
  • Give your undivided attention (put away the mobile phones!)
  • Listen the way a friend would listen (maintain boundaries). Don’t interrupt.
  • Provide empathy and share the emotions your partner’s expressing.
  • Offer suggestions or advice only if asked. Make sure you do it daily.

Downloadable Resource

Print version
This is a printable version of the 6 steps for softened startups. Softened start-up is basically the way we treat guests- respectfully and courteously.



Is it time to schedule a follow up session?

If you haven’t already scheduled follow up sessions, our staff can help you to plan your next appointment.

Don’t forget:

Schedule some quality time

Do you and your partner have some time on the calendar for each other? Make sure you have a date night planned.


Softened start ups

Notice how you bring complaints to your partner.


We’re here to help

Have a question about this exercise? Looking for more information about follow up sessions? Send us a message, we’d be happy to help.

The next module – 
Defensive Protest

Our next module will look at defensive protest (how someone responds to softened startups). We will send the link to your email on your next scheduled check-in or if you want to get started now, you can click the button below.

Previous modules