Would you like to crack the code to successful and intimate marriage? The answer is likely a resounding yes. At the heart of successful marriage, is a deep abiding friendship with one’s spouse. Marriage counseling is about developing, or re-developing a solid friendship rooted in love, admiration, cooperation, influence, conflict resolution, problem solving, and the creation of shared meaning.
There is no shortage of self-help books related to marriage and new titles continue to be released every year. Successful marriage is not about obtaining more or better information or learning a new relational trick. Marital satisfaction is related to the quality of the connection between the wife and husband. It is important to be connected on multiple levels for the relationship to succeed. Connection is vital at emotional, spiritual, physical, sexual, and intellectual levels. Successful marriage counseling will help the couple connect in fresh and deeper ways at each of these levels. Unfortunately, many of us have not been taught how to connect and so to protect ourselves we tend to withdraw or attack when we feel unable or unwilling to connect from the ones we love most.
But there is great hope for marriage success. New skills for connecting can be learned and integrated into your marriage. I hope that you will engage in the process of learning and applying new relational skills to enhance the quality of your marriage. It will be hard work and outcomes cannot be guaranteed, but the alternatives are dissatisfying and bleak.
Dr. Douglas Weiss identified 10 characteristics that are at the core of how a person may withhold themselves and have difficulty connecting with one’s spouse emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. Identifying with 5 or more of these characteristics may indicate a need for professional counseling.
- Staying so busy that you have little time for your spouse.
- Reflexively blaming your spouse when issues arise.
- Withholding love.
- Withholding praise.
- Withholding sex or not being emotionally present during sex.
- Withholding spiritual connection with spouse.
- Unwilling or unable to share authentic feelings with your spouse.
- Using anger or silence to control.
- Ongoing or ungrounded criticism towards spouse.
- Controlling or shaming your spouse regarding money or spending.
Signs that Predict Divorce
Like many other couples before you, it is probable that you have fallen prey to one or more marriage killers. John Gottman, Ph.D., an author, researcher, and relational expert discovered six signs that predictors of divorce.
Harsh startup occurs when a conversation begins with sarcasm, blame, contempt and the like. This kind of startup dooms you to fail. The way a conversation begins provides some deep insight into the condition of the marriage.
The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse
Following a harsh startup, Gottman suggests that criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are four relationally lethal forms of communicating. These four horseman wreak havoc in the marriage and destroy intimacy by creating an emotionally hostile environment.
Stonewalling is often used as a strategy to protect oneself from being flooded by a spouse’s overwhelming negativity, contempt and criticism. Flooding occurs when a person unloads the entirety of his/her emotional truck on the spouse. Flooding occurs during the relentless utilization of the four horseman in the marriage.
Body language tells a story. It reveals severe emotional distress. The intensity of flooding leaves the person nearly unable to productively resolve issues in a healthy manner. This short-circuits healthy processing of conflict which leaves many important issues unresolved and likely to worsen.
Failed Repair Attempts
A repair attempt is often made by a person in order to reduce the emotional tension with the spouse. When these attempts fail, the marriage is in serious jeopardy.
People in difficult marriages often rewrite their marital narrative and replace positive memories of fondness, love, and romance with negative memories that support their current view of their spouse. Thus, what may have had a positive start has been rewritten in a negative light.