Couples I see are full of accusations about the inadequacies and character flaws of their partner. I know that each of you picked your particular partner in order to fulfill some lack in yourself or to help you learn something that you must learn to be a centered and happy person. But change is hard and when I see couples in my office, they are stuck—not focusing on what they need to learn or how they need to grow, but on the incompetence of the other.
Because of poor communication skills, poor self-esteem, poor modeling from parents, just plain bad habits, or a combination of the above factors, couples’ day to day interactions often include unkind words, unheard messages, defensiveness, the silent treatment, sarcasm, or yelling and screaming. These give rise to “vats of resentment” which, undiscussed, further wear at the relationship.
Gary Smalley in Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships likens the love relationship to a container that fills when tender moments and intimate communications are experienced and empties when harsh words are spoken and resentments build. The adversity that happens occasionally when any two people live together can well be weathered if that love container is filled. Feeling love for one’s mate doesn’t fill his/her container--only the loving verbalizations and actions do..
My work with couples is to change the finger pointing. To ask, “Why is this happening for me?” rather than “Why is this happening to me?” I ask couples to write down the things that their partner might say needs changing in them selves and then to list those things that they agree could be improved. A husband might state “I need to be more affectionate”. A wife might state, “I need to be more spontaneous.” From that list we settle on goals that the individuals can work on within themselves that will then improve couple relationship.
There are five things that couples fight about: 1) child discipline, 2) in laws and friends, 3) money, 4) sex, and 5) household chores. Many couples come in saying they have communication problems. That is a broad category that encompasses all five of those areas. I use a number of communication tools. Click Here for the Seven Techniques to Help Solve Communication Difficulties
When couples are on the brink of divorce or splitting (sometimes they wait too long to come to therapy) I tell them that they can give up on this relationship without learning what they are in it to learn and they will find themselves in trouble five years from now (often with disrupted children in their wake) having the same issue with a new partner. So if they can’t seem to find one iota of respect with which to work things out in this relationship, at least they should practice some new skills in this relationship before giving up on it. If there are abuse issues, that advice doesn’t apply. Sometimes it is hard to recognize abuse issues. Click Here for the “Relationship Warning Signs” to quiz yourself.
Relationship issues cannot be resolved if there is substance abuse by either or both partners. The substance abuse must be addressed first. However, I can help the non addictive partner set good boundaries which will more likely force their partner to address the addiction problem.
I invite couples to try this excellent book “Fighting for Your Marriage”.
Providing: online marriage coaching, online relationship coaching, relationship coaching