Common Relationship Problems that Lead to Unhappy Marriages

First Common Relationship Problems:  An inability to manage conflict effectively

  • Allowing conflict to escalate (no ability to regulate and slow it down)
  • Minimizing or rejecting your partner's feelings as valid or worthy of attention
  • Inability or unwillingness to comprommise
Blaming (criticism) that leads to defensiveness. It is only one of the patterns that cause marital unhappiness.

Read Fights About Nothing for more information on ineffective fighting styles.

Second Common Relationship Problems:  Starving the marriage emotionally

Withholding attention or focusing it elsewhere starves a marriage.

Is your marriage being "starved?"

Where is the focus put? Are you:

  • Maintaining an exclusive focus on work, children, religious life, hobbies, etc.
  • Withholding affection and sexual connection
  • Refusal to engage in serious discussions
  • Few day-to-day interactions that are satisfying or meaningful
  • Placing personal priorities above or in opposition to relationship priorities.

Read Profiles in Marriage: The Emotionally Distant Marriage to learn about emotional distance.

Third Common Relationship Problems:  Power struggles

Are the two of you mired in power struggles?

  • Valuing gender stereotypes above roles that fit each individual
  • Using your bond to manipulate and control
  • Using money to manipulate and control
  • Badgering the other in an effort to restrict their movements or activities
  • Rejecting  your partner's personality or labeling them "defective"
  • Acting superior and insulting a partner's differences, extended family, vulnerabilities, etc.

Read about types of abuse including: Cobras and Pit bulls.

Verbal abuse IS abuse.

Fourth Common Relationship Problems:  Power mismanagement struggles

Children get caught in the middle by default

Is your teamwork problematic?

Common trouble areas:

  • Money Management
  • Handling family traditions, holidays, special occasions
  • Disciplining children
  • In-laws and parents
  • Religious practices.

In John Gottman's, book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (1994), he summarizes four ways of interacting, which can quickly erode positive feelings and mutual respect. Watch this video to learn more:

The Four Horsemen

1.  Criticism vs. Complaining

  • Attacking one's character and personality with blame
  • Making global accusations rather than specific complaints
  • Talking about your partner's faults instead of what you want them to do for you.

2.  Contempt vs. a Talking from your Own Perspective

  • Intent to insult and abuse your partner psychologically
  • Name-calling, hostile humor, mockery
  • Body language including sneers and eye rolls.

3.  Defensiveness vs. Accepting Influence

  • Denying responsibility for your actions
  • Making excuses, whining, cross-complaining or yes-butting
  • Negative body language (arms folded across chest, hands touching neck)
  • List Element

4.  Stonewalling vs Self-Soothing

  • Not reacting to your partner's distress
  • Walking out during an argument
  • Responding by sarcastically saying: "Whatever!" or "Of course, you're right..." as a way to get the other person off your back.

Watch this video to learn more:

When to seek professional help

If you drove up a dirt driveway the exact same way for years you'd get ruts. The longer you kept driving in those ruts, the deeper they'd become.

It would get harder to turn the wheel left or right, and harder to decide to drive up a different way. And the more expensive it would become to repair that road.

This is similar to a troubled marriage. Couples who seek help when they (1) begin to notice trouble, (2) they start to feel distant from each other, or (3) when resentments hang on, are able to stop that pattern before it becomes entrenched.

However, for all marital problems, couples therapy helps you learn new ways of relating, and resolve problematic patterns. More importantly, you learn how to discuss these problems in the future.

Once troubles begin, the average couple waits six long years before seeking help. Only fraction of those who file for divorce have ever seen a marital counselor. Those who do, only go 4 times. This is true despite the high emotional and economic consequences of divorce.

If your relationship is suffering, ­don't make the mistake of waiting to get professional help only as a last resort. Problematic patterns become entrenched if they are ignored.

There May Be Good News...

I've noticed, also, when stress taxes an overall strong marriage, it is hard to see how healthy the relationship actually is. Couples are relieved to learn that they have a sound marriage. In these cases, what's needed are adopting particular skills, not a complete overhaul.

The Gottman Method is helpful for most couples because it focuses on pragmatic, skill-building techniques that anyone can learn. The thorough assessment lets you know up front, the specific types of skill-building you'll be focusing on. Ongoing treatment helps to walk you through a new way of relating to each other, step by step.

Request more information at 844-9-COUPLE

Awkward silences are an indication of emotional distance in relationships.

Getting help is a lot easier than you imagined.  

Learn more below.

Domestic Violence 101
Domestic Violence 101 Domestic Violence? Me? By now you've figured out that you are in an abusive relationship. And you're[...]
How to Bicker with Skill
How To Bicker With Skill Do you know how to bicker with skill? With all this science-based couples therapy floating[...]
The Problem of Contempt in Couples Therapy
Contempt is the Worst of the Four Horsemen In previous posts, I have elaborated on four marital behaviors that John[...]
Gottman Research Describes 5 Kinds of Couples
Gottman's Research...Which Couple are You? Dr. John Gottman has been conducted research on couples for over 40 years. As a[...]
What the Research says About How Marriages Fail
Research on Why Marriages Fail John Gottman's Why Marriages Succeed or Fail is one of Dr. John Gottman's most accessible and[...]
12 Lies About Marriage That May Surprise You
1. Marriage is about Love. It's Not a Legal Document. Ok. At Couples Therapy Inc. we like love too. But[...]