In This Article
The commitment you make to your partner to be their other half in life is a huge one.
There’s a goal of permanence and solidity between you when you announce commitment in a relationship.
You have chosen your person, and they are choosing you back
Making promises and taking vows are part of this arrangement. You decide to give yourself wholly to someone else with the intention of staying together forever; then life happens, things get hard, you struggle, you fight, and you may want to give up and split up.
Thinking this is an easy way out is a mistake, I hope if you’re feeling this way, you’ll stop and think about it long and hard before you leave your partner and give up on your love.
As a therapist I have helped couples in a lot of different circumstances to find their way back to a loving and close relationship where they both feel important and valued. I know it is possible, even if it doesn’t seem so in the moment.
We hear a lot about “the old days” when people stayed together no matter what and enjoyed lasting commitment in a relationship.
We know that a lot of couples worked it out, figured out a way to fix their problems and move forward, and it also means that there were toxic and abusive relationships where partners were trapped and felt like they had no option but to stay with their partner.
Whether it meant they were living with alcoholism or violence, they felt they had no choice but to stay; in large part due to the stigma society of the time put on divorce and single women of marriageable age who chose not to be with a partner.
I hate to see couples who are staying together for any reason other than love and commitment but some couples stay together for the sake of the children, for economic reasons or lack of other viable options.
At the core of it, commitment in a relationship means keeping your promises.
Even when it’s difficult, even when you don’t feel like it. If you promised to be someone’s person, to be there and show up in their life, you need to take that seriously.
Adult relationships require adult responses
I would say that it’s no less important if you’re not legally married. A promise should be binding on you both. While we can get upset, give up, feel stuck or despairing, we need to take a step back and look at the big picture.
Remember your promises to one another and your commitment in a relationship to see it through. Don’t give up on your love too easily, it’s worth fighting for.
If you are legally married you have a deep commitment and a binding contract.
You’ve assembled all your friends and family to witness this commitment ceremoniously, made vows before all to love and cherish each other forever.
You have a spiritual and legal connection to your spouse and your family. You’re very sure you plan to keep these vows. The time to remember this is when the going gets tough and you feel like giving up.
Commitment in a relationship means honoring your word in the small things as well as in the big ones.
How to show commitment in a relationship
A key sign of a committed relationship is in being the person your partner needs on any given day.
If you need to be the strong one, be the strong one. If your partner feels needy, show up and give them what they need.
Be faithful, be consistent, and be somebody that your partner can rely on to keep your word.
It seems simple, though I know at times it can be extremely difficult. Our partners are not always lovable. They’re not even always likable! This is when commitment matters most.
Show your commitment by being kind, being helpful, and honoring your partner even when they’re not around.
Keep your private business private, don’t demean or insult your partner in front of other people.
Put them in a higher place, and defer to them over your friends and even your family. What’s important to your partner should be important to you, and if it’s not, you should reconsider your position.
This is another aspect of commitment in a relationship – Becoming a unit, a team that stands together.
Relationships go through ups and downs
It’s not easy living with someone day in and day out. All the baggage we bring to our relationships, our habits, our triggers; they are not always easy for our partners to understand or cope with.
There will be times you don’t like each other much, and you may want to get away from your partner for a while.
Go into another room, take a walk or hang out with friends. It’s okay to feel this way, everyone does, but commitment means that you deal with the unpleasantness in the moment, and when you take your walk, think about how much you care for your partner, and how deep your commitment is.
Relationships go through phases and you and your partner may not always be perfectly in sync. It’s important to remember that these are temporary phases that all relationships go through.
People grow and evolve at different rates
This is the time when you need to be your most kind and loving and court your partner.
If you are feeling less in love than you used to, it’s time to fulfill your commitment to love and cherish your partner by getting to know the person they are now, at this point in your relationship, to learn them again and to fall in love with them anew.
Commitment in a relationship is shown most in the day to day living that we do with our partners. The small things that we do to show we are 100% with one another through thick and thin, through the easy times and the hard times; for a lifetime.
Stuart Fensterheim , LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are deeply loved and that their presence matters.
The Couples Expert Podcast consists of provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship-related fields.
Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips by subscription in Stuart’s Daily Notes.
Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.
The proverbial fairytale wedding is something many girls dream about, but once adulthood arrives (along with a big dose of reality), not everyone jumps aboard the marriage train. The lifelong commitment just doesn’t suit every lifestyle, and there are plenty of women who are single and happy, as well as those who are perfectly content with commitment sans marriage.
