I just read a good article on marriage therapy from the Gottman Institute.  For my blog this week I will summarize a few of the key points from the author.

6 Years for help

The first point I have heard before but he helped me see it in a new light: couples usually wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. That does sound like a recipe for disaster.  Couples have six years to build up resentment before they begin the important work of learning to resolve differences in effective ways.

7 Helps for Differences

The second point that caught my attention came from Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Divorce Remedy. She believes that avoiding conflict backfires in intimate relationships. Bottling up negative thoughts and feelings doesn’t give your partner a chance to change their behavior. On the other hand, the author cautions that one of the secrets of a good marriage is learning to choose battles wisely and to distinguish between petty issues and important ones.

The author of the article goes through 7 helps to deal with differences:

  • Create a relaxed atmosphere and spend time with your partner on a regular basis so you can communicate about your desires and objectives.
  • Don’t give up personal goals and the things you love to do such as hobbies or interests. This will only breed resentment.
  • Support one another’s passions. Accept that you won’t always share the same interests. Respect your partner’s need for space if they want to go on a vacation without you, etc.
  • Learn to resolve conflicts skillfully. Don’t put aside resentments that can destroy a relationship. Couples who try to avoid conflict are at risk of developing stagnant relationships, which can put them at high risk for divorce.
  • Establish an open-ended dialogue. Listen to your partner’s requests and ask for clarification on points that are unclear. Avoid threats and saying things you’ll regret later.
  • Avoid the “blame game.” Take responsibility for your part in the problems and accept that all human beings are flawed in some way. The next time you feel upset with your partner, check out what’s going on inside yourself and pause and reflect before you place the blame on them.
  • Be realistic about a time-line for change. It takes more than a few sessions to shed light on the dynamics and to begin the process of change.

How Marriage Therapy Can Help

The third point that I really enjoyed was answering the age old question – “How can marriage therapy help?” The author listed many reasons, my favorite three were:

  • If toxic relationship patterns can be identified early and agreed upon, the process of real change can begin.
  • A motivated couple can begin to explore their problems from a new perspective and learn new ways to recognize and resolve conflicts as a result of the tools provided by the marriage therapist.
  • A couples counselor can provide “neutral territory” to help couples agree upon and work through tough issues with support.

If you would like to read more about the Center and marriage therapy please click on the link.

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