Category: Marriage Counseling

Unhappy 20-something couple sitting on a small couch together.

Why, When and How Relationships End

Sometimes relationships just aren’t meant to be. Love has plenty of ups and downs, but increasing negativity can be a sign that a relationship is simply not working out. However, relationship problems can be complicated, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether or not it’s time to leave, or if staying in an unhealthy relationship is the only choice. In some cases, the former option is the best one for ourselves and our partner. Trying to maintain an ultimately toxic relationship can have numerous adverse physical and psychological side effects.

The Dangers of Staying in an Unhealthy Relationship

Studies have shown that staying in an unhealthy relationship rather than ending negatively impacts self-esteem, perception of self-worth, and overall ability to seek enjoyment in life. That being said, actually ending a relationship can be a very painful process, which is why many of us try to avoid it. In other cases, however, ending a bad relationship can be a huge relief. There are also instances where, rather than acting manipulatively or abusively, both partners have just gradually drifted apart. In this scenario, neither person may be right or wrong, rather their interests and personalities may have just developed separately from one another, and therefore they are no longer compatible.

Ultimately, while we try to maintain the relationships that are good, or have the potential to be, sometimes relationships that cannot be repaired must come to an end. This doesn’t mean that anyone has failed or that they deserve to be vilified. Instead, it’s better to perceive it as a change in life stages. As one door closes, another opens somewhere else.

The 5 Stages of an Ending Relationship

But how can we know if our relationship is meeting its end? As it turns out, there are a few signs to look out for that can indicate whether or not a relationship has run its course.In fact, psychologists from the University of Tennessee, Vanessa Handsel, Kathrin Ritter, and Todd Moore developed a scale this year to examine the stages that they believed to concur with the end of a relationship. Their main interest was actually to determine how long it normally took for individuals involved in violent relationships to be able to remove themselves from their situation. That being said, their scale is actually applicable to all individuals in unhappy relationships.

These researchers based their scale on a more general theory created by James Prochaska in the 80’s and 90’s. This theory suggests that major changes in life involve a 5 stage process. In essence, any big life change, including the ending of a close relationship, is more than just a simple yes/no or stay/leave dichotomy. The model, then, known as the “State of Change” model, assumes that there are certain steps which precede this change and those that follow it. By understanding these changes, we can better help those who are struggling in this difficult time. This model can also help therapists and counselors better attend to the needs of their patients who are undergoing a major life change and help them through the transition.

When tested in a study, the questionnaire based on this model, called the “Stages of Change in Relationship Status,” or SCORS, was found to be quite effective in determining where participants were in terms of their decision to leave their relationship. However, they also found that even those who believe they are ready to make the necessary change in their relationship may hesitate to do so when the time comes to actually make that change.

This in mind, the scale itself has been shown to be highly effective at determining what stage an individual is in with regards to whether or not they are ready to initiate a change, or they are set in staying in a toxic relationship. Below are the five stages that the researchers identified:

1. Precontemplation

At this stage, no change is really being considered. The couple is happy with the relationship as it is, and feel that there is nothing they would like to change. They also do not feel as though there is anything wrong with the relationship or anything they should do differently.

2. Contemplation

Here is when one or both of the partners begin to think about ending the relationship. They recognize that they are unhappy or that the relationship itself is unhealthy. At this point, they believe their relationship to be a problem, and they acknowledge that the relationship is having a harmful impact on them.

3. Preparation

Despite the difficulty they know they will face, the preparation stage is where individuals in a relationship begin to make plans to end that relationship. They may have even started trying to end the relationship or asking for help in doing so. However, they would like to end the relationship soon, even if they aren’t sure how to do so.

4. Action

This is the point of initiation. One of the partners has begun to try to end the relationship. This can mean that they’ve started talking less to their partner during their time together. They also may be thinking of their partner less and less, and instead prefer to spend time with others.

5. Maintenance

This stage means sticking with the relationship’s end. It may mean changing one’s daily routine to avoid contact with their partner, or avoiding places where they know they might run into them. Partners, or former partners, at this stage begin to get rid of any items which remind them of their relationship. They also declare that they will never revisit this relationship again. This is often the most difficult stage to achieve.

Understanding a Toxic Relationship Helps Avoid One

Knowledge of these stages and their resulting impact on an individual or individuals within a relationship can help those close to them provide the support they need during these challenging times. This information can also help therapists to develop accurate advice and strategies to help their patients cope with, process, and ultimately understand how they’re feeling as their relationship comes to a close. Perhaps the most important lesson to learn is that despite being in a relationship, both partners are also individuals, with individual needs that need to be addressed and taken care of. If the relationship itself doesn’t recognize and attend to this, then it is not mutually beneficial. In that case, if things are becoming one-sided, or if no one is happy, it may be time to end the relationship. Whatever the case may be, no one has to be alone.