Speaking of the latter, it seems like more and more couples are opting to stay together without the vow-exchanging formalities. Rachel Lustig, a therapist at NYC Cognitive Therapy, a private practice in Manhattan, gives insight as to why some couples choose the non-traditional route. вЂњSome people feel that marriage is a label and that they can be just as committed to each other without that label,” she says. “Others might have concerns that marriage will somehow change things and that they don’t want to mess with what is already a strong and committed relationship. Ultimately, marriage is a very personal choice and something that couples should talk about at length before making a decision either way.”
As it turns out, commitment without marriage is not just doable, it can be totally rewarding. Ahead, two women share why their long-term relationships are prospering outside the marital confines. Although getting hitched isn’t completely off the table, both say there are benefits to building a life together, sans rings.
You Can Allow Your Relationship To Grow Organically
Unfortunately, many feel the pressure to accomplish certain milestones by a certain age, from being in their dream career, to having kids, to becoming a “Mrs.” But when you shift your focus from making marriage the end goal, you allow your relationship to grow organically.
Natasha, a retail manager from Maine, says her relationship with her boyfriend Chris is thriving because they weren’t on the marriage fast track. In fact, they started as friends, and got to know each other before they even started dating. “We have been together for six years, friends for 10 years,” Natasha recounts. “Our relationship has been built on pure friendship, as we already knew a great deal about each other [before becoming a couple] вЂ” our values, goals, trust etc. вЂ” even down to our bad habits.” And thanks to their no-pressure beginnings, Natasha says they’re still “outdoor-loving, adventure-seeking best friends.”
You Can Commit Without Pressure & Prioritize Your Finances
Let’s face it: Weddings are expensive. The sheer stress of planning out nuptials is enough to put the event on pause вЂ” or avoid it, altogether.
Nora, a singer from Montana, is in no rush to tie the knot with her longtime partner, William. Although they’ve been together for a decade and have a child, getting hitched simply isn’t their priority. “We didnвЂ™t even consider [getting married] until a couple years ago,” Nora explains. “When we discuss the pros and cons, theyвЂ™re all pragmatic. Right now, the costs outweigh the benefits. If that shifted, then we would get married.”
And while Natasha says that marriage is still in the cards for her and Chris, living as a committed couple has enabled them to start building a foundation for when the time comes. “We know that one day we will get married, but have made the decision to put our focus on careers and purchasing a house first,” she says. “We feel as though we would rather spend our savings on building a home together, on our hobbies and making memories, rather than a wedding right now.”
You Can Dictate The Rules Of Your Relationship (Without Being Legally Bound)
Every relationship has its ups and downs, and periods when you grow closer and drift apart. However, when you’re unmarried, you’re more likely to follow your heart and dictate your own rules, rather than base them on legal implications and the potential for divorce.
“Several years ago, [William and I] had a voluntary separation,” Nora recalls. “Ultimately we reunited, but if weвЂ™d had to legally divvy assets and make court appearances, it would have forced us to interact when we didnвЂ™t want to, and we might have just stayed apart.” But now, she and her S.O. are so content with their life, nothing will nudge them down the aisle вЂ” not even the promise of a special heirloom. “There is family lore that my dad will give a Rolex to the man who remains married to one of his daughters for 10 years,” she says. “IвЂ™m told itвЂ™s a very nice watch, and valuable too. WeвЂ™d be a shoo-in for the watch if we married, but IвЂ™m not sure what we would do with it. [It] doesnвЂ™t reflect what we value.”
Natasha adds that starting a life together without the pressure of making a lifelong commitment can be beneficial for couples, whether or not they eventually take the leap. “I believe not having the pressure of getting married and having a big wedding has helped [Chris and me],” she says. “WeвЂ™ve just been able to focus on us as a couple and making a life together. Once we do get married, I know that things wonвЂ™t change for us as a couple вЂ” besides having to do taxes differently!”
There is an unprecedented focus on self-growth in our society. While becoming a more conscious individual would appear to be praiseworthy, it’s not always the case, especially in a marriage. When spouses grow separately they often grow apart. Newly discovered self-revelations sometimes lead to new “discoveries” about the relationship and “realizations” that the marriage is no longer “healthy.” Why is this case? How can working on oneself do more damage than good for a relationship? Does this mean that it is better not to focus on self-improvement? What if your spouse isn’t interested in growing together? Should you remain stagnant?
