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Tag Archives: Marriage Counseling
We know a couple who split up last week. He said he was done. Moved out. Just like that.
She was shocked. She had no idea he was close to leaving. He said he wanted to find another woman – someone who wouldn’t criticize him.
It happened so fast. She is now unexpectedly a single woman, living on her own with chickens, garden, bills …
Most people don’t know that … every relationship has a Tipping Point.
We call it the Point of No Return.
Where everyday dissatisfactions turns into “I’m done!”
John Gottman, a researcher on couples and marriage found that happy couples have a 5:1 ratio between positive interactions and negative interactions. That is, for every criticism and negative interactions (verbal and non-verbal) there has to be at least 5 compliments and positive interactions.
The positive interactions build up what Gottman calls The Reservoir of Positive Feeling. The reservoir of positive feeling is like a savings account into which you are making regular deposits to be withdrawn on a rainy day. Couples who have reservoirs of positive feelings can dip into this reservoir when they are criticized to offset their hurt feelings and balance things out.
Gottman came to realize that he could predict with near certainty within 15 minutes of meeting a couple, whether or not their marriage would last. All he had to do was notice their positive and negative interactions.
Most couples that reach the Tipping Point have had more negative interactions than positive for some time. On the one hand, one partner may be surprised when the other calls it quits; but on the other hand, it is no surprise at all if unhappiness, complaint and dissatisfaction have been the norm for months or years.
According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.
We all need love, touch and positivity in our lives. In this day and age, where divorce is relatively easy and commonplace, when we feel despairing, in pain and hopeless enough, many of us will choose to leave our partners in search of a better experience.
But as the above stats abundantly illustrate, when you choose a second marriage as the remedy to fix the first one, the odds are very much against you (sure, they’re just odds, not set in stone, but still…)
So how do you know if you are close to the Tipping Point?
Here is a partial list of what to look for, to know whether or not you may be approaching the point of no return. These are common signs of a distressed relationship:
You have the same fights over and over again You spend more time bickering and fighting than getting along You sleep apart You rarely have sex or don’t have sex at all You are living in silence You live more like roommates than intimate lovers You are not affectionate, you rarely touch You don’t appreciate each other verbally You don’t feel like giving to your partner Your interactions are more negative than positive You spend very little time together You don’t feel like your needs are getting met Your interactions are wrought with complaint, blame and criticism You have nothing to talk about when you are together You spend little or no quality time together You feel unhappy, depressed, angry, hurt, sad, hopeless and lonely much of the time You secretly think about leaving You have had, are having, or are thinking about having an affair You talk about divorcing or leaving when you fight If you experience any of these in your relationship, your relationship is distressed and sliding towards the Tipping Point.
So how do you prevent your relationship from reaching the Tipping Point?
The bad news is that relationships do not get better by themselves. On the contrary – they get worse.
You need to learn new communication skills and develop more effective relationship practices if you are to turn the tide and save your marriage.
The good news is that is absolutely doable. It is a very rare relationship or marriage that is beyond repair. We can’t tell you how many couples we’ve worked with who thought they were “unfixable”, but still turned it around.
So get help. Get support.
Relationship Training. Coaching. Therapy. Something. Anything…
More good news is there’s nothing wrong with you, nothing wrong with your partner and nothing wrong with your relationship. There’s just something wrong with how you DO relationship.
And it’s no wonder. Most of us have NEVER taken a relationship class.
So don’t let yourself get shocked, like our friend was. A nasty little secret about the Tipping Point is you only realize it in retrospect; that is, when it’s too late. Pay attention to the list of signals we mentioned above, and that sounds like your relationship, take on the project of learning some new skills and practices for love. You totally can! And in case you haven’t noticed, loveworksforyou.com is a great place to start!
And go listen to our free audio on “Stop Bickering Like Kids And Communicate As Loving Adults“
She starts out by stating, “If you want to save your marriage, for the love of God, don’t go to marriage counseling.”
We obviously have something to say to that! Do we agree? No and Yes. Since our own approach is an alternative to traditional marriage counseling, it would be tempting to tout our own horn and declare, Yeah, that’s right, marriage counseling sucks!
It’s not as clear-cut as that, by any means. But LD’s article does provide an excellent springboard for taking a sober look at marriage counseling, and for what you should consider before you choose what type of relationship help to seek out.
We’ll go through her 6 reasons, and tell you if we agree or not.
#1: Calling your spouse a loser.
