Sharon M. Rivkin, M.A., M.F.T., argument resolution expert and couples therapist, San Francisco Bay Area, believes that unless someone is completely vicious, no one enters a marriage with the intention of destroying it, yet the divorce rate gets higher every year and couples, even if they don’t divorce, are often unhappy and in loveless marriages. By being aware of what you may be doing in your marriage that could eventually destroy it, you can create a successful and flourishing relationship:
1. Complacency. Just because you fell in love doesn’t mean you’re going to live happily ever after. Marriage takes work. Stay interested in your partner by talking about your lives, your work, and your relationships. But be thoughtful by not bombarding your partner with mindless chatter or endless complaints, which could cause your partner to tune you out..
Are you being complacent?
2. Taking each other for granted. Don’t assume that your marriage is infallible. You’ve heard the stories of couples breaking up when you thought they had the perfect marriage. This can happen if you only see their faults and forget how special they are to you. Show and speak appreciation daily. Little gestures take no time and go a long way. Begin and end the day with an appreciation.
Are you taking your partner for granted?
3. Not paying attention. Is your spouse all of a sudden moody, angry, distant, sad, or uninterested? Or overly happy or concerned about their appearance? Pay attention to these signs. They could signal trouble, such as an affair. No sign is too small to address. If you’re paying attention, and sense something is not right, address your concerns.
Are you paying attention?
4. Not enough time together. Of course, we all have busy lives and individual interests, but you did get married for the companionship and partnership. Don’t forget that and make sure you schedule time alone with each other. Do things together that you used to love doing. Leave the kids at home, leave your work behind, and just focus on your partner. If not, you’ll just become strangers.
Do you feel that you and you partner are not spending enough time together?
5. Lack of communication. If your verbal exchanges with your partner seem to consistently elicit feelings of frustration, not being heard, or heated arguments, heed these warning signs that something is definitely awry in your marriage. Lack of communication is the one of the leading causes of marital breakdown, so get busy working to improve how you talk and listen to your partner. Good communication takes practice, practice, practice and includes speaking clearly and succinctly, listening, using “I” statements, having patience, and, more importantly, the safety to state your opinion without blame or shame or the need to be right. In short, each party feels heard and understood.
Do verbal exchanges with your spouse frequently end up in heated arguments?
6. Sweeping issues under the rug. No one likes to argue, and most couples don’t know how to stop arguing, so they sweep issues under the rug, which ultimately cause more damage than addressing them directly. You think the fights will disappear by not talking about them, but in reality, they gain momentum, until eventually they wreak havoc, causing resentment and, at the worst, affairs in marriage. Resolve conflict by learning argument resolution skills. It will change the potential for disaster to the potential for a wonderfully connected relationship.
Do you sweep issues under the rug just to keep the peace?
7. Unresolved arguments. The biggest cause of failed relationships is unresolved arguments and appropriate tools for argument resolution. Unresolved arguments are typically the fights that repeat themselves and escalate as time goes on; giving us that hopeless feeling that nothing will ever change or be the same again. The root of these arguments goes deep, so it’s critical to find out what you’re really fighting about. Each individual has a personal wound and story that’s at the core of these repetitive arguments that creates their unique “core issue,” which could be the issue of abandonment, control, anger, etc. By connecting one’s core issue to the current argument, couples can open up communication and connection, and find resolution, rather than repeating the same argument over and over.
Do you have unresolved arguments?
If you answered “yes” to all or a majority of these questions, your marriage is in serious trouble and you should seek help immediately.
If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, you need to start addressing the areas that are in trouble in your marriage. If you do nothing, you'll soon be answering "yes" to all of the questions above. Things won’t get better on their own, they’ll just get worse. Sharon offers couples counseling in Santa Rosa, California and has written books on arguing and affairs in marriage.
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