The answer to these questions lies in defining healthy growth and successful relationships. Successful relationships are ones in which both partners are other-focused. While this does not mean that they are entirely selfless, it does mean making the relationship the priority and realizing that your spouse is not you. Your spouse is an entirely unique individual with his/her own feelings, perspective, and needs. Your job is to honor and hold space for that “other” as opposed to expecting and demanding that he/she think, feel, and behave like you.
One of the dangers of self-growth is that there is the risk of becoming self-absorbed. The ego takes over and the focus increasingly becomes all about me, my story, and my newfound self-awareness. You may notice yourself becoming judgmental and impatient with your spouse. You expect your spouse to be like you, to grow as fast as you, and become as conscious as you. If you feel like you clearly see the deeper root of your spouse’s unhappiness in life or a particular area of his life in which he finds himself stuck, you may get frustrated as to why he just doesn’t get it or isn’t even willing to explore.
As you begin to preach your enlightened ideas, you find them falling on deaf ears. Your spouse may become more reactive and your relationship may deteriorate. While it may be extremely frustrating when you feel like you have “the truth” and no one is buying, your job in marriage is not to be your spouse’s therapist, coach, or guru. It won’t work and is often counterproductive. Your job is to take out your ego and be a compassionate spouse.
Truly integrated self-growth is when one can make space for another person and view them without judgment. It is about knowing that only you can take responsibility for yourself, and that your job is not to change someone else but to offer unconditional love. (Even in situations when it may be appropriate to intervene, such as if you see your spouse in potential danger, it should be out of love and not judgment.) The byproduct of healthy self-growth is that your spouse will respond to your new changes in a positive way. As you take responsibility for the role you played in the relationship, your spouse will begin to react to you differently.
One of the reasons that self-growth does not always result in better marriages is that it does not take place in the context of relationship. It is much easier to work on oneself in a vacuum than to have to do it in the context of a relationship with another person whom you may not be able to change. That’s why you could meet someone who has done work on himself but has a miserable marriage. While it seems dissonant, it’s because it was not applied with his spouse who is likely pushing his buttons more than anyone else.
We do not live in a vacuum. We grow up getting hurt in relationships with others and the best way to heal those hurts is in relationship. We often find ourselves becoming retriggered and revisiting familiar wounds with our spouse. We can use our marriage as an opportunity to work through those issues and finally get it right. While the success of therapy or other healing modalities is partially due to the healing relationship that the therapist provides, it does not compare to the potential healing that the martial relationship can provide in the context of effective couples work that focuses on the couple’s relationship as the healing factor. As long as a couple is married, they have the potential to offer unconditional positive self-regard for each other. In contrast, a therapist, coach, or mentor, no matter how caring they are, is a relationship bound by the clock and compensation.
Couples that grow together in the context of their marriage are able to simultaneously work on their own issues as well as their relationship issues, as the two are intertwined. If your spouse is unwilling to work on the relationship together, work on yourself to be the best you can be and keep in mind that a barometer for your individual growth is an improved relationship. When you married, you committed to the relationship. It is not something to be discarded when you feel like you have outgrown it. If you become self-aware enough, you will realize that the frustrations you are experiencing with your spouse are often those things that you need to work on to become a more complete person. Abandoning the marriage is an easy way out to avoid doing the real work.
Self-growth is great as long as it doesn’t hurt others in the process. While it is more powerful when couples grow together, one need not remain stagnant if your spouse is unwilling. However, be aware if your enlightenment makes you more judgmental instead of more understanding and compassionate.
Learn how to grow together with your spouse in a safe and loving way. Download your free sample chapters of The Marriage Restoration Project: The Five-Step Action Plan To Saving Your Marriage.
May 1 2017
Social media is everywhere. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. LinkedIn. YouTube. There are also dating and gaming sites, and more. Social media is a part of the fabric of our lives today, and can be an integral part of our lives. You may want to consider establishing a few ground rules to avoid any potential dangers of social media on your relationships.
The Pros of Social Media and Relationships
Social media can play a significant role in our society today. The effect of social media on relationships can positively impact couples who spend a lot of time apart. Alexandra Samuel, PhD, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and a social media consultant, suggests that when both partners participate in social media together, it can be a way for busy couples to connect when apart. Samuel and her husband regularly Tweet to keep in touch and cheer each other on.
According to an article written by Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, social media can aid relationships by making it easier for partners to integrate their once disconnected social networks. Lanier-Graham says her Facebook feed makes her husband’s co-workers feel as if they know her, and has served as an icebreaker when meeting those people in real-world social settings.