To learn more about couples counseling or individual therapy in Boca Raton, call our office today @ 800-378-9354.
a happy middle aged couple face to face, about to kiss, smiling

Gratitude in Healthy Relationships

What does it take to make and maintain a good relationship? Many of us might answer love or affection, both of which are important, as is communication. But an often overlooked yet essential component of any successful relationship is actually gratitude. Being grateful for those we care about and the things that they do for us builds a foundation of appreciation for that person and enables us to not only recognize their importance in our lives but to respect all that they do to make us happier or improve our lives. While it may not be anyone’s initial guess as to what keeps a good relationship going strong, it is nevertheless key to the happiness of each person involved.

Gratitude Can Help Strengthen Relationships

A recent study from the University of Georgia proves the effectiveness and importance of gratitude in relationships, particularly romantic ones. Published in the journal Personal Relationships, study co-author, Ted Futris, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences reveals that he and his colleagues “found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”

The study itself involved a telephone survey which asked 468 married individuals questions about their financial wellbeing, demand/withdraw communication, and expressions of spousal gratitude. What the researchers discovered was that the latter most criteria appeared to be the most consistent predictor of marital quality. Lead author and former doctoral student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and current postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research, Allen Barton, believes that “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”

Higher Levels of Gratitude Can Protect Relationships from Divorce

In fact, the researchers found that higher levels of demonstrated spousal gratitude protected men and women from being more prone to divorce, as well as protected women’s marital commitment from the negative effects which can arise from poor communication during conflict. Futris explains: “we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability.”

This study is the first of its kind to document the effects that spousal gratitude and appreciation can have on the overall quality and durability of relationships and marriages. Commenting on these findings, business psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, Dr. Douglas LaBier states: “it highlights important information about what underlies positive relationships in general, whether they are intimate, work-related, and even those in broader societal contexts. That is, feeling and showing gratitude in relationships goes a long way in building and maintaining positive, mutually supportive connections. And the latter are crucial for both personal and societal wellbeing.”

A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way

What Dr. LaBier says is true. Mutual appreciation and demonstration of that appreciation goes a long way in any relationship and helps each member involved feel as though their time and effort means something and is valued. Gratitude is an essential, though unfortunately often overlooked,  aspect of expressing love. To truly love someone is to be grateful not only of their presence in our lives but to appreciate all of the things they do for us to make us feel happy, loved, and valued. Gratitude can also help in moments of conflict when miscommunication often occurs to enable relationships to last and endure despite moments of tension.

Futris mentions that when “couples are stressed about making ends meet, they are more likely to engage in negative ways-they are more critical of each other and defensive, and they can even stop engaging or withdraw from each other, which can then lead to lower marital quality.” But, he notes, demonstrations of gratitude can interrupt this toxic cycle, helping couples overcome these negative communication patterns in their relationship, which may be influenced by a number of different stressors.

In successful relationships, even when couples argued, as all couples do, they still felt as though they were appreciated by their partners and felt that this appreciation was communicated regularly enough that occasional conflict was not able to take away their feelings of value and love. In this way, gratitude acts as what can hold a relationship together, through thick and thin, through the best and worst of times. So long as we feel as though we’re not only wanted but appreciated, that we mean something, we are more likely to feel happy when we’re together with our loved one, instead of feeling as though we might be better appreciated somewhere else.

young woman experiencing negative emotions

The Importance of Accepting Painful Emotions

It’s no secret that emotions are an integral part of being human. However, emotional experiences are many and varied. In fact, it is suggested that human emotions fall along a spectrum. By its very definition, a spectrum is a continuous sequence or range, making it an apt way to described the many and varied ways in which we feel. Unfortunately, this means that in addition to positive, euphoric emotions, we will also experience our own fair share of sadness and negative emotional experiences. What we must remember is that these emotions are equally as valid as their positive counterparts. As Dr. Judy Scheel, founder and former executive director of Cedar Associates, a non-profit organization for the prevention, education, and research of eating disorders states: “Whether we are willing to face it or not, the truth is that we all experience pain. We experience loss and separation as well. And often we experience those emotions because of or along with the people we love most — those with whom we share attachments.”

