Relationships can be a challenge. The top reasons given for relationship failures are communication, money, and sex. While those three reasons may play a role, they are not the primary causes for relationship failures.
RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE A CHALLENGE
Almost every couple that comes into my counseling office state that their number one problem is that they don’t communicate. When I ask them to clarify what that means and to give examples, what we find is that they do communicate. The problem is that their communication is inefficient, and they fail in the listening part of the exchange. They get caught up in the “who is right” mode and respond in terms of “I,” keeping the ego on the defensive. Rather than genuinely listening to each other speak, they plan their response for when the other stops talking. Essentially what they are communicating to each other is, “you aren’t important enough for me to listen to you, I know better, and you should be listening to me instead”. They are also communicating that, in their relationship, “I” is more important than “We. “
Money issues are also a common problem in marriages. I find it interesting that those who have very little tend to have fewer problems than those who have much more. Most couples claim they were happier when they lived in a small studio apartment, sleeping on the floor, and using crates as furniture. Again, money isn’t the real issue. The real problem is not having shared values in regards to the making and spending of money. Once they start earning a decent living, many couples do not openly discuss incoming and outgoing finances; they usually don’t have a budget and often hide spending from each other. Honesty is fundamental, as is living within your means. Often this requires some compromise and understanding in common values regarding money.
Sexual issues often get blamed for causing a marriage to suffer, but in reality, sex is usually not the real issue. From a physiological standpoint, poor nutrition (junk food, soda, sugars), lack of exercise, obesity, and medical problems can affect your sex life and should be addressed with your doctor. Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, porn addiction, and drug use, can also play a role in sexual difficulties. Once the physical and mental health issues are eliminated, the next step is learning how to create intimacy and love with your partner. Many people, especially women, require intimacy before sex. Without intimacy and love in a relationship, sex loses its value.
While communication, money, and sex are factors in relationship failures, the leading cause is neglect. After the honeymoon phase is over and real-life sets in, couples start taking for granted what made their relationship work in the beginning. Typically between 2-5 years, a couple will stop going on regular dates. If they continue date night, it is usually for dinner (too tired to go home and cook), a movie, or a chance to talk about the kids, work, or problems. They stop growing and learning as a couple. They tend to stop doing the little things that brought them together in the first place. They don’t do the maintenance required to keep the relationship healthy.
If you haven’t been doing the daily maintenance on your marriage and find that your relationship has been neglected, there is still hope. Like a house that hasn’t been maintained, you can usually do some remodeling, a little paint, new flooring, and a good cleaning to get it back into shape. Here are five steps you can take to fix and renew your relationship. With a little dedication and action, you can have the relationship that you desire.
As a couple, make a conscious decision to make the relationship a priority in your life. This can be done by deciding on what your core values are as a couple, making a mission statement about your purpose as a couple, and then living your values. This means that you push away anything or anyone that comes into your life that is not a part of your core values. You invite into your life those things and people that support your values and mission. You decide that your relationship is most important and comes first.
Learn and practice how to communicate effectively. Get rid of the ego and focus on the “we” of the relationship. It is not about who is right; it is about finding solutions that work. This often requires compromise. When criticism, defensiveness, and pulling away are a part of your communication patterns, you probably will want to seek a therapist that can help you be more effective in your communication.
Start doing the things you did while you were dating, like writing love notes, opening doors, giving flowers, showing appreciation, taking walks, being silly, etc. One key to long-term relationships is to never stop the honeymoon. Don’t be complacent. Love is a verb; keep it alive.
Keep growing and learning together. While doing relationship workshops, I noticed that there was always at least one couple that had it all together. They were always married for 20+ years and appeared to be very much in love. I would ask them why they came to the workshop seeing that they were happily married. They answered that they decided always to be growing. They made it a point to do something every three months that made their marriage stronger. They would maintain their relationship by attending workshops, retreats, counseling check-ups, and making their relationship the number one priority.
Be consistent. One of the main reasons couples counseling fails is that they are not consistent with the homework or the therapy. On average, it takes six months to make lasting changes. Being consistent and persistent in your dedication to improve your relationship plays a huge part in making long-term changes that work.
Relationships can be a challenge, especially if you fall into the trap of neglecting your marriage. Like a poorly maintained house, you can do some work and make it function and shine again. If the problems are more significant than your expertise, call in a specialist to help you navigate and repair your relationship. Knowing and living your values, learning to communicate effectively, doing the little things, continually growing, and being consistent are steps that will help you create the relationship you want.
©Daniel Roberts is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist,
and author in Tallahassee, Florida. www.Enrichment-Services.com
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