The Dangers of Social Media on Relationships
Social media may not always be used in positive ways. Understanding the pitfalls can help you be aware of the potential dangers of social media on today’s relationships. Darren Adamson, PhD, , LMFT, Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Sciences at Northcentral University, lays out three potential dangers facing couples:
- Social media serves as a distraction from focusing on the interactions that nurture relationships. “Social media use can become compulsive,” explains Adamson, “making it difficult to manage the amount of time spent on it.” In fact, according to a study cited by PsychCentral, American college students describe abstaining from social media the same way they describe drug and alcohol withdrawal—cravings, anxiety, feeling jittery.
- People share their best lives on social media, so couples sometimes compare their mundane lives with other’s exciting lives, which can create destructive comparisons. “This can lead to discouragement with one’s primary relationship,” says Adamson. “That discouragement can lead to conflict, fear, unrealistic expectations—why can’t you be like the partner portrayed in the social media posts?—or an overall discontentment with the relationship.”
- There is the potential for another relationship that looks so much better than the primary relationship. “This can lead to extra-couple relationships that ultimately destroy the primary relationship,” warns Adamson.
Guidelines for Maintaining a Healthy Balance Between Social Media and Relationships
As evidenced by couples who do use social media to their advantage, it is possible to have healthy relationships and be actively involved in social media. In fact, a 2013 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who share information about their relationship on Facebook were comfortable in their relationship. However, Adamson points out that setting guidelines on how to effectively use social media can mean the difference between a healthy use of social media in a relationship, and taking it into the danger zone.
- Don’t use social media as a negative point of comparison for your relationship. “If you feel compelled to make comparisons involving your relationship,” explains Adamson, “compare where your relationship is today with what it was like a year ago—or five or ten years ago for those in a long-term relationship. Let the results of the comparison prompt changes in behavior that can build your relationship.
- Spend time nurturing your relationship. “Do things that create closeness in your relationship,” encourages Adamson, “and do them regularly without distraction.” This means leaving the cell phone at home—out of sight and out of mind. The distraction factor is one of the biggest challenges with social media. According to a study by Scientific American, the presence of a cell phone can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships.
- Do not maintain a separate social media life. “Share your social media world with your partner,” Adamson encourages.
Social media is a part of our modern society, but there are also dangers in social media if couples let it get out of control. As Adamson points out, you must keep in mind that social media is exactly what the name implies—media. “It is not a separate and distinct world,” Adamson maintains. “It does not sustain relationships, because it is based on virtual reality that, by its nature, is not able to support the activities required to make a relationship work.” That is up to you as individuals, and it still requires old-fashioned hard work.
Pursuing a Career in Marriage and Family Therapy
If you’re interested in pursuing a degree to help counsel individuals, couples and families navigate the natural stressors and unexpected challenges of life. NCU offers doctoral, master’s and post-graduate certificate programs 1 in marriage and family therapy. NCU offers the first distance-based MAMFT program to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), plus the first and only distance-based PhD in MFT program to be accredited by COAMFTE. 2
With coursework delivered online 3 , you will also gain experience with face-to-face client interaction through practicums and internships in your local community under the direction of an approved clinical supervisor. Courses are taught by professors who all hold doctoral degrees, so you learn from seasoned professionals in your field of study.
Click here to view NCU’s Marriage and Family Therapy programs.
1 For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed programs, and other important information, please visit our website at www.ncu.edu/program-disclosures.
2 The MAMFT and PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy programs at Northcentral University are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), 112 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, (703) 838-9808, [email protected]
3 Marriage & Family Sciences courses are primarily online, however, practicum/internships/clinical supervision activities include traditional engagement in the communities in which our students live.
While there are a lot of ways to screw up a marriage, spouses who have close opposite-sex friendships are toying with one of the riskiest and most short-sighted behaviours that commonly lead to infidelity and ultimately divorce.
Many of my consults begin with a client saying something like this: “My husband is constantly texting a female co-worker. he says they’re just friends and that they only talk about work, but he’s always laughing and smiling when he’s texting her.”
Or this: “I know my wife is always texting or on Facebook with her personal trainer. Now she locks her cell phone and has changed her online passwords. If I ask her who she’s talking to, she freaks out and says I’m being paranoid, jealous and controlling.”
Do you know what the above scenarios have in common? In both of them, the spouse who is having the opposite-sex friendship knows full-well that the behaviour is as shady as hell. But instead of respecting their spouse’s feelings, they continue to indulge in the ego-boost or thrill of it all.