“Pain Is An Outcome of Love”

Dr. Scheel argues that pain is often the outcome of love, and as such the relationships we form with the deepest bonds have the greatest capacity to cause eventual pain. But does this make those relationships not worth having? Not in the slightest. However, Dr. Scheel points out that “Given this reality, you would think that as a society we would have developed ways to handle painful emotional experiences — especially among our family and friends. Yet often this isn’t the case. In many family settings positive emotions like love, happiness, and peace are far more acceptable than negative emotions.”

Of course, it’s far more easy to accept positive emotions than it is negative ones. Dr. Scheel believes that this is natural, seeing as in her work experience she has witnessed many families have difficulty with accepting and integrating negative emotions within their family framework, particularly when a loved one is dealing with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, this may be because in many households, and in our society, we have a tendency to categorize emotions as exclusively “good” or “bad”, thus essentially compartmentalizing our emotions into forms that are either acceptable or unacceptable.

Using the example of recovering from an eating disorder, Dr. Scheel notes that “Just as recovery requires eating a full range of foods, including food with fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, it also involves the integration of all emotions. We need to deal with both those that are ‘positive’ and those that are ‘negative.’” Integration of our emotions is essential to our overall happiness and wellbeing. Too often we are taught to “push past the pain” even though that doesn’t allow us to confront what we’re feeling and deal with it directly. We are encouraged not to dwell on negative emotions, which, consequently results in our inability to process or deal with them at all since we instinctively push negative feelings away. This is because we aren’t taught how to properly deal with them, so escaping them becomes the only logical solution.

Dismissing Negative Emotions Harmful in the Long Run

Dr. Scheel explains: “While these seem like well-meaning attempts to minimize and soothe a child’s discomfort, they usually fail because they do not address the underlying issue at hand. They do not take into consideration how the child is feeling and what she needs from her parents. They tend to discount the child’s emotional needs and teach her to keep her feelings ‘inside’ or deny them entirely.”

Disconnection is an Issue of Attachment

Disconnection from emotions is ultimately an issue of attachment. When children express needs or fears to it’s an opportunity for parents to bond with them. However, when a parent dismisses or minimizes these emotions, it can result in a premature independence being fostered where the child becomes incapable of fully experiencing their feelings or understanding the motivations behind their behavior. This emotional infrastructure is ill-equipped for mature independence, where we end up being guided by what we think we should do rather than how we really feel about a given situation. Dr. Scheele suggests that “Rather than encouraging a healthy emotional dependence on us, so that they can learn to identify, experience, and accept their emotions (whatever they may be,) we teach our children to distance themselves from their emotional world: to bury feelings or, even worse, deny their existence. At the same time, we give them a false sense of dependency by providing comfort with the latest toy or apparel.  We teach them nothing of dealing with the pain, loss, or separation that is part of life.”

Emotional acceptance or lack thereof is not something that can be disguised by material possessions. Attempting to do so can lead to frustration and a tendency to determine our self-worth based on cultural norms and the perceptions of others. By defining ourselves according to the expectations of others, we set ourselves up for a number of image problems and future behavioral disorders such as eating disorders as we struggle to keep up with unrealistic ideals and standards of beauty.

Important to Acknowledge Negative Emotions

Everyone experiences emotions but it is pivotal that we learn to address these emotions and give a name to how we feel. Accepting our emotions, both positive and negative, and everything in between, is an integral part of accepting our own humanity and learning to be comfortable with ourselves. Life is not all smiles, but it is every emotional experience and nuance that makes life truly worth living.

Faking Intimacy in Long Term Relationships

I’m sure we’re all at least vaguely familiar with the idea of faking orgasms or sexual response. This is often parodied on television and in movies, usually portrayed by women faking satisfaction with their male partners. This dishonesty, however, can mean constructing an artificial barrier between oneself and one’s partner at the exact moment when we should be at our most emotionally open and authentic. After all, this brings up the issue of not only faking orgasm but, on a deeper level, the problem of faking intimacy.

It is possible to love others in a number of ways, from the truly devoted and passionate to the superficially infatuated. Intimacy, though, is something else entirely. According to the psychosocialist Erik Erikson and his personality theory, intimacy is a developmental issue which is usually confronted by young adults once they’ve established their sense of identity. As Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, author and professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, states: “True intimacy, in the Eriksonian sense, involves sharing much- but not all- of your identity with your partner. If you think of a Venn diagram, true intimacy would occur when there’s perhaps a 50% overlap between the two circles representing the identity of you and your partner.”

The Three Components of Intimacy

Years ago, Dr. Whitbourne conducted a study with doctoral student Joyce Ebmeyer in which identity and intimacy in married couples were examined. They developed a model based on Erikson’s theory in which they defined intimacy on three “C” dimensions: communication, commitment and closeness. Being high on the communication dimension means that one can talk openly and honestly with their partner. To be high on the commitment dimension means that one has made the decision to stay in a long-term relationship with their partner. High closeness means that one feels closer to their partner than anyone else.

According to Dr. Whitbourne, it is by using these three dimensions that you can “map the intimacy” of any couple. She explains: “ People high on communication and closeness, but not commitment, enjoy each other’s company but don’t feel that they want to (for the moment) decide whether to stick together. Being high on communication and commitment means that you’re in a long-term relationship and find it easy to talk to each other, but you don’t feel particularly close now even though you might have at one time. Finally, being high on closeness and commitment means that you feel that you and your partner are psychologically on the same page, want to stay together, but find it hard to talk to each other at other than a superficial level.”

Can Intimacy be Faked?

It is within this framework that one can begin to see how intimacy could potentially be faked. In relationships which demonstrate high commitment but low levels of closeness and communication, the desire to remain in the relationship may be there, but the relationship itself may feel hollow and empty. Moreover, if communication is high in a committed relationship but closeness is low, the couple may be able to communicate things such as what to have for dinner or who is picking up the kids after work, and even when to schedule sex, but the lack of closeness in the relationship is what ultimately leads to faking intimacy; what Dr. Whitbourne and Ebmeyer called “pseudo-intimacy”.

Why Do We Fear Intimacy?

Trying to define a relationship within these dimensions can be difficult, but it becomes even more so when you consider that individual intimacy levels may vary. Each partner may demonstrate higher characteristics of one dimension versus another, making it difficult to classify the intimacy status of the couple as a whole. But ultimately, this model shows that it is in fact possible to fake intimacy. The next question, however, would be why? Researchers studying the fear of intimacy believe that anxiety is in part responsible for why people avoid closeness.

One reason for this may stem from a fear of losing the self in the process of becoming close. Erikson proposes in his theory that to be truly intimate one must be secure in their own identity. This security in ourselves is what allows us to feel comfortable with merging a portion of our identity with others within a relationship without fearing that we will lose our own identity in the process.

Compatible Fears and Intimate Relationships

Maria Pedro Sobal, a psychologist at the University of Porto, Portugal, and her collaborators divided fear of intimacy into two categories: fear of the loss of the other, or FLO, and fear of the loss of self, or FLS. Using an online sample of 276 heterosexual couples aged 18-55, of whom half were married, Sobal and her team looked at how each partner matched in FLS or FLO to predict relationship satisfaction. This is because, as Dr. Whitbourne explains, “According to similarity theory of relationships, people should be most satisfied if their own fear of intimacy matches that of their partner. Although fear of intimacy should be negatively related to relationship satisfaction, if you and your partner prefer distance rather than closeness, then it should be the match that counts the most in predicting how satisfied you feel with each other.”

But as it turns out, the answer really depends on who you ask. Interestingly, for men, not women, fearing intimacy does not necessarily doom their relationship satisfaction. Men who were high in FLS were well matched with women who were also high in FLS. However, men who were high in loss of FLO were shown to be more satisfied with women who were low in FLS. By analyzing this data in terms of couples, not individuals, Sobal and her collaborators were able to examine fear of intimacy in two forms. In doing so, they discovered that, at least for men, faking intimacy, or being in a relationship without being too close, worked best when their partners were faking as well. But reaching this state takes time, and neither Sobal nor Dr. Whitbourne continued their studies with follow-ups to determine the long-term effects of such behavior. However, Dr. Whitbourne comments that: “It takes effort to work at the closeness within a relationship. If you don’t or can’t, it may be inevitable that the intimacy increasingly becomes faked.”

Faking Intimacy it Doesn’t Work

While one can potentially choose to fake intimacy within their relationship, more evidence on couple satisfaction points to how long-term satisfaction and happiness requires willingness to communicate and take risks with one’s partner, closeness, and, importantly, authenticity. For those of us who may have lost one or more of these connections, rediscovering them will be key to finding fulfillment in our relationships.

Turn Jealousy into Motivation and Self-Acceptance

Jealousy is a tricky emotion, and one that we’re all vulnerable to at various points in our lives. According to Psychology Today:

Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses many different kinds of feelings that range from fear of abandonment to rage to humiliation. Jealousy can strike both men and women when they perceive a third-party threat to a valued relationship, it can be a problem among siblings competing for parental attention, or envy for a wealthier more successful friend. Conventional wisdom holds that jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds. But jealously usually does more harm than good to relationships, and can create relationship conflict and violence.”

