If you sense your relationship or marriage is in trouble, you can recognize these signposts.
Of course marriages can fail for many reasons. Over 40 years of marriage counseling I have heard the following steps to marital disintegration over and over again. Most couples can remember exciting times when they first met. They can tell you why of all the eligible individuals of the opposite sex, they chose their mate.
Let me describe the basic transitions that lead to a marriage falling apart.
1. In the first phase the two of you were “in love” and your brains were bathed in cocaine like endorphins. Your heart beat faster as you came in contact. You felt like you had known each other forever. You could talk all night.
Most importantly, you could work around your differences easily. They seemed like quirks that were just charming. The good feelings of just being together far outweighed any negative energy that got kicked up.
2. Over time the two of you turned your attention to things that had become significant to your long term plan. (See Dr. Walkup's 14 Exercises for Building Your Relationship). Your careers may have taken over most of your discretionary time. When you met at night you were too tired to catch up, much less make love.
3. In the next phase no doubt you had other pressures arise as well. For most couples, the blessed arrival of children also sends the satisfaction level of the marriage downhill. The time for loving and touching gets spent on the little ones who need it and who give so freely. One of your relatives may have become quite ill. You may have lost your job.
4. At this point you may remember that you let slip by the board those promises to have at least one night out alone together a week. (See 7 Marriage Saving Resolutions), Vacations and getaways centered on the children or seeing your parents. All of this seemed so natural and normal.
5. But slowly you found yourselves drifting apart. You hardly noticed that you were going to bed at different times and that you felt more irritable at each other. Your differences now seem like reasons that you should not have gotten married. You blamed it on the work schedules and just keeping up with the children’s needs.
6. Eventually one of you begins to imagine that the other simply does not care. Each turn down of a request to talk, to have sex, to go out leads to a sense that maybe your partner does not get you anymore or even more devastatingly doesn’t care anymore.
7. Now you may be reading this article because you have awakened to this downward spiral and know something needs to change. Please feel free to give me a call in the New York City or Westchester area at 914 548 8645.
8. Perhaps, however, there has been one further step of progression that has proven even more disturbing. One of you may have turned to someone else to deal with the loneliness or sense that the other didn’t care. Whether or not this has turned into an emotional or a sexual extramarital affair, the other of you will feel as if you have been cheated upon, i.e. something that you felt was promised to you as been given to someone else. The betrayal feels like an unbelievable kick in the stomach.
Let me just say at this point, that while this pattern has become very, very common in our society, you do not have to see this as the last stage of the marriage. You can take the next step to save your marriage. (Five Steps to Rebuilding Meaningful Closeness).
Many, many couples who reach this point come to the realization that they want to stay together for the children, because of their vows, or because they know deep down they still love each other.
Seek marriage or relationship counseling as soon as you can. Finding new tools and skills to communicate your needs without blame or causing defensiveness can save your marriage. You don’t have to decide at this moment whether your marriage can make it. You only have to decide whether you are willing to spend time, energy and money to recover your love for each other.
Give me a call at 914 548 8645 if you are in the New York City or Westchester Area. Otherwise you can find a Marriage Counselor at The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.