Renate Green, Registered Clinical Counsellor (250) 878-0602
Saving Your Marriage or Relationship
Saving Your Marriage or Relationship
If you were told that your vehicle had a one-in-two chance of crashing, wouldn't you check it out very carefully before you started driving it? Or have a qualified mechanic work on it until it was in tip-top shape?
Statistics show that 50 percent of all marriages today will end in divorce. Yet people wait an astonishingly long time before taking steps to save their marriage. A study done in California found that people waited an average of eight years after recognizing they needed marital counselling before setting foot in a therapist's office. This, despite the fact that addressing problems as soon as they emerge ultimately entails far less work than waiting for them to worsen.
Saving Your Marriage Early
Several actions help the health of a marriage. Dr. John Gottman, a marriage therapist, found that dysfunctional communication can be used to predict divorce. If criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling recur repeatedly in a couple's interactions, their marriage is headed for trouble. Conversely, eliminating these types of behaviours and using more appropriate communication results in increased marital satisfaction.
Somewhat surprisingly, Gottman also found that when wives expressed their anger appropriately early in the marriage, they were more satisfied with it in the long term. There are appropriately stated phrases that can communicate anger appropriately.
A prerequisite for men wishing to improve their marriages was accepting influence. The men who would listen to what their wife was saying and find areas of agreement were far more likely to have a good marriage. Men who reject what their wives say and refuse to accept their influence are much more likely to have a poor marriage. Sticking to their plans, and only caring about what they want, causes their wives to feel deep dissatisfaction.
Saving Your Marriage Later.
Rebuiliding a marriage that has been damaged for quite a while is more difficult. Professional help is a very good idea. After all, you would not fix an automatic transmission by yourself. One of the most important thingvs to change is the entrenched thoughts that you have about your spouse. When people have been in a distressed marriage for a while, they develop negative beliefs about their spouse: "he is a selfish jerk,. "she stops nagging only to snore","he is lazy", "she wastes money." Nearly every action that the other person then takes is colored and twisted by these negative thoughs.
Identifying these pessimistic beliefs is key. Changing them is even more important. Looking for and even mentioning the times that your spouse is generous, respectful, hardworking etc. will help transofrm your mindset. Therapy can help the two of you to resolve hurts that have never been healed.
Certain events make it more challenging to save a marriage. While it is hard work to rebuild a marriage after infidelty, it is not impossible: nearly 80 percent of couples who have experienced infidelity stay together. Some marriages tested in infidelity end up becoming even stronger than before.
If one partner is addicted to substances, then salvaging the marriage is tough. Addicts value their substance above anything else. In this case, the other spouse needs to eventually come to a place where they can lay out a choice to the addict. They can say that they want to have a relationship with the addict, but that will only be possible if the addict gives up their substance on a sustained basis. Establishing this boundary is hard work. Yet, it is not rejection. The addict is welcome to be in the relationship, as long as they are sober. If the addict chooses the substance over the spouse, then it is the addict choosing to leave the marriage for the substance, not the spouse leaving the addict.
If there is emotional abuse occuring, the abused spouse needs to consider leaving the marriage. If there is ongoing physical or sexual abuse, then safety is the first priority. Left untreated, the overwhelming pattern is for the abuse to get worse with time. With support from a therapist, you can separate for your safety and health, and communicate to the abuser that abuse will not be tolerated.
If you have children, your action will also commmunicate to the children that abuse is not tolerated. Staying with an abuse shows the children that abuse is OK. Whey they observe abuse, they may grow up to abuse themselves, or tolerate it.
Saving the marriage is tricky after abuse has occurred. If the person is abusive because they don't know how to manage their emotions, the chances of saving the marriage are slightly better. They can learn how to manage and express their emotions so they don't need to resort to violence or insults.
Yet certain people use violence or emotional abuse to control their partner. They actually get more calm when they are hitting their spouse. The likelihood of saving a marriage when it involves this type of person is very low to nil. They see their violence as justified and sensible, and giving it up means that they would lose power and control in the relationship. They have a lot to lose and from their short-term perspective, little to gain. Real change is unlikely.
The steps to saving your marriage depend on the type of problems it has. However, if both parties are willing, then huge obstacles can be overcome. With guidance from a good theapist, conflicts can be resolved, and the affection and admiration that drew the two of you together in the first place can be restored.