Some people don’t agree with my stance that opposite-sex friendships should not exist within marriage. Some people might say that it is old-fashioned and that men and women are perfectly capable of having platonic extra-marital friendships with a person of the opposite sex.
In cases where the friendship involves two people who have absolutely no sexual attraction to each other and who are not sexually compatible whatsoever, that is true.
More relationship blogs from Debra Macleod:
But in reality, many opposite-sex friendships involve people who – if circumstances were different – might be potential sexual partners. Indeed, many opposite-sex friendships are maintained because of a simmering attraction. One or both people are keeping their “friend” on the back-burner as a potential mate in the event their current relationship ends.
This is especially true of men. It may be 2015 but, let’s face it, many men still only befriend women they have at least some degree of physical attraction to.
Some people will say that they’ve always had opposite-sex friendships and that shouldn’t change just because they get married. They will say that only insecure people or weak marriages would shy away from opposite-sex friendships.
In my opinion, this is a self-focused and naïve way of thinking. It ignores the reality that every marriage goes through ups and downs. When you’re “up,” things are great and the opposite-sex friendship may be mostly harmless (although it still may be an irritation to the other spouse).
But it’s a different story when you’re going through a temporary “down” or rough patch in your relationship. This might be some kind of conflict, sexual dry spell, life circumstance or even pure boredom. When this happens, many people turn to their opposite-sex friend as a shoulder to cry on.
Before you know it, the spouse and his or her extra-marital friend are comforting each other, turning to each other for advice, sharing details of their intimate life and relationships, and texting each other with increasing frequency and intimacy. As the excitement of their forbidden friendship grows, the dynamics in the marriage deteriorate. After all, three’s a crowd.
The spouse begins to leave the room to text his or her opposite-sex friend, leaving the other spouse in a state of anger, anxiety and profound hurt. When asked to end the friendship, the spouse often becomes indignant or outright belligerent, and may try to turn the entire situation around so that his or her spouse must go on the defensive, desperately trying to explain — to no avail — why the opposite-sex friendship is wrong and how it is affecting the marriage.
In my capacity as a couples mediator, I can tell you that the vast majority of infidelities I see nowadays follow a similar pattern to this one. They start with an opposite-sex friendship that quickly becomes intense and emotional due to the false sense of intimacy involved with text-messaging. They then escalate into a full-blown emotional or sexual affair.
Not only are opposite-sex friendships within marriage risky, they are a form of betrayal. When a person gets married or enters into an exclusive committed relationship, that person expects to be his or her partner’s lover, closest and most intimate confidante, and priority. Of course, we all need close friendships outside of our marriage; however, there are plenty of people of our own gender to befriend.
Opposite-sex friendships can also sneak-up on people in otherwise happy relationships, particularly when the opposite-sex friend is a “partner predator,” something I describe in my latest book, Couples in Crisis: Overcoming Affairs & Opposite-Sex Friendships (and will discuss in next week’s blog).
This kind of opposite-sex friend may come across as innocent, but is drawn to someone who is already “taken” and can be very manipulative and aggressive in their pursuit of this person. If they manage to befriend your spouse, get ready for a world of trouble and drama.
In my opinion, it’s simply foolish to disregard the strong association between opposite-sex friendships in marriage and infidelity. Deciding that these have no place in your marriage is one of the wisest and most pro-active measures you can take to protect the integrity of your relationship in the long-term.
It isn’t weak or insecure to do this. It takes a strong person to stand by their values and to insist that there be no opposite-sex friendships within marriage. It takes a secure person to say, “I’m not living like this. I won’t live with the uncertainty and the anxiety and the divided loyalties. I won’t pretend that I’m not hurt because you’re putting energy into this friendship instead of our relationship.”
Stand by your values and vision of marriage — you know, that whole “forsaking all others” business — and trust your instincts.
There was a lot of sleeping on the couch and in the spare bedroom.
They were constantly battling over the smallest issue — which only led to bigger
issues. Threats and yelling were an almost everyday thing.
They both desperately wanted to be accepted and loved, but neither felt it.
The more each tried, it seemed the further they moved apart.
They had tried therapy, self-help books, seminars.
But nothing seemed to make a difference.
It seemed as if they were stuck in a vicious cycle.
They knew they needed to change things in their relationship…
but they just didn’t know how.
I’m not going to try and convince you that I was able to undo years of fighting,
struggling and disappointment in a day. But, with what they learned in my office
that day, they decided to put their impending divorce “on hold.”
- There were no angry arguments that went nowhere.
- There was no “living like roommates” or sleeping on the couch.
