Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"
It's good advice for several reasons, but you must remember you can't control her behavior, you can only control yourself.
The therapist is advising you to do what you can do when this situation arises.
My situation was very similar to yours. I didn't know how to deal with her anger and I didn't know how to deal with my resentment and it lead me to make some very poor decisions, namely an affair.
We've been in counseling for over two years to repair the damage of the affair, and our relationship. In these two years I'm screaming on the inside "why can't make her be nicer to me!!??"
In the past, I would stay in the fight because I wanted her to know I cared about her feelings. What I'd end up with is being tongue-lashed and resentful - she'd bring up all the things she hated about me, all the situations in the past that angered her, and basically beat me into submission.
I took it. I stayed to hear those angered, but absolutely nonsensical word and I let them stick. I let them tear me down. I developed resentments. I made poor decisions. I did all of this, not my wife. She was simply angry.
What I have learned in the last couple of years is that I don't have to stay in the fight. I may have that boundary that protects me from the point a discussion turns into a fight. Because of my upbringing I didn't know I was allowed to have this boundary. It sounds so simple and stupid, but that's the truth - I had no power, or so I thought.
What my counselor pointed out is that allowing myself to get sucked into the emotional swirl, beyond the point it's useful to myself, I no longer am sensible or rational. I become more fuel for the anger in the moment. I'm making it worse. It sounds counterintuitive to a person like me, co-dependent...a child of alcoholics...but normal people respect and enforce their boundaries. I didn't. I didn't know I could have them.
Sure, I'd like my wife to change, because she still gets into these swirls when a discussion turns into a anger-fest. I'd like her to be able to control herself and not get past the point of rational discussion. But I can't control her, and I can't demand she change. I can only change myself and establish my own boundaries.
I too used to dread these moments. Now, I look at it as an opportunity to improve myself by strengthening and enforcing my boundaries. The "fights" are shorter now because I'm not participating. Better yet, I'm not holding resentments because I better understand what she's going though in these moments. It's like she's drunk on anger and of course, drunks don't make a lot of sense. I give her a pass to be anger-drunk, and remove myself from the storm before I get hurt. It does neither of us any good for me to stay in the fight.
Focus on yourself, your boundaries, and reactions. Stay cool, and calmly remove yourself from the situation when you feel you are being provoked to act irrationally in anger. That's not to say you should never be angry or not be responsible when you have been offensive...just know your part and own it, but don't own hers.
Find a sense of compassion for her in these moments - it's not hard to do when you clearly know your boundary. A friend of mine gave me the most compassionate statement he said once to a friend in a similar situation: "I care for you too much to let you say things that you will regret saying." To me, this conveys the message that: 1. You do care, 2. That you understand there's a point of no return for this person that you know they wouldn't want to cross themselves, 3. That this is a moment that will pass, and you will be there when they're ready.