"I think I have to get a divorce" Courtney confided shakily to her dad. Six months before, with her parents support, this intelligent and successful 25-year-old young woman had married the man of her dreams.
Her dad just wants Courtney to be happy but has no idea whether to encourage her to stay and try to work things out or to help her get out of her marriage as quickly and painlessly as possible.
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In my 40+ years as a relationship counselor I see smart people like Courtney totally frustrated because their marriages are not fulfilling their expectations. They are often quick to blame themselves or each other for the problems. Often one of them is ready to give up but the other isn't.
Usually their problem lies in having either completely unrealistic expectations of what marriage will be like and/or very limited skill in interpersonal relationships. Sometimes they don't even know that there are ways to learn about this once lifelong commitment they have made and are so ready to abandon.
What about you? Are you frustrated because your marriage isn’t turning out the way you expected it to?
Do You Need a Relationship GPS?
Probably you would not think of going to unfamiliar destination across town without a GPS a smart phone or a least a Google map. Getting guidance to navigate geography is a given. What about guidance to navigate a relationship?
One reason not to look for guidance is because you believe that you don’t need it.
You may think you've learned everything you need to know about relationships already – just by growing up in a happy family. If you watched your own parents have a successful relationship you probably never realized that there are many things good parents never mention let alone discuss in front of their children.
Or you may think that their arguments and put downs were normal and that’s the way to manage any relationship.
If you didn’t like what you saw in your parents’ marriage you may be certain that you’ll act differently. You are sure that you know what you're doing and bad things will never happen to you. You already know that you will never, ever say those words to your husband or to your children. (Famous last words!)
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Of course it's hard to know who you can trust to tell you what you need to know about creating a successful relationship or marriage. Who is the authority with a map that will help you create the relationship you want? What relationship is that anyhow?
Many useful books and programs will teach you how to repair a damaged relationship. There are fewer resources that fill the need for a GPS that will steer a new relationship onto healthy ground. Churches that insist on premarital counseling have the right idea. High school courses that counter their romantic drivel of the media and the backstabbing of reality shows also help.