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 slow it down)
  • Minimizing or rejecting your partner's feelings as valid or worthy of attention.
  • Refusing to engage in conflict by withdrawing or avoiding the discussion
  • Inability or unwillingness to compromise.

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.
  • Placing personal priorities above, or in opposition to, relationship priorities.
  • Living separate lives, with little or no connection or overlap
  • Withholding affection and sexual connection
  • Few day-to-day interactions that are satisfying or meaningful
  • Cold or rejecting attitude.
  • Refusal to engage in serious discussions

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 that don't fit the individual
  • Using attachments or your responsibilities to manipulate and control
  • Using money to manipulate and control
  • Badgering the other in an effort to restrict their movements or activities
  • Inability or unwillingness to handle differences in expectation
  • Fights about "Sexual Frequency"
  • Rejection of the partner's personality differences or labeling them as "defective"
  • Acting superior and insulting a partner's differences, extended family, vulnerabilities, etc.
Verbal abuse IS abuse.

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

Fourth Common Relationship Problems:  Power mismanagement struggles

Children get caught in the middle by default

Is your teamwork problematic?

Common trouble areas:

  • Money management
  • Sexuality
  • Handling family traditions, holidays, special occasions
  • Disciplining children
  • Household cleanliness
  • Relating to parents and in-laws
  • Religious practice
  • Socializing and friends
  • Extra-marital Affairs
  • Emotional Betrayals

Read about Children and Divorce

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. These include:

The Four Horsemen

​Criticism vs. Complaining

  • Attacking one's character and personality with blame
  • Making global accusations rather than specific complaints

Contempt vs. a Talking from your Own Perspective

  • Intent to insult and abuse your partner psychologically
  • Includes name calling, hostile humour, mockery, and body language (e.g., sneering, rolling eyes)

Defensiveness vs. Accepting Influence

  • Denying responsibility.  Young fighting couple as part of common problems in relationships
  • Making excuses
  • Cross-complaining
  • Yes-butting
  • Whining
  • Negative body language (e.g., arms folded across chest, hands touch neck)

Stonewalling vs Self-Soothing

  • One partner does not react to the other's distress
  • Ignores them
  • Leaves the room during an argument
  • Responds by sarcastically saying, "whatever", or "you're right" as a way to get the other person off his/her back

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

You may find out that getting help is a lot easier than you imagined.  Learn more below.

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