One of the biggest stumbling blocks to improving a marriage is the unwillingness to talk. Often, this is because a history of fighting has discouraged the partners, and
made them unwilling to deal with problems. It’s always amazing to me that couples
are so much more willing to fight than to work together, but I do realize that working together requires letting yourself be vulnerable, which is difficult when
Most of the couples who come to me have let small problems fester for a very long
time before getting help. It’s almost never the small issues that are difficult—it’s
the habits that develop over time of fighting, struggling, and not working together.
Money issues are a big one
—and let’s face it, money is just math. It’s not very
difficult if you take the feelings out of it. But couples can get divorced over it.
Sharing space, communication, dealing with family and friends, having different wants or needs can all become giant issues. Couples without teamwork skills fight about money, sex, affection, time, infidelity, in-laws, raising children, housekeeping, or other problems, often repeating the same old arguments, without
any resolution, or locked in habitual ways of relating that they think they “should”
do, but that create dissatisfaction and struggle between them. Often, infidelity can be a result of the shutdown in communication (and therefore,
sex) that happens when couples avoid fighting with the “silent treatment"”. I recommend couples who fight take “time outs” when things get too heated, and
separate, but the person who called the time out has the responsibility to come back and re-start the conversation. I also recommend couples who are having trouble talking without fighting have their discussions via e-mail, because it takes a lot of the reaction out of the discussion.
When my husband and I got marr
ied, we agreed up front that we’d go for counseling with any problem we couldn’t solve within 3 days. We went a few times, then we got to the point where one of us saying “I think we need a counseling session” was enough to solve the problem, and we haven’
t needed help for about
27 years. We’ve been married since 1982.