This negativity associated with jealousy can be harmful not only to others but to the individual feeling jealous as well. Jealousy can be paralyzing – taking the form of a negative voice which can keep us from reaching our greatest potential by causing us to compare ourselves to others and quit when we feel that we’re not on the same pedestal. Jealousy, simply put, is an inhibitor.

3 Keys to Turning Jealousy into Motivation

So how can we take something negative like jealousy and turn it into something positive and productive? By turning the same feelings that contribute to jealousy instead into motivation. After all, there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve oneself to become a better person so long as the motivation is positive. Need an example? Here are three ways to turn jealousy into motivation and self-acceptance.

  1. Using Jealousy as an Opportunity to Learn – Jealousy does not have to be inhibitive. Perhaps there’s someone who demonstrates a skill or quality that you envy. Perhaps there is something you enjoy doing that you feel someone else is better at. Rather than quitting that activity that you enjoy because you think others are better, instead you could focus on what skills they possess that you could learn from. Take dancing, for example. Perhaps there’s someone whom you feel is swifter and more graceful at certain maneuvers. Instead of comparing yourself to them in a negative way, see what ways you can learn from their movements. Turn feelings of jealousy into something more productive. As Susan Harrow of Psychology Today says: “Jealousy doesn’t have to “freeze” you. It can be turned into motivational fuel, inspiring you to study and train more precisely, more intensely. Or perhaps, simply try something new to achieve the result that you want.”

  1. Using Jealousy as a Way to Ground You in the Present – Oftentimes when feelings of jealousy come about, they signal that our minds have “left” the present moment. After all, how can we be focusing on our present selves when our minds are instead focusing on the actions and successes of others? When feeling jealous, your “mind is caught up in what other people are doing and how they are doing it better. That kind of mental departure leads to distracted, fragmented work. It’s hard to do your best work when you’re not fully engaged in the present moment and it just doesn’t feel good either.” Instead, learn to be aware of this departure from the present. Take a few deep breaths and ground yourself in the moment. Don’t worry about what others are doing, focus on you.

  1. Turn Jealousy into Self-Reflection and Acceptance – As we’ve previously discussed, jealousy can come from a departure from the present self and a misdirected focus on others, which often leads to negative thoughts and inhibitions. It’s important to remember to not be overly concerned about how others do things if it has no impact on you. After all, we have our own skills and abilities to be proud of. As Harrow states: “We all have skills and strengths that other people find enviable. Sometimes, though, caught up in a whirlwind of jealousy, we can’t see our own gloriousness. Not surprisingly, self-acceptance is a key happiness factor.” Its unfortunate that aspirations of success often come with the consequence of comparing ourselves with others; after all, success is all too commonly defined against its absence, therefore many believe that in order to be successful, others must be less successful. However, this isn’t the case. Learn to appreciate your own success, as well as the success of others. Similarly, each person possesses valuable traits and skills unique to them, so learn to identify and accept your own unique qualities as well as those of others. The talents of others do not diminish your own talents. Be proud of who you are and, in doing so, learn to accept the successes of others without using them as a negative comparison to yourself.

Four Ways Assertiveness Can Improve Your Relationship

There are many people in this world who believe that keeping people happy is easier than dealing with a disagreement.  While that might be true, as a result these people can spend a good portion of their lives not getting any of the things that they want from life at all. While is it certainly a good thing to be considerate of the feelings of others, it is possible that too much consideration can force you to give up a portion of yourself and turn you into a push-over.

Build Your Assertiveness Skills in Your Relationship

Assertiveness is defined as the middle point between passivity and aggression.  When a person is assertive, he or she will exhibit some of the qualities of aggression, but these qualities are tempered by some of the qualities of passivity.  For example, people who are aggressive are generally motivated by the desire to “win” whatever the stakes are in the situation at hand.  People who are passive are usually overwhelmingly considerate of the feelings of others to the point where they have no opinions at all.  Assertiveness is a nice blend of these qualities.  The Mayo Clinic says that assertiveness mean that you “express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.”

In order to start getting some of the things that you want and being more effective in your communication with your partner, you will need to start practicing your assertiveness, the middle ground between aggression and passivity.  When you are passive in a situation, you may be doing something because you feel that you should.  This can lead you to resent the situation and the person who is asking things of you.  When you use aggression to force someone else to do something that you want, the other party can start to resent you.  The middle ground is assertiveness.  Assertiveness and effective communication can lead to less resentment and more enjoyment.

Here are four steps you can take to start making the transition into being more assertive with your partner.

1. Talk to Your Partner

Change is difficult for everyone. There is obviously going to be a bit of push back since your partner is likely used to getting his or her own way all the time. Since your assertiveness project is going to affect both of you, it is going to be important that your partner understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.  This will probably be your first exercise in assertive conversation.

