Do you think you ‘re in an unfixable relationship?
I’ve spoken to many potential clients who tell me that they fear that they’re in a fundamentally unfixable relationship. Some marriages collapse under the weight of personality differences, or cold distance.
However, some behavioral issues create a profound breach of trust. These behaviors are often cited as the reason a hurting spouse may feel that they are in an unfixable relationship.
Often I find that these unfixable relationships which involve abuse of trust fall into 3 categories. I call them “Triple-A” problems; Affairs, Abuse, and Addiction.
What makes the spouse on the receiving end of these behaviors feel so hopeless is when these behaviors are not single events but are entrenched and continuous patterns of deceit and betrayal.
These are 3 severe, challenging problems. And to be honest, at least two of them (addiction and abuse) usually require a significant amount of individual work before couples therapy can commence.
What these Triple-A problems all have in common is that deep soul-searching and individual therapy are essential components of any science-based treatment plan.
About 40% of our work at Couples Therapy Inc. is affair recovery.
What stresses these marriages is the unwillingness or inability of the involved partner to come to terms with how destructive their chronic and compulsive infidelity has become.
They reach a point where their partner is fed up with their lack of impulse control. Their long-suffering hurt partner has a firm bottom line; change now, or we’re done.
Often individual therapy, which focuses on restoring impulse control, is an essential aspect of treatment that may either precede couples therapy or be concurrent with couples therapy.
Addiction treatment has become increasingly sophisticated and effective. Many couples survive the struggle to overcome addiction and move on to have healthy and vibrant marriages.
But as with most marital stressors, the addicted spouse must face into their issue and not dodge, deflect, or defend themselves against their concerned partner.
What devastates a marriage is an unwillingness, or inability, to come to terms with how thought- distorted the addicted spouse has become because of their addiction.
Both spouses must be fully engaged and be willing to make significant changes, but the heavy lifting must be done by the addicted spouse entering rehab.
Recent research shows that there are several different varieties of domestic abuse:
Intimate Terrorism is a pattern of coercive control. The domineering spouse intimidates and controls their partner, with physical violence or the threat of violence. This kind of domestic violence comprises about 10% of all domestic abuse relationships in the USA.
Situational Violence, on the other hand, usually involves both partners hitting, and it arises from poor impulse control and the inability to manage conflict.
In Situational Violence, typically, both spouses regret their violent behavior and may experience extended periods of relative calm.
Intimate terrorism, on the other hand, is virtually untreatable, according to Dr. John Gottman.
So, if you are facing intimate terrorism, most experts agree that you have little choice but to devise a safety plan and pursue divorce as safely as possible, using all the resources at your disposal.
If a treatable Triple-A problem impacts your marriage, your first concern should be your welfare and the welfare of your children. If your spouses’ behavior is harming you and your children, ask yourself the following question:
This decision tree will allow you to hold a differentiated stance from your partner. This will also help preserve your mental health at this tough time. It will also allow your partner to have as great an appreciation as possible for how grave the situation is from your side of the street. As it stands, your partner knows that you feel that you are in an unfixable relationship.
The ball is in their court, and they know that you are ready when they are…
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.