Three Common Problems Seen in Clinical Marriage Intensive Weekends

Troubled marriages are relationships of extremes. To paraphrase Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "When they are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid." But "horrid" comes in different marital disguises, including the marriages in which both partners want to believe that everything is just "fine," but it's not. Private one-to-one Marriage Therapy Intensives are designed to help. What are some common issues couples have that we work on in a marriage intensive?

Here are three common presenting issues we frequently see in our marriage intensives:

(1) Focus of a Marriage Intensive: "Last Shot"

A marriage in severe pain needs more than just an hour a week with a licensed psychotherapist. What difference does a marriage intensive make to this situation?

First of all, a couple in severe crisis comes to a marriage intensive to step away from their everyday life and focus on the relationship central to their lives. In addition, a marriage intensive is often a "Last Shot" for couples when weekly couples therapy did not help. These couples, on the verge of divorce, need a single laser-like clinical focus. They need kindness and skilled care to move them out of their "stuck" positions. They want in-depth direction from an advanced practitioners to help them figure out how to renew and revitalize their marriage...particularly if they've just about given up hope about.

They also want to know not only "can this marriage be saved..." but should it be. In other words, they need an excellent high level of clinical evaluation.  This marital evaluation we call: a "State of the Union" assessment. It's done as a part of each marriage intensive we conduct.

Couples in a Last Shot Marriage intensive sometimes are beyond fighting.  They've just too exhausted to fight anymore.

(2) Focus of a Marriage Intensive: "Endless Fighting"

A couple in trouble is blinded by the pain of a repetitive negative cycle. Every word you utter seems to be taken the wrong way, with the worst possible interpretation. They're no goodwill.  No "benefit of the doubt" given. Your spouse seems to believe you are out to get them, make their lives miserable, thwart and undermine their every action. You can't open your mouth without starting an argument.  And you're tired of it.

Every effort to change the way you relate is a Herculean effort that is seldom effective. Like crabs in a bucket, when one of you tries to climb out of the negative fighting cycle, the other one appears to pull you back into it. There is no "cease fire."  No down time from being on edge.  No rest.

Couples caught in the "endless fighting" isse are in a repetitive argument that doesn't seem to have a resolution and it drives them to sheer misery.  Just two arguments a week keep them in a constant state of tension in their households.

gray divorce
Fights are chronic and never resolved in these couples seeking a marriage intensive.

The kids pick up on it. Everyone is on edge. There is no real peace, just an uneasy truce.

A therapeutic marriage intensive breaks the cycle. They have the time to delves deeply into the source of the conflict, and to release the tension. They begin to talk honestly and directly from their heart. They also learn new techniques, time-tested by over forty years of clinical research, to keep the conversation flowing freely and respectfully. They learn that conflict doesn't have to lead to misery. They learn how to settle the disagreement when it arises quickly and effectively.

(3) Focus of a Marriage Intensive: "The Regrettable Incident"

What is a "regrettable incident?"

It can be many things. It might be sex outside the marriage now re-considered by the partner to be a "terrible lapse in judgment." It might be private information shared with someone else that deeply wounded your partner. It could be taking another person's side against your spouse. For others, it was going ahead with a decision that your partner strongly objected to, such as quitting a job, or unilaterally accepting a position in another state. Money spent unwisely. An insensitive response to a painful situation. Or even siding with a child against the other parent can be regrettable incidents. Almost any situation can become a regrettable incident when the damage done was lasting and the wound doesn't easily heal or can't be fully forgiven. It doesn't have to be a "big deal" to anyone but the hurt partner. 

An affair can leave both anger, resentful, bitter or distant. "Tit for tat" affairs can be powerfully damaging.

forgiveness after an affair

A regrettable incident could be an affair, a violation of trust, or a hurtful fight never forgotten.

When an incident gets thrown up, again and again in a fight, like a vampire that refuses to die, this is a regrettable incident.

The process of healing a regrettable incident is a hard process to explain.

It happens in a marriage intensive when one partner really "gets" why the regrettable event was so painful. They communicate this understanding in a new way. It is a moment-by-moment reality that a skilled therapist leans into. There is no half-hearted apologies. Their partner feels their emotional regret. They feels true sympathy and empathy from them, and suddenly can truly accept that the apology comes with true regret and sorrow. One moves into and through their own blind spots into a deeper emotional resonance. 

Healing occurs.

(3) Focus of a Marriage Intensive: "'Everything is really okay...'"

​Avoiding conflict appears like a good thing to these couples. They may even be proud of how few fights they have.  

They can compare themselves to other couples and feel lucky. "We're doing okay compared to Frank and Marge..." is an often repeated reframe.

They "should be happy" that they aren't like Frank and Marge next door, who struggle with unemployment, affairs, or substance abuse.

But there is a staleness between them.

True joy, laughter, deep satisfaction, and emotional or sexual vibrancy is absent. Even vacations can leave these couples feeling quiet disconnection. Often they live lives that appear friendly and efficient, but passionless.

They talk themselves into believing that they're" just expecting too much" from one another.

While there is no fighting between these couples, there is also no spontaneous joy.  There is a staleness between them. They come to a marriage intensive to bring back the life, enthusiasm and passion they're missing.

This is superficially true. If they slow down enough to reflect on it, they know they are not truly content. Why they aren't satisfied, however, can be a puzzle to them. Nevertheless, a lust for life evades them.

Our Marriage Intensives are a unique opportunity to pause and reset. Recharge and reassess. Develop a deeper appreciation for what brought you together and what's keeping you apart. And bring back the energy.

One Couple. One Weekend. One Exceptionally Trained Professional.

At Couples Therapy Inc, our unparalleled professional couples therapy team work one-on-one with a single couple over the two and one-half day marriage therapy intensive. This private, highly-focused environment helps couples not only learn new science-based couples communications strategies, but begin to apply and rehearse this training using real issues that are dear to them both.

You'll complete an extensive couples assessment online before you attend the intensive. This helps uncover hidden barriers or problems that will be effectively addressed during the marriage intensive itself. Unlike group retreats, which work on more general problems, our marriage intensives offer both of you one-to-one clinical attention. We'll enable you to quickly focus on your core issues and see your struggles in a new light.

Our carefully-researched approach produces not only initial breakthroughs, but when practiced at home, can result in long-term change. This marriage intensive is based on over 40 years of research on couples by the Gottman Institute. This practical knowledge provides the essential tools to improve your marriage long-term.

Reach out and call us to learn more about these unique marriage intensives. Our Clinical Intake Coordinator, Cindy Tervalon, M.Ed., is standing by to help you to understand how we might help.  Call him at 844-926-8753. Or email Cindy at [email protected] for more details.

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