2. Stop Blaming or Accusing

This might actually be the hardest part of your new assertiveness project. When you feel like you do not have any power, placing blame and accusation can make you feel better.  These are the things that you hold on to.  They make you feel like so much of what has happened is the fault of someone else.  Placing blame can be comforting in a way when you are feeling powerless.  Letting go of those feelings can be difficult, but it can be done.

3. The Heart of Assertiveness is an “I” Statement

The “I” statement is the most powerful tool an assertive person has. When you tell your partner how you are feeling about a situation, start by saying what you feel.  “I get frustrated when you choose a movie without asking my opinion so let’s find a movie we both will like.”  “It upsets my stomach when we have chili for dinner so I am going to make a sandwich.”  These may seem like little things, but they can make a big difference in your life when you start to feel like you have a more equal power balance.

4. Practice Makes Progress

No one is perfect, but assertiveness is a complex skill. It will take a while to master the nuances of being assertive when you have not been before.  This is where your partner can really support you.  He or she can help you by asking your opinion and giving you the opportunity to answer without judgment.  You will need to remember to say what you are feeling and still be mindful of your partner and anyone else’s feelings.  There is no reason why you cannot find the middle ground where you and your partner are both happy and compromising.

When Love Is Not Enough In Your Marriage

We wanted to share some insight from one Mark Manson’s recent articles, “Love is Not Enough” in order to shed some light on some of the most common problems that many of us have in our relationships. Author Mark Manson is a professional blogger and book author who has devoted much of his life to helping people through difficult relationships and emotional problems.  Before becoming a professional blogger, Manson was a dating coach.  And he believes that love is not enough of a reason to force a relationship to work.  He believes that love is not enough of a reason to stay with someone who is not meeting other kinds of needs.  He believes that love is not enough, despite the sage words of John Lennon to the contrary who said that “Love is all you need.”

Manson suggests that many of us idealize love.  We think about love like we see it in movies.  It becomes the answer to all of our problems and the solution to reaching any unreachable goal.  It is the ultimate ending to all of the suffering we have.  Love becomes the answer to all of our questions and the only thing that we will accept.  Because of all of this power that we give to love, eventually the loving relationships that we find may not live up to all of this expectation.  These relationships will not be able to withstand that kind of pressure put on them.

Certain Relationships Will Simply Never Work

When we look at love objectively, it is really about emotions and passions.  Both of these things are important, but are they really something to build a relationship on?  You may be in love with someone who lives in another country, but does it make sense for her to move to you or for you to move to her?  You may love someone with whom you fight every time you are together, but seem to get along just fine when you are not.  Should you force that relationship into continuing just because of love?  Every relationship is going to have some obstacles to overcome, and being in a relationship does take maintenance and compromise, but how much compromise should there be?

There should be no reason that you are giving up your dignity or self-respect.  There should be no reason why you choose a partner who you cannot trust.  Manson brings up the old adage that your partner should be your best friend.  While most people look at this in relationship to all of the positive things about having a best friend, Manson turns it around.  He asserts that if your partner is exhibiting negative behaviors that you would not tolerate in your best friend, then you might be trying too hard to make a relationship work that just is not going to work despite any love that is there.

Manson has come up with “Three Harsh Truths About Love”.  We’d like to share these harsh truths, because they are common and unrealistic expectations that we have all had in regards to love.  Many times, these truths will work their way into a relationship and break it apart because we stubbornly refuse to see the truth.

Harsh Truth #1 – Love does not equal compatibility.

Manson says, “Love is an emotional process; compatibility is a logical process.”  Equating love with compatibility can lead to the destruction of any relationship.  Humans often fall in love with other humans who are all wrong for them.  We fall in love with people who have conflicting life goals or world views from our own.  We fall in love with people who have different belief structures and fundamental values.  It is completely possible to fall in love with someone who you are not compatible with at all and who will negate every shred of happiness that you can find in your life.  Partnership requires logic and forethought.  It will require you to think about what will happen in your relationship when you stop looking at the world through love goggles.

Harsh Truth #2 – Love does not solve your relationship problems.

If you are fighting all the time now, continuing on with your relationship just as it is will not make the fighting stop.  You are not going to suddenly become the person who your partner wants you to be just because you are in love.  The foundation of your relationship should be built on more than love because love is an emotional response that can make you feel amazing for a little while, but it is not really sustainable.

Harsh Truth #3 – Love is not always worth sacrificing yourself.

