(You should know at the onset this is a completely fictionalized story based on an actual case. This article represents an abridgment of my early impressions of the case. This will be the first in short series of articles addressing this issue)<
“Our marriage is on the rocks.” What a way to begin a conversation! They went on to say, “Please help us resolve conflicts in our marriage.” I have heard these words more times than I can count. I have heard many couples tell me that “we fight all the time.”
Is this your first marriage I asked? I was curious as to whether the conflict patterns in this marriage are similar to their earlier relationships. They were! The problem was their current conflicts center around the same issues and the same conflict resolution patterns. Like so many others, this couple has failed to learn from their previous mistakes. Someone once said that “insanity is doing everything the same way and expecting different results.” That seems to hold true in many failing relationships, including this one.
An article published by the American Psychology Association states,
“. . .40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.
The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”
www.apa.org article “Marriage and Divorce.”
The painful truth is that changing long-held attitudes and behavior practices take personal attitudinal and behavioral insight, commitment, hard work, and perseverance. You both must ask yourselves, what problem attitudes and behaviors do I bring to this marriage?
Remember what you said to me? “Please help us resolve conflicts in our marriage.” You should know that your problem is certainly solvable. But the question is, are the two of you willing to learn how to resolve conflict? More importantly, are you both willing to change your attitudes and behaviors enough to allow conflict resolution processes to work? I must warn you it will take you and your partner’s best effort. Long-held and practiced attitudes and behavior patterns are deeply engrained. And, as painful as it sounds, developing an effective conflict solving strategy in your marriage will likely not happen without those two problems being addressed and corrected.
Please understand that developing a healthier conflict resolution strategy means you must commit to the arduous task of avoiding destructive tendencies. You especially need to shed any tendency to practice ‘tit for tat’ behavior. It will be important that you individually commit to making the necessary changes regardless of what your partner does. If your marriage fails, you need to look back knowing that you personally worked hard to make the changes necessary to save your marriage. Too many couples play a tit for tat game. “You are not changing so why should I?” One of our earliest childhood complaints is wrapped up in this statement. “It’s not fair.” It’s not fair that I am working on this and my partner isn’t. Avoiding an emotional or actual divorce requires a best-effort by both of you.
Author Bio & Contact Information
My name is Richard Alberts and I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) located in Appleton, WI. I have a Masters Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from The University of Wisconsin-Stout. I am also a Clinical Fellow with The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
I have been practicing individual, marital, and other relationship counseling for over 40 years. I have professional training and life experiences that will help me connect with your experiences. Consider reaching out to me for an in-office session. Or, if you prefer to meet online, I’m also an online therapist at the Virtual Therapist Network.