LD says: The very act of saying to your husband you need marriage counseling is tantamount to calling him a failure and criticizing him.
Do we agree? Not at all. Although a request (or demand) for seeking counseling certainly can be phrased as criticism, and often will be taken as criticism, it is also true that seeking help is an awesome first step in marriage recovery. In a strained marriage, no improvement will ever happen without reaching out for help. And if marriage counseling is what you know to do, it’s ten times better than doing nothing.
#2: Some marriage counselors are failures.
LD says, “Some marriage counselors aren’t married. Others are divorced twice or unhappily married.” And, “If your marriage counselor doesn’t have the kind of relationship you want, she simply can’t tell you how to get it.”
Do we agree? Certainly, every trade has its true experts and frauds, but to disqualify a counselor because he or she has experienced divorce is a total miss. Sometimes having been through divorce is exactly why the counselor can know what YOU are going through. And sometimes divorce has been the greatest learning curve for the counselor, who (potentially) will be able to guide you through near-divorce or second marriage.
We do agree that its wise to seek out counselors, or mentors in general, who have created the kind of relationship you want to have. You want them the KNOW, not just to know ABOUT.
#3: Counseling is basically complaining.
Do we agree? Yes, to a large extent this is an excellent point. Often, couples come to us after they’ve tried traditional marriage counseling or therapy, and they’ve gotten sick of “talking about their problems” and venting on each other.
It may seem counter intuitive, but the more you talk about your problems, the bigger they get. If you try, as some counseling does, to get “to the bottom” of every one of your relationship problems, you’ll very often drown in a sea of bad feelings.
In our relationship approach, we don’t spend too much time on your problems, other than as a stepping stone to the relationship vision you hold, and then we aim to get you more intimacy and connection fast.
And in fairness, if you have a great counselor, they won’t let your session turn into complaining parties.
Finally, LD makes an important point: Try instead to deliver three appreciations of your spouse every day. (We recommend at least three before you go to sleep). That is highly effective medicine!
#4: Counseling is hideout for hypocrites.
Do we agree? Yes, there is much truth to this. In the sense that many people who agree to go to counseling with their spouse, really go for the purpose of “fixing” their partner. More couples than we can count come to us with the hope that we’ll finally make their spouse “get it”.
That never works!
However, we wouldn’t call anyone a “hypocrite” for that reason. More often, you simply don’t realize your own impact and responsibility in having created the relationship you have. Ignorance does not a hypocrite make.
#5: Men are not big hairy women.
Do we agree? Well, it’d be hard not to! LD is talking about the common misconception many women have about their men: That they should be like women. They should process feelings like women do. They should want to talk about relationship as much as women do. Chances are, men won’t do that, or can’t do that. Not because they’re bad partners, but because they simply don’t think like that. Women think like that.
She goes on to say, “Chances are good that you married an imperfect man who’s perfect for you.” Now that we agree wholeheartedly with! And if you can’t see WHY this man is perfect for you, please come join us in one of workshops or in person.
We make the claim, that you are always a perfect match to your relationship as it is right now! Even if it makes you cringe.
#6: It’s an expensive way to control your spouse.
Do we agree? Yes and no. Marriage counseling or therapy can go on for years, and that definitely adds up! And if the expense of counseling happens instead of, as LD says, spending money on really nurturing yourself, that can be a real problem. And if your intention (secretly) is controlling your spouse or getting them to “get it”, it’s a total waste of money.
But money you spend on seeking out qualified help with a real desire to improve your marriage is never wasted. In fact, it could very well be the most important money you’ll spend your whole life. If you get the proper relationship help, it could mean the difference between living happily ever after, and divorce. And whatever you pay for professional relationship help is going to be cheaper than divorce, for sure!
In conclusion, we’d say that traditional counseling does indeed often turn into “problem parties” where you talk yourself to death and your problems just get bigger and bigger instead of being solved.
AND … when you notice your relationship is failing and your love is fading, you should absolutely get help! Don’t wait till you’re so resentful and hurt you can hardly be in the same room as your spouse. Don’t argue for years first. If you fight about the same things over and over again, it just means you don’t have an effective method to deal with your differences. Go learn it.
We all have this unrealistic expectation that we should be great at relationship without help or training. You wouldn’t expect yourself to be a great nurse or lawyer or engineer without focused and ongoing education. Relationship is no different. Find people you admire, and who are creating a wonderful relationship, and learn from them.