Manson says, “One of the defining characteristics of loving someone is that you are able to think outside of yourself and your own needs to help care for another person and their needs as well.”  But he asks you to ask yourself what you are really sacrificing and if the relationship in question is worth the sacrifice.  Is this relationship worth giving up the chance to have children, moving to another state or country, or giving up a little of your identity?  Sometimes is it.  Manson says, “But when it comes to sacrificing one’s self-respect, one’s dignity, one’s physical body, one’s ambitions and life purpose, just to be with someone, then that same love becomes problematic. A loving relationship is supposed to supplement our individual identity, not damage it or replace it. If we find ourselves in situations where we’re tolerating disrespectful or abusive behavior, then that’s essentially what we’re doing: we’re allowing our love to consume us and negate us, and if we’re not careful, it will leave us as a shell of the person we once were.”

How to Determine if You Need Marriage Counseling

Every couple goes through periods of ups and downs in their relationship.  As long as the couple has the coping skills in place to overcome stress and difficulty, they will come together to move forward together.  In some cases, the nature of the stressor may overpower the couple’s ability to work through it on their own.  This is when Marriage Counseling can be a valuable tool for a couple’s relationship satisfaction and stability.

Do You Need Marriage Counseling?

Determining if you need Marriage Counseling is not easy and there is no clear answer of why or when.  It is entirely individually based on the couple and their unique needs and set of circumstances.  There are, however, some guidelines that may help you decide if Marriage Counseling is something that can help you and your partner.

 Evaluate Your Relationship

Take a look at your relationship today.

  • Are you happy?
  • Is your spouse happy?
  • Are you more or less content with your relationship now than you were on your wedding day?
  • Have you faced challenges and grown as a couple or started to disconnect?
  • Are there specific problems you are facing, or do you feel an overall sense of disconnection or discontentment?
  • What does your ideal relationship with your spouse look like?
  • How close are you now to that goal?
  • What do you hope for you and your spouse 10 year from now?
  • Considering what your relationship is like today, does that vision seem realistic?

If not you may want to consider Marriage Counseling.

What Marriage Counseling Will Do

The idea is that you want to evaluate your relationship and determine if it is currently meeting your needs.  If not, can you and your spouse work together to improve and grow, or do you think you need some help?  Marriage Counseling can assist a couple to improve their relationship through a wide variety of presenting circumstances.  Whether it be improvement in communication or overcoming infidelity, the goal of Marriage Counseling is to help you overcome difficulty, strengthen your relationship and increase your happiness in your marriage.  If this seems like something you’re looking for, perhaps you and your spouse are ready for Marriage Counseling.

10 Common Marital Problems that Marriage Counseling Addresses

As a marriage and family counselor, I’ve worked with couples that present to Marriage Counseling with a wide variety of issues disrupting their marital happiness.  Every couple that comes to Marriage Counseling is different and faces a set a circumstances unique to them.  I will say however, that there are a group of very common problems that couples who come to Marriage Counseling encounter that can cause stress and discord in the relationship.  I feel it is important to recognize some of these common marital problems so that couples may understand that they are not alone in their struggle and that Marriage Counseling can help them address these issues.

These 10 common Marital Problems include:

  • Issues of Money
  • Issues of Sex
  • Issues with Division of Responsibilities
  • Issues of Children and Parenthood
  • Issues with the Involvement and Influence of In-Laws and Other Extended Family
  • Issues of Boredom
  • Issues with Work Stress
  • Leading Separate Lives
  • Issues of Infidelity
  • Problems with Communication

1.    Issues of Money

One of the most common problems in marriage is the issue of money.  Countless couples find difficulty in managing their finances.  They fight about how to save it, how to spend it, who makes more, who makes less…you name it!  Especially early on in a marriage or before a couple marries, talking about finances and sorting out a plan for how money will be managed is extremely important for the health of the relationship and could highly benefit from Marriage Counseling if these conversations are not going smoothly.

2.    Issues of Sex

Another common problem is sex.  Though frequency of sex is the most common issue within this topic, there are also a multitude of other issues sex can bring about.  The sexual relationship between a couple changes and adapts over time and often needs a tune-up.

3.    Issues with Division of Responsibilities

The division of responsibilities within a couple can be a significant source of contention, especially when communication and agreement about how responsibilities will be divided and shared has not taken place.  Communication is a key component of this issue as without it, it can turn into a resentment-filled free-for-all!  This doesn’t need to be this way and can be relatively easily worked out through Marriage Counseling.

