Although every couple is different and has their own unique strengths and challenges, I see certain problems more frequently. Some couples have one or two problems that dominate the relationship. Others have several problems that can make their situation more complex. You may see your own problems here or you may have other problems that are specific to your particular situation. The following are some common relationship problems and how marriage counseling can help.
Communication – Most people would like their partner to listen better. Often couples have communication problems that include interrupting, talking over the other person, blaming, speaking with an aggressive tone, and name-calling. Many times gender plays a role in communication problems. For instance, women tend to want to talk things over while men tend to want to solve problems and fix things. Couples that have trouble with communication often fight about seemingly minor issues and find that small disagreements often escalate into big arguments. When the communication has broken down in a relationship, it is difficult to make headway on other problems. In counseling, we can help communicate better so you can solve other problems and feel closer and more connected to each other.
Issues with extended family – Often our parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters can be a source of help and support. But extended family can also be a source of tension and conflict in a relationship. Just because we love our spouse, it doesn’t mean we have to love or even like every one of their family members. We all know the stereotypical meddling or controlling mother-in-law and unfortunately this stereotype exists in real life and can cause conflict for a couple. It is natural to have an allegiance to our parents, but many couples have trouble balancing the needs of our marriages with the demands of our extended family. Counseling can help couples come to terms with these issues. Often problems like this have their origin in our childhoods and working through them can make our lives go more smoothly in the present.
Conflicts about raising children – Raising children can be a very rewarding part of family life. But children can be very demanding and issues such as discipline, bedtimes, finances, and homework can be very stressful on parents. Pregnancy, the “terrible twos” and moody teenagers can take a toll on a marriage. Couples often have a difficult time coming to agreement on all aspects of child rearing. Marriage counseling can help you open the dialog in a safe environment where both people can be heard so you can come up with creative solutions that work for both of you.
Financial problems – Money and finances are always challenging for couples. Things are certainly more stressful today with the current economic situation. But no matter how much or how little a couple makes, there can be significant disagreements over money. Many couples disagree on what to do with their money – how much to save and how much to spend. When money is spent, what is it spent on and how do the decisions get made? It can be hard for couples to talk about money because often discussions can turn into arguments.
A lot of this has to do with differing views of money – some people like to save more and some people like to spend more. Some people like to plan, invest, and budget and others like to be freer with money. Money means different things to different people. For some people it means independence. For others it means security. For others still it means power and control. For many people, having or spending money gives them self-esteem. In marriage counseling, we can have the difficult and complex conversations about money and finances without the discussions escalating in arguments.
Work/life balance – Many successful people wish they would have the same level of success in their relationships as they do in their careers. Many people find it difficult to juggle the demands of a full-time job with their home life. Today, jobs are more stressful than ever and require more time and energy. With smart phones and laptops, work can easily become a 24/7 endeavor, leaving very little family time. Most of us would like to have a better balance in our lives between work and home life. This is one of those problems that cannot ever be solved, but it can be managed. Difficult conversations about how to spend time don’t have to be divisive – marriage counseling can help you learn to talk together so you can both get your needs met and feel understood.
Sexual problems – There a multitude of sexual issues that couples face. However, the most common sexual problem that I see is where one person wants sex more often than the other. Things don’t usually start out this way. In the beginning of a relationship, most couples want to have a lot of sex. As the relationship progresses, the amount of sex a couple has usually diminishes over time. This is very normal and natural – after a year or two the initial infatuation and romantic attraction usually wears off as the couple gets to know one another. Some couples can manage this and negotiate sexual frequency so both partners can get their needs met. But for many couples this becomes a problem where one person wants more sex than the other one does. Rejection can lead to disappointment, hurt feelings, and then resentment. Things can get to the point where you have one person turning the other one down and the other trying to push harder and harder to have sex. Once this gets started, it is hard to reverse the pattern.
Often problems in the bedroom like this are due to problems elsewhere in the relationship. Problems with emotional intimacy can cause one spouse to withdraw physically. Marriage counseling can help you address not only the sexual issues, but also the other relationship problems might be causing the sexual problems.
Lack of respect – When a relationship breaks down, one of the first casualties is lack of respect and admiration. Troubled marriages are often riddled with contempt and criticism for the spouse. Eye rolling and frequent interrupting are good indications that this might be happening for you. This is a slippery slope for couples and it is very difficult to reverse without help. Marriage counseling can help couples start to bridge the gap of misunderstanding so they can feel heard and appreciated by their spouse.
Anger and Resentment – Anger is one of the most difficult emotions for couples to manage. Anger is a normal human emotion – but when it gets out of control, it can be toxic to a relationship. Many people have not learned to express anger in a healthy way and often minimize it until it gets out of control. Anger is a sign that our needs are not being met or someone has crossed a line with use. It’s important to address anger early, before it gets out of control.
Resentment occurs when anger is not resolved and festers over time. Anger is not like wine – it does not age well. Rather it becomes acidic like vinegar and toxic to the relationship. Counseling can help you learn to regulate your own emotions better and be less susceptible to the emotions of your partner.
Infidelity – Affairs can be very damaging to a marriage because it leads to feelings of betrayal and loss of trust. Many couples want to get past an affair and put it behind them. The hard truth is that it is quite a long process to get over an affair and apologies and forgiveness tend to happen at the end if the couple is to get through an affair. It’s important to understand why the affair happened and it takes time to rebuild trust. Infidelity is very hard to get over without professional help to guide you through the process of discovery and reconciliation. The good news is that marriage counseling can help you can heal after an affair and can have a better marriage than ever.
Addictions or substance abuse – Addictions of any kind can wreak havoc on a relationship. Use of illegal drugs, misuse of prescription drugs, or overuse of alcohol can cause physical problems, legal problems, loss of employment, financial problems and emotional problems for the couple. While marriage counseling can’t solve this problem alone, it can help the couple come to terms with this issue and help the addict seek some kind of treatment and the co-addict deal with their own issues.
Housework – No one likes to do housework, but it needs to be done. Some couples are able to come to a workable agreement on who does what. Even though we have come far since the 1950’s, there are expectations that women will do more. In general, men and women have different expectations on what “clean” means. Men tend to have a higher tolerance for messiness than women do. Studies have shown that men tend to think they do more housework than they actually end up doing.
If either spouse feels that the housework situation is unfair, resentment can build up over time. No one likes cleaning up after someone else, and it can be very easy to think negative thoughts about our partner when we are doing something we don’t like. While it is not always best to come up with an equal split of housework, marriage counseling can help a couple come up with something that is fair and equitable for both of you.
You may see some of your own relationship problems here. Or you may have some that are not described. Whatever issues you face as a couple, marriage counseling can help you come to terms with these problems and have a happier and more fulfilling relationship. Call me for more information or to set up an initial consulatation.