- There was no more name-calling or tearing-down of each other.
- Their, previously sexless, marriage saw sparks of true pleasure and intimacy again.
Last week, Kelly called to invite me to their
anniversary and “re-commitment” ceremony!
Most marriage therapists are not trained to be marriage counselors.
They receive their training in traditional, individual therapy, and add marital counseling to their practice… after the fact.
In other words, most marriage therapists have little expertise in helping a troubled marriage.
And, when they do offer marital counseling, they are, usually, applying outdated, ineffective strategies that were never intended to help truly troubled marriages.
I know from experience, because I too was frustrated with such a low rate of success. I sincerely desired to help my clients to save their marriages. But, the techniques and strategies I learned in school seemed to be making things worse!
Once I realized that “traditional” methods of marriage therapy don’t work, I determined to find and create strategies, techniques and methods that do work.
It led me to abandon much of the “old school” ideas about how to help troubled couples…and so should you!
Please watch this video on why “Marital Therapy”
can be destructive to your situation!
Before you can begin your journey toward
saving your marriage, you need to stop
buying into The Four Most Damaging Myths
About Saving Your Marriage.
Do you believe any of the following?
(click “+” for more)
You Need To Learn MORE Communication Skills
Learning new communication skills will not help you.
Teaching you how to communicate better, if your marriage is truly troubled, will only give you and your spouse the ability to fight more effectively!
In many cases, improving “communication skills” only creates more damage and accelerates the deterioration of the relationship.
There is only one “path” from the brink of divorce to marital bliss
Many other programs assume there is only one “path” back to marital happiness.
I discovered there are 8 distinct paths! And, each “path” must be addressed differently.
What is helpful at one stage can be destructive, or at least counterproductive, at another stage.
I have created a unique path for each stage that resolves the crisis best.
These paths have been tested and retested, and proven successful for hundreds in my practice.
You will learn how to determine exactly which stage of marriage crisis you are facing. After you do this, you are infinitely better prepared to move forward and begin the healing and progress.
You can’t start saving your marriage if your spouse isn’t interested
When a marriage crisis is in full swing, it sometimes takes awhile for the other spouse to respond. But, this does not mean that you can’t save your marriage!
My techniques and approach work. . . even if your spouse has already “given up. “
My strategies have been called “relationship Judo.”
You will learn how to use the negative energy in your relationship to turn your relationship around.
Time heals all
This may be the most damaging myth of all!
In my experience, many people procrastinate and hope that things will get “just work themselves out.”
This rarely, if ever, happens. You already know that! That is the reason you are at this site. You are ready to take action!
If you do not take action, the negative momentum of the relationship moves against you and before you know it, the relationship is too far gone.
It is critical that you start the process of saving your marriage now. . . before things spiral into a place that is truly irreparable.
Anyone Is Capable of
Transforming Their Relationship
Impossible as it may seem, I have created techniques which transform relationships… even when only one person is trying! My typical client is a spouse that wants to save their relationship when their partner has already “given up.”Most therapists work from the assumption that, if only one person wanted to work on the relationship, it was impossible to fix. I don’t approach marriage crises this way. I approach them like an algebra equation. If one side of the equation is changed, the other side must change! Incredibly, my clients have achieved an 89.7% success rate. . . even if only one spouse starts the process! (Findings based on surveys. Individual results can vary.)
With Kelly and Greg, it was Kelly who started the process. She found me on the internet , downloaded Save the Marriage and began the process of saving the marriage. . . by herself. Greg was still bent on a divorce, but Kelly still had hope. . . and took action. Fairly quickly, Greg was less insistent on the divorce, but still assumed it was their only option. Eventually, he agreed to spend that hour with me, in person. . . leaving their divorce attorneys waiting.
You may be wondering. . .“When Is Saving The Marriage Impossible?”
Commitment is not a very “sexy” word or concept but it probably has more to do with making marriages work than anything save common values. It’s not just about saying marriage vows or having a piece of paper that says “marriage license.” Commitment is important because we act differently when we know that our futures are tied together. You may avoid a prickly conversation if you know the other person will not be around forever. You may move on to another love if your current one has a debilitating accident or simply starts to rub you the wrong way. Commitment means you’ve promised to stay and work it through, not just today but forever.
Commitment is a choice to give up choices. Although this might at first sound limiting, it actually brings great freedom and depth. No longer does the committed person need to weigh which person or way of life will bring more happiness. Once committed, all one’s energy goes into making this commitment work. No longer are other possibilities a distraction. The two major stages of commitment are making the initial commitment and keeping the commitment.
