These days many couples seek the guidance of experienced marriage counsellors to prevent a marriage breakdown, and to reignite their relationship and passion with their spouse.
For instance, counselling helps couples resolve conflict, improve communication and increase tolerance levels with one another. Counselling can also enables couples to re-establish emotional connections with each other that have often been lost over time due to stress, worry and life getting in the way.
Often after post couples/marriage counselling, the commitment of a couple to each other can be strengthened,leading to a more harmonious and loving relationship.
Marriage breakdowns often occur infor numerous reasons, which if not resolved quickly and fairly can over time create obstacles that often result in regular conflict, lack of intimacy, infidelity, mistrust and ultimately separation and or divorce.
In this article we discuss 5 common relationship obstacles that marriage counsellors encounter:
- Communication Pitfalls
It may seem obvious, but communication is often overlooked in a marriage. The key to a great marriage is more communication, not less. When spouses no longer communicate, a marriage can no longer nurture and can become no longer a marriage.
Constructive and loving communication between couples is a core foundation of a good relationship.
However, communication in a marriage while simple in concept can be difficult, especially when two people have different backgrounds, expectations and perspectives.
What is critical to a high-functioning relationship is communication that involves four different types of interactions.
Here’s the breakdown;
- Informal conversationsor commonly called ‘small talk’. While small talk such as asking your spouse “How was your day?” it is the most natural form of communication. Small talk establishes a simple honest connection between you and your spouse.
- Administrative ‘meetings’ such as financial or family discussions.
- Challenges – asindividuals will evolve as we get older or mature and with the aging process, ideas, wishes and priorities can change. The ‘challenge’ how to communicate how you feel to your spouse so together you can continue to grow as a couple, not apart.
- Meaningful loving conversations: Often overlooked, meaningful loving conversation implies you both have a commitment to each other and what to understand each other’s hopes, fears, needs and dreams. It’s about quality communication, and connecting on an intimite level.
If you’re unable to improve your communication, a marriage counsellor can help you to learn how to articulate yourself better, have empathy for what your partner is expressing, learn to resolve conflict harmoniously, solve problems and make decisions together.
- Wanting the other partner to change.
When couples come for counselling they want a change. However, sometimes what they really want is for the Psychologist or counsellor to change their partner’s behaviour.
Here is a list of the most common signs, “you’re trying to change your partner”
- You try to dress them
- You want to control their spending habits
- You constantly disapprove of their friends
- You police their food or body
- You play ‘therapist’
- You make their choices
Has anyone the right to demand change in their partner while not considering if their own behaviour also needs to be reviewed and modified?
Counselling can explore what considerations both partners need to contemplate to enable changes to be sustained in order to improve their relationship.
A change could involve changing one’s own perception and behaviour and learn to create boundaries and to compromise on issues. For example, couples who want to stop arguing over money need to examine their own spending patterns and behaviours around money, and the role it plays in their relationship.
- Blended Families
Couples marrying for the second time statistically have a higher chance of divorce compared to couples who are marrying for the first time.
When there are children involved from the previous marriage, this can make the relationship more complicated.
Learning to navigate the complexities of the different personalities and understanding how a new spouse may affect children during the transition of blending the two families can be a real serious challenge to the home dynamics.
Depression, anxiety and stress are common mental health conditions, which left untreated can interfere and deteriorate a once healthy marriage.
While many families seek couples or marriage counselling(or individual relationship counselling)when the issueshave reached a breaking point in the relationship.
At the beginning of a blended family ‘coming together’, reaching out to a professional psychologist or counsellor could be the key to solving many future blended family conflicts. This is because all of the blended family members will have been taught strategies and techniques on how to work together when conflict arises.
Some exploratory aspects of counselling will include:
- Having on-going discussions with each person in the blended family
- Praise and encourage each other’s children
- Having realistic expectations
- Discussing roles-responsibilities of the step-parent
- Keeping secrets.
It’s natural for people to carry personal secrets with them throughout their lives.
However, some people enter into relationships carrying darker secrets, such as having being married previously, having an affair in a previous relationship or have hidden an addiction such as a drug or gambling.
A partner who sub-consciously or consciously has the attitude of “there is no way I’m going to divulge my secret” tend to normally not fully engage in the relationship process.
If a partner has keptsecrets from their spouse over time, they can be fooling themselves and their loved ones. Communication barriers are instantly created while trust is diminished which makes it harder to achieve a personal real change, meaning partners are left treading water until the next cycle of discontent erupts.
People in relationships keep secrets for many reasons. For married couples,hiding a secret can reduce conflict as the iractions cannot be scrutinised and subsequently be disapproved by their partner.
However, what is readily accepted by relationship professionals is trust can be easily broken and is hard to repair. Each partner should consider the implications of their relationship by keeping a secret.
Should you admit everything or keep your secrets to yourself?
The answer could be as easier as being honest with yourself about what secrets you’re keeping and why are you trying to hide it?
Keeping secrets can reduce the vitality and trust of a relationship and while you don’t have to share all your secrets, it’s best to reveal and work through any secrets that are currently affecting your relationship, or may affect it in the future.
For most couples, infidelity signifies a crisisand normallycauses major insecurities in a spousewho’s trust was broken.
Unfortunately, the relationship often becomes compartmentalised into the ‘before’ and ‘after’ and while some marriages can be repaired and use the experience as an opportunity to reconnect, statistically speakingwhen infidelityhas been experienced, the loss of trust is irreparable with many married couplesending up in the divorce courts.
Experts agree the reasons for infidelity are many and varied. Here are some reasons why;
- Because a partner can
- They think it’s acceptable (culturally)
- Because they want to
- Emotional desires
- Vengeful desires
Learning how to minimise the causes of infidelity may ease your fears and insecurities and may help you prevent the potential devastation a marriage breakdown.
Research what things both partners can do to reduce the risk of infidelity.
- Ask questions and listen to who they are
- Establish an open mind and be open to explore new adventures together
- Communicate opening and honestly who you are and what you want emotionally and physically in a relationship
- Remain engaged and don’t avoid the problem
- Be confident and don’t feel inhibited to know yourself as a sexual person
Typically, as a last resort, many couples commence marriage or couple counselling before the relationship is deemed beyond repair and ends.
The greatest benefit of participating in marriage counselling is the counsellor will try to deal with ongoing trust and communication issues.These issues must be dealt with, as well as the underlying reasons why the affair happened and how to, and even whether to, move forward.
A couple’s counsellor should be independent, non-judgemental and will not take sides. Often a couple’s counsellor will successfully help mediate difficult conversations as it’s rarely not only the act of infidelity is the reason why a marriage is at breaking point.
By learning to communicate more effectively and openly, and to express difficult emotions, your marriage can recover, grow and prosper in difficult times as well as the good times.
Reviewed by Greg Redmond, Director Counselling In Melbourne, 2018
This article is for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioural problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional