Jodi and Eric felt stuck. They seemed to continuously play out the same old argument, day after day, week after week. The details might change (a bit), but their tactics remained consistent. This had been going on for three long years, and at this point, both of them knew they needed to make a change.
Even though Chrissy and Jason were married, it felt like they were living separate lives. Chrissy spent most her free time on facebook and pinterest, reading romance novels, watching reality television, or fantasizing about starting a new life on her own. Still, she was pretty sure she would never actually leave. Jason, on the other hand, worked his life away. He felt best when he was at work, as he liked being productive and busy. Still, he thought about reaching out to his wife, even though he was sure she would reject him (again). Both Chrissy and Jason desperately wanted a change, but neither could envision how to get there.
Lincoln and Marie had just moved to a new city. They had dreamed of this move for the last year, but now that it was real, they both felt confused and lost. They didn’t know anyone there, and though they’d tried going to several different services, they hadn’t found a church that felt right to them yet. The one bright spot was Lincoln’s recent promotion. He really liked his new job, and felt like he was valued and appreciated at work. He tried not to mention it too often, as it seemed to make Marie feel even worse. Though she hadn’t said much, Lincoln could tell she was feeling lonely and frustrated. Sometimes they both wished they could go back to their old life. They, quietly, each felt stuck.
There is Something About Being Married.
Experts tell us that most couples in Nashville who are dating, and even those in committed relationships who’ve been together for many years face important, legitimate, and sometimes even significant difficulties. While there is a definite overlap between the kinds of challenges that happen in couple relationships, there seems to be something about marriage that creates a unique set of struggles. Marriage carries with it, social, legal, and sometimes spiritual commitments, which place a new level of pressure on the relationship and each of the spouses.
A Healthy Marriage?
In over forty years of research, through working with literally thousands of couples, Dr. John Gottman has become the name in marriage research. He says that the key to a successful marriage is actually very simple. A happy marriage doesn’t mean that problems don’t exist, and many otherwise “happily” married couples still seek out Nashville marriage counseling at Change, Inc. for crises, problem spots, or general maintenance.
Yes, all marriages face difficulties and bring up challenging issues with each other, but those in healthy marriages do this with an intention of being considerate – of being mindful of the way they communicate with their spouse. They show respect and love for one another in many small (but important) ways, they show each other affection, laugh together often, and communicate that they are interested in the other person and their wellbeing. Healthy marriages emphasize appreciation and gratitude for one another. These couples learn and practice viewing their spouse through a positive lense.
Responding to Your Spouse
Through his research, Gottman found an alarming predictor of success (or not) in marriages. According to Gottman, the way partners respond to one another when the other reaches out is critical. In healthy, successful marriages, when one spouse reached out to the other for affection, their spouse responded. In couples heading for divorce, the spouse responded a mere 30% of the time (or less). These findings have been confirmed by other researchers, who found that noticing positive behaviors is also really important. In unhappy relationships, spouses tend to overlook or ignore as much as half of their partner’s positive behaviors. These same behaviors, which are out in the open, are usually obvious to everyone but us. A little scary, right?
A Good Start
Research has found some commonalities in couples that appreciate their marriages and whose marriages make it for the long term. Here’s a list of key ingredients for. Couples in Nashville whose marriages last make an effort to:
- Be gentle with each other.
- Talk to each other often, seeking real conversation.
- Influence each other, but don’t seek control.
- Take note of one another’s positive contributions, but don’t keep score.
- Learn and practice individual self-awareness — knowing what’s going on with “me” as much as what’s going on with “us.”
- Know and support the other’s goals and dreams.
- Laugh a lot.
- Create a sense “team” and corresponding team goals.
- Learn to pick their battles — knowing when and how to let things go.
- Keep elements of mystery and romance alive in the relationship.
Of course, the other side is that we also know what tanks a relationship (usually quite fastly): invalidation and contempt. Those kinds of responses and attitudes toward a spouse should be avoided completely. If you recognize them in your marriage, we recommend that you deal with it right away.
How do we know if we need help?
Many couples considering marriage counseling in Nashville acknowledge they have some areas they’d like to improve in their marriage, but they also tend to minimize them. They don’t always recognize that current trouble spots may develop into major problems down the line. Some are skeptical of therapy or counseling, and others may cite their grandparents or parents as models who “didn’t need” therapy to have happy marriages. We recognize the truth in that notion, but also recognize that many other factors may have been at play, including harsher social and economic consequences of divorce. These consequences don’t hold true for spouses in the same way today.
The big picture is that most of the above doesn’t matter. What does matter is how each partner answers the following question: “Am I satisfied in this relationship?”
From there, it’s pretty simple. If both spouses can’t say yes, you’ve got some work to do, together.
The “Don’t” List:
We gave you a list of “do’s” above. Here’s Gottman’s tried and true “don’t list.”
- Criticism: Criticism can be understood as attacks on your partner’s character or personality. Examples might include “You never…” “You always…” or “Why are you always so…” Complaints are presented as universal/global, and tend to present one person as right and the other as wrong.
- Contempt: Contempt is about attacking your partner’s sense of self. While your first response might be to think, “I don’t do that,” you might actually be surprised. Contempt can include name-calling (lazy, stupid, slob, etc), may include sarcasm or mockery, and even body language. Rolling your eyes, sneering, even tone of voice can communicate a lot about how you feel about your partner.
- Defensiveness: It’s easy to respond “on the defense” when we feel blamed or accused. But denying blame takes up the space where it might be helpful to hear what your partner is trying to say. Even if you feel your spouse is blaming, see if you might be able to replace your response of wanting to ward off what feels like an attack, and instead really talk about what they are feeling and experiencing.
- Stonewalling:Stonewalling is withdrawing or shutting down. Stonewalling can feel like a positive way to keep things from getting too heated. In reality, if functions quite differently: communicating disconnection, disapproval, and distance.
Find your relationship is practicing more don’ts than do’s? It can get better. We can help!
Need some guidance with all of these? We can help!
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