1. Making the initial commitment
Much of the research on how commitment impacts marital happiness has centered on making the initial commitment. Usually social scientists have compared couples who cohabit before marriage with those who have not. The presumption is that cohabiting couples have not yet made a firm and final commitment to be with this partner “till death do us part” or else they would indeed be married. This tentative or partial commitment makes all the difference to their future marriage.
According to marriage researcher Dr. Scott Stanley, those who cohabit prior to engagement score worse after marriage on virtually everything measured than those who wait until marriage or wait until after engagement. This includes:
- Psychological aggression
- Negative interaction (conflict)
- Confidence in their relationship
- Marital satisfaction
- Dedication to each other
This risk might be partly explained by the lack of clarity and mutuality of commitment at the time cohabitation begins. The nature of cohabitation presumes the possibility of the relationship not working out (and thus the commitment not being permanent). If the couple later marries, it can be more of a “sliding into marriage” than a “deciding to marry.” As a decision to marry becomes less distinct but more of a gradual slide toward marriage, it blurs the clarity of the commitment.
Stanley hypothesizes that regardless of income, race, and culture, sliding will be associated with more risk than deciding. Deciding will be universally associated with lower risk because of the mutual clarity and resulting follow through. In addition, the research shows that women are at a greater disadvantage if they move from a cohabiting relationship to marriage. With these couples, husbands have less dedication to their wives than the wives have to their husbands. (Kline, Stanley, and Markman, in press)
2. Keeping the commitment
“Till death do us part” can sound so romantic – but it can also sound deadly. Regardless of whether one marries in a secular or religious ceremony most couples still believe that they are making a permanent commitment. Of course we all know that the divorce rate is between 40 – 50%, but most couples who marry don’t think it will happen to them.
What happens between the solemn pronouncement of wedding vows and the decision to divorce? This is not a “one size fits all” situation. Certainly some couples made the decision to marry too young, too impetuously, too naively. Others were not psychologically mature enough to “forsake all others” or had other character flaws that were overlooked or not evident during courtship. Still others just got bored or tired of trying to make it work. Still others earnestly worked and gave their all to the marriage but their partner decided he or she wanted out. One can’t be married to an absent spouse.
Some spouses have no choice but to leave for their own safety or because their spouse won’t work on the marriage. But research (Waite and Gallagher, 2000) shows that many marriages could be revived if the commitment is strong. Waite and Gallagher surveyed a large national sample of unhappily married couples and found that after five years, three fifths of the formerly unhappy couples reported that they were very happy or quite happy. Sometimes it is simply the commitment to each other that carries a couple through the harder times, along with generous doses of time, counseling, effort, luck, and faith.
The Marriage Encounter movement has a motto: Love is a decision. It reminds couples that as wonderful as the feeling of love is, it is not sufficient for a marriage. At some point (actually many points) husband and wife need to decide to love – even when they don’t feel like it. Acting on this decision by doing loving things for your spouse, speaking kindly and respectfully, and deciding over and over to pay attention to the relationship makes love rekindle.
Couples who understand the essence of making a permanent commitment realize that it’s much more than just a decision not to divorce. It’s a commitment to do the daily work of keeping the commitment alive. It may mean turning off the TV or taking a nightly walk in order to listen to each other’s concerns. These simple actions, and many more, are the stuff of commitment. They are the actions that keep a marriage vibrant, interesting, and exciting so that temptations to make another choice don’t erupt. Although marriage as a permanent commitment is not restricted to people of faith, Christians might reflect on the scripture to, “take up your cross every day and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Every day we recommit to follow our beloved and vice-versa.
Do you ever wonder if you’ll get out from under the shadow of past relationships? It’s not uncommon for people who are divorced or breaking up with a significant other to find themselves attracted to the same or similar types of partners.
But as you grow and learn about yourself, it’s important to look at the choices you make in romantic partners and to see what lessons can be learned from your experiences.
Becoming more aware of red flags that may signal problems can also help you to pick partners who are capable of sustaining a loving, romantic relationship. The key to healing from the past is to make a decision to stop pouring your energies into saving a negative relationship. If you believe you are worthy of love and happiness, you won’t settle for less than you deserve in relationships.
Carolyn, an attractive and intelligent single mom in her early 40’s, finds herself repeating negative patterns from her past. She tends to fall for men who are emotionally distant like her father who left when she was seven years old. Carolyn reflects: “I just keep wasting time with the same types of men, men who hurt me, who are unfaithful and leave me alone.” Her comments mirror the sentiments of many of my clients who just can’t seem to break away from the emotional attachment they feel to unavailable or inappropriate partners.
