Are you having trouble feeling connected? Are you having the same fight over and over? Or are you just feeling that something is off? Are you finding yourself spending more and more time with the children or at work trying to avoid the discomfort or the next argument? Maybe you are finding that there are certain issues that just won’t work themselves out. Maybe you’ve tried everything you know to try, and you’re feeling unsure things will change.
Are you feeling like the two of you just can’t communicate effectively? Maybe it feels like your spouse doesn’t get you, or that they are always hounding you to change, to clean more, to have more sex, to parent differently. Perhaps the more time goes by, the more unworkable things seem.
Are you longing for a warm connection? Do you want to feel loved and desired again? Are you wondering where your friend went? Are you wondering where you went?
Marriage is challenging…for everyone.
“The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.”
You are not unique in your marital troubles. The stressors that spouses face are growing in number and intensity with the economy in flux, with more and more of our children struggling with anxiety, and with greater distance from our extended families. Couples and families often times do not have the community support that a generation or two ago took for granted.
As we face the same life stressors, we do it alone. We do the best we can with each other, but it doesn’t always work well. Avoiding the problem doesn’t make it go away. And most discussions started while stress is high, despite the best of intentions, quickly turn into fights that aren’t productive.
The unworkable problems in marriage, by and large, occur when we believe something is wrong with us for having them. When we start thinking there’s something wrong, we tend to ruminate and sidetrack and get lost in how-things-will-never-change. When we can start to see that marital problems are not just normal but an opportunity for personal growth, we can become more flexible and creative with solutions.
A Well Trained Marriage Counselor Can Make a Difference
Have you seen the movie This is 40? Check out this hilarious interaction where the couple is trying to “practice” what they learned in therapy: click to watch.
It’s funny in the movies but not so entertaining when what we learn in marriage counseling isn’t terribly helpful in the real world. The Huffington Post published an article a few years ago called Why Marriage Counseling Doesn’t Work, in which they explain this very thing. The article describes that about 80% of therapists say they work with couples, but most have never had a class, internship, or even supervision under an expert in the field of marriage counseling. The article goes on to say that even those trained in marriage counseling often use a model that only addresses symptoms like communication problems, without getting to the root of the issues. The couple in the clip above are a great example of this unfortunate problem.
In my 20 years of experience, I have closely studied and practiced most of today’s popular, conventional models for marriage counseling. I have found most of them don’t work for many couples. Marital unhappiness isn’t resolved by opening the marriage box and inserting communication techniques, or date nights, vulnerability, or regular sex as the Huff Post article explains. Couples cannot will or force change to happen.
Helping couples develop a broader perspective and a valid understanding of how relationship systems really work is most effective for the long term. My approach is based on a comprehensive and well-developed theory known as Bowen Family Systems Theory, and it is a theory respected by scientists across many disciplines including genetics, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, medicine and even, entomology, and ethology to name a few. Call me to see the difference theory and experience makes.
You may feel ready for marriage counseling but still have some questions.
I’m not sure if my spouse will be willing to come to marriage counseling. Is there anything I can do about it?
This is a very common problem, when one spouse wants marriage counseling while the other is unsure. Here’s what I recommend:
Start with the basics if you haven’t already: Ask your spouse to come with you. Let them know calmly that it’s important to you.
If they are unsure, ask your spouse to consider attending just one or two sessions as a way for the therapist to hear both sides of the story.
If they still say no, tell them again how important it is to you and that you will be attending a session at X time on Y date, and you hope they will join you. Remember, it only takes one to get the ball of change rolling in your marriage.
My spouse wants a divorce. Is marriage counseling even an option right now?
Yes. Marriage counseling is an option even if one of you wants out. Ambivalence regarding divorce is terribly common. It’s an extremely emotional and difficult decision, and rarely do people make it lightly. If your spouse is willing to attend even 3-4 sessions, there is hope.
But also, the emotional work of repairing a marriage is the same emotional work of breaking one up. In both scenarios one needs to work on developing a self, on calming down, and on representing oneself authentically. Marriage counseling can help with these.