Addressing the Problems in Your Marriage Before It’s Too LateJune 21, 2012 • By Shendl Tuchman, PsyD, Divorce / Divorce Adjustment Topic Expert Contributor
We often find ourselves in marriages or long-term relationships that become difficult. Part of the reason this could happen may have to do with feeling hurt by the other person, and then feelings of anger soon follow. We have expectations of our partners sometimes based on agreements and sometimes based on what we believe is the right thing to do, without the benefit of an agreement.
For example, Jason and Sophie have been together nine years. They met at work and found they had a lot in common. They both liked to bike, run marathons, and go river rafting. They also loved the same movies, and they had a few conversations where it seemed to them they shared values about family. They felt lucky to have found each other. Two years later they married, and they had their first child a year after that. Both Jason and Sophie felt they were on a wonderful honeymoon during the first three years they knew each other. When Sophie became pregnant, they acknowledged that she wouldn’t be able to do some of the physical activities they both loved to do, but they knew it would start up again eventually. Two years later, Sophie had their second child. She felt tired a good portion of the time and didn’t seem to have the same level of energy or interest to run the rapids or ride bikes on the weekend as she had once had. Jason figured he would just start doing these things on his own while Sophie rested up. Sophie began resenting that Jason was going without her, but she thought it was unfair to hold him back just because she was tired. She also thought that taking care of the children was more her responsibility anyway, since she was the mother. They found they spent less time together and had less to talk about now that they were living more separate lives.
Does this scenario sound at all familiar to you? Are there ways in which your marriage or relationship changed when you had children or just got older? This is not an uncommon reason for people to think they want a divorce, especially when the unspoken tensions begin to turn into outspoken arguments that may have nothing to do with what the couple is really fighting about. Jason and Sophie would fight about how loud the TV was when what they were actually feeling was lonely. If they had they taken the time to talk about the changes that were occurring in their lives when they started, rather than waiting until they were estranged, they may have had a chance to address those issues when they were smaller, before the deep chasm was established.
When you find you are thinking about divorcing, consider that in many cases, those tensions, upsets, and disappointments may have gone unchecked for too long before they were acknowledged and addressed. We often avoid the things that are emotionally upsetting, and the result is that it grows into a much bigger problem than if it had been addressed from the beginning. The example scenario also emphasizes that Jason and Sophie might never have talked about what would change in their lives when they had children. Or perhaps they acknowledged that they would endeavor to not let anything change the aspects that worked so well for them. When this didn’t turn out as planned, they did not have the language to talk with each other about how they felt and what they could do.
It is quite likely Sophie was as disappointed as Jason when her energy for physical activities changed so dramatically. Perhaps they failed to discuss how they would take care of the children before they became parents. We are not a society of pre-planners. We tend to figure things out as we go. Sometimes this strategy can work, especially when partners are willing to talk and not avoid the life changes that fly in the face of what they had thought would be happening. When disappointment is the strongest emotion, and the couple allows those feelings to fester until their distance from one another feels unbridgeable, divorce seems like the next step. We each bring our own history along with all our emotional strengths and weaknesses to our relationships. Our histories are strong determinants of the types of problems that can arise. If we choose to address them early on, with or without the help of a third party, it can be a deterrent to some divorces. The longer we wait, the more hurtful territory there is to repair and the less likely that it is reparable.
© Copyright 2012 by Shendl Tuchman, PsyD, therapist in San Ramon, CA. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
Sadie ReeseJune 21st, 2012 at 2:58 PM
From first hand experience I can attest to the fact that you can wait too long to talk about problems in a marriage. There comes a time when you have to sit down and have a serious talk with your partner whether you wish to do it or not. It might be uncomfortable but avoiding your issues won’t help to make them any better.
DANJune 21st, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Prevention is always better than cure! There is nothing like preventing an issue from growing or limiting it in early stages. Be it a disease or a life problem the same logic works!
matt mJune 22nd, 2012 at 4:20 AM
It is so true that when we get married and start a family there are many of us that forget about our spouse and concentrate solely on the kids.
But what good does this really do for the overall health of the marriage? You can’t ignore the other person in the marriage that actually helped to create the family!
I know we have to take care of everyone in the house, that much is obvious. But you don’t have to forget about one person for the sake of taking care of the others.
AudraJune 23rd, 2012 at 6:18 AM
The kids are supposedly what holds marriages together but for me it only looks like this is what begins to tear them apart.
look at the above couple. They loved doing things together until they had children and then they see that it is not so easy to juggle having that time together when there are children involved.
They have obviously not thought all of this through in terms of how much they will actailly be giving up having with each other when they choose to add more people into the fold.
I know that children can be a wonderful addition to the family for some couples but for others it doesn’t make sense. I think that this is the camp that I fall into.
sebrinaJune 23rd, 2012 at 9:10 AM
It is easy to point our fingers at certain things and say oh well this made us grow apart or this did. But have we stopped to take a look in the mirror and truly grasp what role we played in the demise of our marriage? I don’t ever like to think that I am at fault either, but I am smart enough to know that the actions that I do and do not take can pretty heavily influence the way that my own life turns out. Most of the time it is not just one thing but a confluence of many elements that can cause a marriage to break down and rarely is it just one person at fault. It does take two to tango. But we have to look at the things that we may have sadi and done that set the wheels in motion and own up and take some responsibility for those things. It is not enough to point fingers. Let’s grow up and take a little bit of the blame and learn from our mistakes.
terri YJune 24th, 2012 at 8:20 AM
You know, there are those who could use the whole avoidance thing as a way of paive aggressively hoping the relatinship will end. You ignore the symptoms, things fall apart, and at the heart of it all this is exactly what you wanted to happen in the first place. It absolves you from the responsibility of having to make an adult decision.
SEANJune 25th, 2012 at 4:29 AM
I don’t understand how marriages get to this point where you have ignored the problems for so long that it all becomes so intense.
Intensity is good for a relationship, but this is at the opposite end of the spectrum of where we would normally want it to be..
Lyndsey Fraser, MA, LAMFTJune 26th, 2012 at 7:41 AM
What a great blog! I find that this often happens in couples I work with in my therapy room, especially when children enter the picture. One of things that I will often tell my couples is that it is important to set aside at least 10 minutes a day to connect. When we get busy in our lives we forget to invest in our relationships. Even 10 minutes a day of connection can alleviate some of the difficulties mentioned in the blog above.
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