A couple once told me that what they get out of couples counseling is “a level playing field.” This was the husband’s sense of it, and one that he really appreciated.

Having a third person in the room who does not take sides, but who simply helps each person feel heard and understood as they talk can be a powerfully help. Simple and profound, nothing more than that.

Some couples find that working out differences in public places, such as a restaurant, works well for them. The presence of others reminds them to stay calm, to be more civil and productive. These couples find that when they are home alone and try to have a difficult conversation and they feel at liberty to let it all hang out.

Uncensored anger, frustration, defensiveness, and sarcasm can be very destructive to one or both members of the couple. Sometimes things are said that are very hard to undo or repair.

Having a friendly and calm third person in the room can help prevent that from happening. It increases the emotional safety, and it helps each member of the couple feel that each person has equal power, equal time, and an equal chance to be heard.

So here’s to level playing fields, and to giving the tender shoots of intimacy, of being better known and understood by your partner, the best conditions in which to grow.