4.    Issues of Children and Parenthood

Children and parenthood bring a long list of potential problems to the table for couples.  First and foremost, the desire for and decision to have children and when can bring about disagreement.  What comes next could be difficulty with infertility, adjustment to parenthood and how it changes the relationship, differences in approach to childrearing, and how many children to have.  These examples only scratch the surface and Marriage Counseling can make these conversations go smoother.

5.    Issues with the Involvement and Influence of In-Laws and Other Extended Family 

The involvement and influence of in-laws and other extended family can be another problem for couples.  The over or under-involvement of in-laws or interference in the relationship can cause stress between a couple.  Also difficult are extended family members with a dependency on the couple or inappropriate or unwanted behavior that affects the couple.  This is a complex area involving a lot of people and feelings and Marriage Counseling can help a couple navigate through this in a more comfortable way.

6.    Issues of Boredom

Boredom, though it seems harmless, can be a major problem for couples.  If one or both members of the couple find themselves bored with the relationship and do nothing to change or remedy the situation, it can lead to a separation within the marriage that only gets worse over time and can lead to poor decisions that can be detrimental to the relationship.

7.    Issues with Work Stress

Work stress can have a huge impact on the relationship if boundaries are not well-established between the couple to have a clear separation between work and marriage/family.  Stress that comes home from work and impacts the marriage can create resentment, dissatisfaction, a breakdown in communication and more frequent arguments.

8.    Leading Separate Lives

Marital relationships can suffer significantly when partners begin to lead separate lives.  Though individual independence is a good thing, couples need to have shared interests, engage in joint activities, and spend quality time together in order to maintain a strong connection.

9.    Issues of Infidelity

Infidelity is an issue that is not only common, but can also range in definition.  Infidelity can present as directly as engaging in a sexual relationship outside of the marriage to an online emotional affair.  Whatever the situation, infidelity of any kind can cause exceptional damage to a marriage and Marriage Counseling should be sought immediately to sort things out.

10. Problems with Communication

The final and most common marital issue on this list is problems in communication.  It can present as the only issue in the marriage or it can be the underlying cause of every issue described above.  However it may present in a marriage, solid communication is the basis of every good marriage and without it, the marital bond can start to unravel.  It doesn’t need to be this way.  With Marriage Counseling you can learn the skills to communicate better.

 Why Marriage Counseling

Each of the above-mentioned common marital problems described, and many others, can be addressed and resolved in Marriage Counseling.  Through Marriage Counseling a marriage counselor can help a couple work through their differences, enhance their existing strengths, and find true satisfaction and happiness in their relationship.  If you and your partner have or are experiencing difficulty of any kind in your relationship, Marriage Counseling may be a step that can help you find the resolve you are seeking.

Tips on Finding a Marriage Counselor

When a couple decides to seek marriage counseling, finding the marriage counselor that will be the best match for them can be an overwhelming task.  To aid in your search, we’ve come up with several tips to help filter your search and produce the marriage counselor that will best serve you and your spouse.  If you’re going to put the time, effort and money into your marriage counseling experience, you want to have the best possible experience.

There are a wide variety of mental health professionals in the field, but only a select few work specifically with couples.  A great first tip to find a marriage counselor would be to make sure that the individual works with couples and has a significant amount of experience doing so.  You also want to ensure that your marriage counselor is pro-marriage.  Though this may seem like a silly question, there are many marriage therapist who equally split their time between helping couples save their marriage and helping them divorce amicably.  Make sure your intentions are known and that your marriage counselor will be there to support you.

Another tip for finding a marriage counselor is to inquire about the amount of experience they have working with your particular issue.  It could be infidelity, abuse, phase of life changes, blended family issues, or an overall lack of fulfillment in the relationship.  Whatever your presenting problem may be, you want to ensure that your chosen marriage counselor will be able to treat it effectively.

A very important tip to finding a marriage counselor, and a foundational issue, is whether or not the marriage counselor has the specific education and training to effectively treat couples.  Inquire about the professional’s educational background and where he or she completed practicums and internships.  You are looking for someone with not only practical experience in the field, but also the education and training to create a solid foundation of professionalism and knowledge.

Practicality may also be a concern for you and your spouse.  Ask yourselves about the location, hours of availability, and financial commitment that you are willing to make.  Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life, so in this area, you may need to make some sacrifices.  Just make sure you aren’t sacrificing so much that you create an additional problem for yourselves.

Finally, the best tip we can give you is that once you choose a marriage counselor, make a personal commitment to the goals you set with your spouse.  This relationship is your top priority and the right marriage counselor will be able to provide you the support to improve it, but can’t do the work for you.  Get ready to make some changes and compromises, but know that the end result may give you the marriage you’ve been hoping for!

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