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Therapy Blog for Orem, American Fork, Spanish Fork & South Jordan
Common Marriage Problems – What To Do
As a therapist over the years, I have noticed a few common marriage problems. I see these going hand-in-hand with marriage problems such as the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, based on my practice-based research. I am going to outline several common themes based on what I’ve seen as a PhD, marriage and family therapist in Utah.
My clients have taught me a lot about what it takes to make marriages work and what it takes to make them fail. I hope this is helpful to you in your relationship as you try to strengthen it.
Marriage Problem 1: Lack of Commitment
First, in marriages that fail there is a great lack of commitment. This is different from simply struggling because you are having a hard time. Remember, the mere presence of arguments or marriage problems doesn’t signal the end (see John Gottman’s work). Rather, the way that you argue will signal that the end is coming. So, what I have also found is that couples who don’t make it have a lack of commitment to each other, trying and learning how to work through problems.
Listen to this example of lack of commitment, “This is so hard, I just don’t want to try anymore. I mean, I’m not sure if it will even work. We have been trying for so long”.
You might notice that alongside the lack of commitment there is a doubt that this spouse is giving into. This leads us to our second issue.
Solution: You need to commit to try even if it’s hard. Also, commit to your spouse even though they are imperfect. And accept the fact that the two of you will struggle. Seek help through couples therapy with someone who knows how to help you heal.
Marriage Problem 2: Negative Perspective
Second, many couples who don’t make it show a tendency to see everything negatively. Therefore, you might get to the point where if your spouse gave you a new car you would say to them, “Why would you do that? Now we have car payments that we can’t afford. You don’t even care about me – how are we supposed to make it?”
It’s almost as if you don’t want the marriage to work, and so you are looking for reasons to justify this action. [Side note – a good book to read to address some of these issues is from the Arbinger Institute called The Anatomy of Peace].
Solution: Have the courage to set your relationship up for success. See things from a positive lens. This doesn’t mean that you are unrealistic, but rather, it means that you do see common marriage problems for what they are. However, these problems aren’t used as justification to quit trying, but rather are acknowledged and dealt with.
Also, see the good attributes in your spouse. This helps you to start to love and accept all of them and softens your view of them when they make mistakes. You can do this by
Marriage Problem 3: Lack of Humility
Third, there is a lack of humility. I am not talking about humility in a moral sense, but rather in a sense of a willingness to try. Or, a willingness to see faults in yourself that take courage to fix. Many couples who don’t make it struggle to look at themselves as part of the solution.
You might, for example, say, “If you would just stop nagging me all the time we would be fine. I’m so sick of you telling me you are going to change and not doing it.”
Solution: Be humble enough to see your own faults and start working on them. By doing this, you give permission to your spouse to do the same. Couples who struggle love to point out what their partner is doing wrong. This doesn’t help. I’ve never heard a spouse genuinely say, “Thanks for telling me all the ways that I am coming up short. I will be sure to work on that”.
Whether you are in counseling for these common marriage problems or not, these are specific solutions you can work on now. There is no time like the present to work on yourself and your marriage. So, take the next steps and commit to follow through with what you learned here.
If you need help applying these principles, a good couples therapist can help you. You could also benefit from developing your own emotional health as you try to make your relationship better.
We have many of them at our counseling centers in Orem, South Jordan, Spanish Fork and American Fork.
Written by Triston Morgan, PhD