By Reuben E. Gross, PhD, ABP, ABBP, LMFT
Unfortunately, Love Is Not Enough
Even when both partners are in love with each other when they begin their exclusive relationship, a breakdown may occur because of immaturity or sheer ignorance of one's role or responsibilities in the relationship. At other times there are specific personality deficits or traits, active or passive, that precede the relationship and are counterproductive to a healthy interaction. Since each person's attitudes and behavior is only one side of the coin, we investigate what both of you are doing, or failing to do, to contribute to the current situation. I call these "sins of commission or omission." Because of reciprocal frustrations due to these "sins," individuals get angry at each other, end up "pressing each other's buttons" thus maintaining a vicious cycle in which both partners are aggressors as well as victims, i.e. both suffer from, and also contribute to the unhealthy interaction.
In other situations, both partners are perfectly normal, but have a "desire discrepancy" i.e., have different levels of desire or need in important areas such as affection, sex, emotionally-focused conversation, sharing, closeness, recreation and fun, attachment to friends or family, or have differing views on money, raising the children, etc. In these cases, failure to understand, respect or adjust to each other's needs and feelings, and react appropriately, can be a source of hurt, disappointment, and anger, which in turn may initiate an unhealthy pattern of reciprocal frustration.
At other times, the problem involves outside sources and may include problematic relationships with an "ex," children from a previous marriage, inability to loosen your ties with parents or friends or other third parties, causing your spouse to complain that he/she does not hold first place in your life.
In view of my training and experience both as a psychologist as well as a marriage counselor, I am sensitive to and will differentiate among issues that stem from a. within the individual, b. those that stem from external sources and c. those that stem strictly from your interaction with your partner. I will work with each of you, and both of you, as the situation requires.
Increasing Your Chances for Marital Success
My objective is to make you and your partner as comfortable as can be during this counseling process. Please be assured, that at no time am I looking to blame or embarrass either party. I state at the outset that my goal is to help each of you become the best spouse that you can be. We are always looking for a win-win situation. In any given marital interaction, if one person wins and the other loses, both people lose, and the marriage suffers. Since we get married to increase our happiness, not our misery, each person should do his best to make the other person happy. In so doing, your mutual chances for success will be excellent.
What Shall I Do Now?
In determining whether or not you wish to pursue marriage or couple counseling, you need to ask yourself: What are the consequences of not taking this opportunity to work this out with the guidance of an experienced marriage counselor now?
1. Will the situation improve, stay the same, or get worse? 2. Assuming that the problem will stay the same or get worse, are you willing to spend the rest of your life this way?
If your answer to question number (2) above is "no" you have a clear need for professional counseling. Since 50% of American marriages end up in divorce, the statistical chances for success of any marriage chosen at random are about equal to a gambler's chances at Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Fortunately, you can do something to improve your chances for success, especially if you attack the problem early. Although there is no guarantee that every failing marriage can be saved, it is also true, that many failing marriages have been saved with professional help, and that many couples who divorced might have been spared that tragedy had they sought help.
In the unfortunate situation where your partner is hesitant or refuses to come for help, it may be even more important that you come alone to discuss what you might do to convince him/her to join you in this effort. Failing your partner's willingness to come, you can still be helped by learning to make whatever changes you can to single-handedly stop vicious cycles and get your relationship back on track, or, in a worst-case scenario: explore other options and get on with your life.
End of Article 3 " Why Isn't Love Enough?"
For more articles on the Marriage / Couples Counseling Process please click here.
Please click here for articles on "Spouse Resists Counseling" Including "Different Levels of Motivation to Maintain the Relationship."