Do you worry that you will make the same mistakes over and over again? Moving out of denial and the influences of the past is a huge hurdle. But you have an opportunity to learn from your experience and build the kind of relationship that eluded you in the past.
Here are 11 ways to avoid making the same relationships mistakes:
Gain awareness of your own history – dating back to childhood.
For instance, if you are a people pleaser you may be drawn to partners who you attempt to fix or repair. Learn more about how your parents’ unhealthy patterns have impacted your choices in partners.
Accept your part in the dynamic.
For instance, if you’ve experienced a pursuer-distancer pattern, you may realize that you have a tendency to avoid intimacy (distancer) or fear abandonment (pursuer). It’s natural for one person to see their style as preferred and to be convinced that their partner needs to change – neglecting to see their part in the tug-of-war over intimacy.
Examine your expectations about intimate relationships.
You might be focused on your dream of how a relationship should be rather than the reality of how it is – leading to disappointment. There is no such thing as a soul mate or perfect partner.
Let go of being a victim and positive things will start to happen.
When you see yourself as a victim, your actions will confirm a negative view of yourself. Instead, focus on the strengths that helped you cope so far in life. Don’t obsess about past choices in partners but learn from them.
Don’t rush into a romantic relationship.
Make sure you’ve dated someone for at least two years and are at least in your late 20s before you make a life-long commitment to reduce your chance of divorce.
Make sure that you have common values with individuals who you date.
If you marry someone with drastically different values, you will face complex issues that could put you more at risk for divorce.
Try not to compare your relationship to your friends.
Relationship envy or fear of being alone can cause you to stay with an unacceptable partner or to settle for someone who isn’t a good match for you.
Stop comparing your own romantic relationships to your parents.
Attempt to see yourself as capable of learning from the past, rather than repeating it.
Use positive intentions.
Such as “I am capable of creating loving, trusting relationships.” Recognize the newness in each day and that you have the power to make positive things happen.
Focus on the things that you can control.
Realize that you can’t control your ex’s behavior or your parents but you can choose a life partner who shares your view of love, fidelity, and commitment.
Write a new narrative or story.
For your life– one that includes taking your time picking partners who are trustworthy and willing to work on a committed relationship if that’s your desire.
There are many reasons why adults get stuck in the past and have difficulty establishing healthy relationships in the present. You might find yourself in relationship patterns that mirror your family of origin. It’s understandable to repeat patterns that you observed in your childhood home.
Another factor may be what Freud referred to as repetition compulsion. This is a tendency that people have to repeat patterns from the past as a way to gain mastery over them. In either case, becoming more aware of the unhealthy relationship patterns can be a good first step.
Beth, an energetic woman in her late thirties, spent over two decades struggling with ghosts from the past and experiencing turmoil in romantic relationships. Because she had little insight into her past, she found herself reenacting the painful memories of her parent’s marriage and subsequent breakup. Beth’s parents split when she was nine years old when her mother discovered that her father had been cheating on her for years.
During young adulthood, Beth struggled through a series of unhealthy, short-term relationships until she met her fiancé’, Rick, at age thirty-six. Prior to meeting Rick, she hadn’t experienced a healthy relationship. She admits to sabotaging her relationships by being mistrustful and controlling. As Beth describes her issue with trust, she says, “Trust and communication are major difficulties for me.
I tend to hold everything in and then blow up. It takes a lot to gain my trust and if it’s broken, there’s a possibility it may not be earned back.” Fortunately, Rick has earned Beth’s trust by being consistent with his words and actions over a period of several years. Beth is working on her fear of being vulnerable and not holding in her feelings with Rick – allowing them to reach a deeper level of intimacy.
For nearly over a decade, Beth avoided making a commitment because she was mistrustful and fearful of ending up like her parents. Like many daughters of divorce, she needed special permission to grieve the loss of her original family. With support from a seasoned therapist, Beth gained the insight to break her self-defeating pattern of mistrust and fear of commitment.
The benefits of not rushing into a romantic relationship have paid off for Beth because she and Rick have built trust gradually; have a better friendship, fewer disagreements, and less disappointment.
With time and patience, you can begin to visualize the kind of life you need to thrive. You don’t have to let your past dictate the decisions you make today. Restoring your faith in love includes building relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy. Remember to be gentle with yourself and others on your journey.