My Marriage…Is Struggling
This post will be the last I do in the series My Marriage…, where the posts are inspired by the top terms that come up when people Google “my marriage” and then anything after that. In my browser, at least, the three that I’ll have posted here are the basics and all the other terms I found are similar to one of these three. So this is for everyone who feels they are in a marriage that is struggling.
Reasons Relationships Struggle
There are, of course, dozens of reasons a marriage struggles. People often boil their marriage problems down into a single, all-encompassing term–communication problems. But this doesn’t say a whole lot about what is actually not working.
There may be criticism, silence, hurtful teasing and insensitivity, volatile arguments, feelings of being more like roommates than partners, trust issues, blame, parenting problems, stress over who does what around the house, financial issues, disagreements over who gets to do what in a couple’s “free time,” feeling misunderstood and unappreciated, he needs to have sex in order to connect but she doesn’t want to have sex unless she already feels connected, disagreements over plans, goals, and values, feelings of having nothing in common and not having fun together…
…and this is probably just scratching the surface.
How can we bring this infinite number of possible issues in a struggling relationship into perspective so we can be clear on what we need to focus on?
Getting Your House In Order
World-renowned relationship researcher and expert Dr. Gottman teaches what he calls “the sound relationship house,” which shows the seven qualities a relationship must have in order for partners to be content and not feel the relationship is struggling. If you click on the link above you can see how it’s laid out, but the qualities are:
1. Knowing each other and feeling known
2. Sharing of fondness and admiration
3. Consistently turning toward each other instead of away when one partner needs something (and the small ways you do this are the most important!)
4. Cultivating and maintaining a positive perspective of each other and the relationship
5. Managing conflict effectively
6. Working together to make each other’s life dreams come true
7. Creating shared meaning together (a sense of identity as a couple)
Finally, all of this can only really be achieved in an environment of trust and commitment, so those qualities are pictured as the walls of the house, and each of the seven I listed are one of the “levels,” or “floors.”
To say a marriage is struggling is to say there are cracks, holes, or the complete absence of one or more of the seven floors or two walls. Every one of the problems I listed at the top of this article reflect a problem at one of more of the levels of the sound relationship house.
Good News and Bad News
The good news is these are identifiable and fixable.
The bad news is that couples often wait too long to seek help, until the “friendship and intimacy system” (the first three levels of the house) have been all but destroyed, and there may not be enough basic good will between partners to put in the work required to make the repairs.
Please don’t misunderstand. Even when there are serious problems with the friendship and intimacy system, those can be addressed and improved in therapy, if the will is there to do so.
What to Do
If you feel like your marriage is struggling, the good news is 1) we know what is required for relationships to be healthy and 2) we know how to help couples find out where the problems are in their relationship house and how to help couples repair them.
Please don’t wait to get into therapy if your relationship is struggling. If you’re in Michigan, reach out to me today! If you are outside the state of Michigan, you might try the Psychology Today Find a Therapist tool.