American Divorce Rates
First, let us discuss what the divorce rates are to get a better understanding of the need for counseling or marriage and family therapy. Did you know that fifty percent of all North American children will witness the divorce of their parents? Almost half of them will, unfortunately, also observe the breakup of a parent's second marriage (Furstenberg and others -Life Course-). Did you also know that 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home According to the U.S. Census Bureau, (Sanders, The Father Absence Crises in America, National Fatherhood Initiative, 2013)? Fifty percent of all the children born to married parents today will experience the divorce of their parents before they are 18-years-old (Fagan, Fitzgerald, Rector, -The Effects of Divorce On America). One final statistic-- did you know that couples without children divorce at a rate of sixty percent compared to forty percent of couples that have children? Some research on divorced couples and counseling shows couples waited typically six to seven years from the point of the martial issues before getting help. By then, in many cases, it is too late to reconcile the differences or one partner has filled for divorce before the other decides that there is a serious issue.
Seven Signs That May Indicate -We Need to Go to Marriage or Relationship Counseling!
1. Are you constantly quarreling? Negative communication includes anything that leaves one partner feeling judged, shamed, disregarded, insecure or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. Negative communication also includes, the tone of conversation, because it is not always what you say, but how you say it. Non-verbal communication is also very important, such as rolling of the eyes, walking away during a conversation, or making disgusted faces as interpreted by the receiver. Often the arguments occur in front of children, which can have long term effects and make the relationship more difficult.
2. Couples frequently argue about finances. Couples who struggle with communication expenditure with spouses find happiness difficult at times. Successful marriages, on the other hand, have mastered the skill of financial harmony in their relationships. Marriage commitment and healthy communications are maintained when couples have set guidelines and boundaries for their financial decisions. Understanding the value that each partner places on money, and respecting that both partners will have equal rights and responsibilities with control of the finances, will strengthen the marriage bond.
3. When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings. What we feel on the inside more often than not shows on the outside. Even if we are able to mask these feelings for a period of time, they will surface eventually as most of us cannot live with harboring negative emotions. Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into hurtful, sometimes harmful behaviors.
4. Affection withheld as punishment. For example, getting angry over small things and then withholding affection as a result. If one partner starts to act as a "parent" or "punisher," starving the other of actual love as a weapon, there is a lack of balance in the relationship. This includes giving the spouse the silent treatment as a method of punishment. We are models to our children and the model we show during arguments is the same the children will model back. This will eventually cause relational issues for children, if they are present in the marriage.
5. You see your partner as "the Enemigo." You and your partner are not adversaries; you're on the same team. If it begins to feel as if you're on different sides, then it's time to seek help. Children want their parents to be happy, and if the parents are on opposing teams, the children get stuck in the middle of the “Lucha Libre wrestling match.”
6. You start keeping secrets. Each person in a relationship has a right to privacy, but when you keep secrets from each other, something isn't right. Go with your gut! Secrets create more problems than one realizes, and they get bigger and bigger with each lie. Eventually, the truth always comes out-- the sooner, the better.
7. When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one has had an affair. Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it an uphill battle that takes years to work through, and it takes a lot of work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But if both individuals are committed to their marriage and the therapeutic process and are being honest, the marriage can be salvaged. Although infidelity is not the number one reason for divorce, it is the one many claim is the most difficult to emotionally deal with as a family and as an individual.
Food For Thought
Most couples do their best to try to fix things in their marriage when things are not going well. The sad news, as you can tell from the divorce rates, that often does not work well. One partner may try to send the other partner who has the problem to counseling without joining in the sessions; this can be problematic because if only one person is working on changing, and the other person does not make any changes, then the long term transformation that is hoped for does not last long. It is very common for one person to be unhappy and the other seemingly clueless that there is any problem at all. They are relatively happy. The relatively happy partner tends to not want to go to counseling and will frequently say things like “If you are unhappy, you should probably get counseling for yourself.” If one person is unhappy in the marriage or relationship, it is a relationship problem. Many times we tend to try to fix things in ways related to our own needs, desires, fears, patterns, past experiences, and those are usually the very things that drive one’s spouse insane.
Everybody has individual issues and patterns, and those do play into any relationship including the martial relationship. So, while those need to be addressed, it is within the context of couple’s counseling that you see how they accidentally get triggered on both sides and how each of you contributes to both the distress and the joy. When there is distress in the marriage, one or both will usually feel some emotional distance. Frequently, although not always, sexual passion diminishes as well. However, sometime one partner will try to increase frequency of sex in an effort to feel connected. No one wants to feel disconnected from the person they want to spend their life with and often, people will busy themselves with work or kids instead, or do other things to either try to feel connected or to avoid being alone with the person with whom they feel the pain of disconnection. It is important to nurture the relationship on a regular basis, which includes going on date nights and staying up later than usual to talk to your spouse about anything.
A common societal mantra is “love is the solution to all our problems.” This is true to a certain extent. Love is essential; however, relationships require love coupled with a commitment to working on maintaining the relationship, and therapy is one method in which couples can work to preserve their relationships whatever the issues are.