Couples Can Learn to Resolve Issues
A range of relationship problems can affect couples in today’s world. The problems, if not addressed, have the potential to erode the couple’s emotional connection. When this important connection is less close, the result can be repeated arguing or greater silence and distance — which, in turn, can take over the marriage.
Unfortunately, the longer the unresolved problems seem to plague the couple, the more the cycle of arguing and distancing can become entrenched in their interactions. The cycle continues to pull the couple further apart — not just about the issue causing distress, but in their all-important emotional connection.
Some of the most common relationship problems include:
- Conflict related to finances
- Disagreements about parenting
- Issues related to being in a blended family
- Trust and infidelity
- Criticism or expressions of lack of respect for each other
- A partner does not feel important to his or her spouse
- Issues related to intimacy
In this post, I’ll help you see that you are not alone in your struggles: Many couples have become overwhelmed with how to resolve relationship problems in their marriage. And, I’ll help you understand how the most-successful approach to marriage counseling can teach you to resolve not only current relationship problems, but also enable couples to successfully address problems that can emerge in the future.
How Relationship Problems Can Become Greater -- and Lasting
In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the leading proven approach to helping couples in distress, we often trace the root of relationship problems to a deeper cause. Many difficulties couples experience can escalate and grow when the emotional connection between the spouses has been somehow fractured, decreased or a hurtful event has taken place.
Hurtful or emotional wounds occur when one partner feels the spouse was not supportive, did not attempt to be present and soothing for the spouse when needed or an event happened when a spouse felt criticized, blamed or unimportant. Such occasions could include an illness, job stress or job loss, a death in the family — times when the spouse needed their partner’s comfort.
In EFT, we call these “attachment injuries” — a wound to the strong bond couples form when they fall in love. The bond is the “glue” that holds them together — the deep emotional feelings, the physical attraction and the security they feel with each other.
The stronger the attachment bond, the better most couples are able to weather difficult times. And, couples with a strong bond can better handle small slights that occur from time to time.
Here’s an example:
Rose and Jon (not their real names or circumstances, of course) had been arguing about issues related to the children. Tension has been greater these past several months. Attempts to talk about their differences often result in more arguments and hurt feelings. Their bond doesn’t feel as strong or secure lately.
Rose is upset because Jon has not taken out the trash, his usual task. She’s upset at this small event, “You never take out the trash without my having to ask!” she says, loudly.
Jon feels criticized and grudgingly takes out the garbage. Their cycle continues.
On the other hand, if Rose and Jon are openly working on their parenting differences and feel they can work out good solutions, their bond feels more secure.
So, when Jon forgets the trash, Rose asks gently, “Hey, honey, could you take the trash? It’s kinda full.” Jon replies, “Oops. I forgot to check. I’ll get it for you right now.”
You can see (and even feel) the difference.
Unresolved Problems Can Linger, Become Greater
You can see by this brief example that the problems that have not been addressed can impact a couple’s daily interactions. The underlying issue is that they are not feeling heard or understood about their differences in an important area. There are hurtful feelings for both of them.
Their recurrent concerns related to parenting are not getting resolved, and they can begin to lose faith and trust in each other that each of their own input will be valued. The rift has cast a dark shadow over their marriage that they don’t know how to alleviate.
When couples argue, a pattern develops. One partner may continue to try to resolve the issue; the other may become silent or even leave the room. The partner who wants to talk feels abandoned, ignored or unimportant — causing them to become even more angry. The spouse who withdraws often is afraid anything said could make matters worse.
They may attempt to apologize after an argument, however their ability to resolve the core relationship problems can result in continued misunderstandings and discord.
In EFT, therapists help couples understand this cycle and its impact on their bond. The initial work in therapy focuses on helping the couple recognize when they are in the cycle of arguing and to exit the cycle. They will be guided in how to have a greater understanding of each other’s perspective about the issue and then how to communicate in ways that lead toward resolution.
Clues that the Couple's Bond Is Weakening
Most couples hope they can resolve issues themselves. They feel their marriage has so much love and trust that they can work through many difficulties that come their way. Yet, when the cycle has taken over, it’s far more difficult to discuss those issues.
Warning signs that the bond between them may be threatened can include:
- Feeling they are “walking on eggshells” with each other, afraid to bring up sensitive topics
- Less intimacy because the couple no longer feels as emotionally close and secure as in the past
- More frequent arguments and arguments that are more elevated and angry
- Less time spent together; the spouses may focus on kids’ needs and activities or those of extended family rather than each other
Erosion of the bond can take place over an extended time or happen quickly after a hurtful event. The fundamental problem is that the hurt feelings linger, the disconnection continues to grow and the couple can feel stuck about how to improve their marriage.
How Counseling Can Rebuild Connection
EFT therapists know from research that couples wait an average of six to seven years before seeking professional marriage counseling. Unfortunately, couples can become increasingly hopeless, and the cycle of arguing and distancing has become more troublesome in their daily lives.
Fortunately, there can be hope no matter when the couple seeks help for relationship problems. In EFT, we work together to discover the true source of the couple’s concerns. Using the most-researched approach to helping couples, I help you identify how your attachment bond has been impacted in negative ways, and that there is no blame of either spouse for the cycle that has developed.
Couples learn that the cycle is their true enemy, not each other.
We deepen the understanding of each spouse’s feelings, how their perspective on important issues was developed and to respect their differences. I help you learn to have the vital conversations to heal old wounds, to truly hear and understand each other and to reach a good resolution to the issues important to your marriage.
EFT is powerful because of its focus on helping couples understand their attachment bond and the strong emotions that occur when that bond feels less connected.
I welcome your phone call. I offer a free initial phone consultation to help you understand how professional couples therapy can make a difference not only in resolving current problems but in strengthening your bond to better cope with any emerging issues in your future together.
Resolving differences is challenging for most couples. Seeking professional help may be appropriate when the important issues are repeatedly leading to negative cycles and affecting the emotional security and connection in the marriage.
I invite you to reach out to me for further information and with specific questions about how counseling can be helpful.