No two divorces are exactly the same – but the arguments that lead to a split are remarkably similar, marriage counselors say.
Here are 5 common arguments that couples therapists frequently hear about, along with their best advice for easing the tensions that can break a relationship for good.
- YOU DON’T APPRECIATE ME
This statement is part of a typical yet troublesome path for couples. You fall in love, build a life together, then proceed to get way too comfortable and take everything for granted.
Couples therapists say that being secure and comfortable in your relationship is positive – up to a point. But partners can misconstrue this to mean that love, attention, and caring has somehow declined.
You can avoid this trap by staying away from assumptions about what your partner is thinking or feeling. For example, if you haven’t made love much lately, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that your partner no longer desires you. Similarly, if your spouse rarely says “thank you” for all the big and little things you do, don’t assume s/he is not grateful. Consider this an opportunity to talk about your impressions and feelings. You will likely find that your partner is worried, too, and this opens the door for you to take positive action.
- OUR SEX LIFE IS DEAD
Divorce-bound couples often cite sex — or lack of sex — as a prime reason for their unhappiness.
Because women’s sexual needs are more complex, the male in a heterosexual marriage is often the one to express frustration. Maybe he’s not helping her get into the mood, or hasn’t been emotionally available and responsive, which damages the foundation of personal intimacy we all need to experience good sex. The same patterns can show up in same-sex partnerships, with one or both partners feeling a lack of passion and caring from the other.
In fact, anytime that committed partners find each other to be distant, critical, overly tired or otherwise disconnected, sexual problems can arise. The best solution is to get busy talking about your non-bedroom problems. Couples who talk through these issues will see that sexual disinterest is a symptom of larger issues that can be solved.
- YOU’VE TURNED THE KIDS AGAINST ME
Couples whose marriages are on the brink are often unashamed to drag others into their conflicts. This includes turning the kids and sometimes, other family members into battering rams in long-running arguments.
Marriage therapists say they often see couples blame and name-call in front of their children, to the point where one or more kids develop physical symptoms from the stress of it all. These couples are trying to turn their children into allies instead of settling their differences in a positive, adult manner.
Whether you stay married or split, your goal should be to raise happy and healthy kids, which means leaving them out of your arguments, couples therapists say. Recognize that the best gift you can give your children is a positive example of how responsible adults work and live. Marriage counseling can help you untangle any problem spots with the kids and find constructive ways to work out your differences as a couple.
- WE AREN’T EVEN FIGHTING ABOUT THE SAME THING ANYMORE
You know things are bad when you can’t even agree on what the core issues behind the conflict really are. Some marriage counselors say that when couples describe a fight, it’s hard to believe they were even in the same room when it happened.
This level of miscommunication often reflects a deeper problem: one or both partners’ unwillingness or inability to understand the perspective of the other. Learning to listen openly and empathize with your loved one’s thoughts, observations and needs is the starting point for positive change.
- WE JUST CAN’T TALK TO EACH OTHER ANYMORE
Couples whose marriages are in trouble almost always cite communication as a painful issue. They stop being transparent, start making assumptions and fall into the habit of hiding things – all leading to anger, mistrust, and greater conflict.
When communication breaks down, one or both partners may think divorce is the only option. But with the support of an experienced marriage counselor, many couples can gradually restore feelings of openness and trust. Being willing to try, and agreeing to do the work together, is the powerful first step.
READY TO CREATE CHANGE IN YOUR MARRIAGE? JANAE MUNDAY CAN HELP
If these 5 forms of conflict have made their way into your marriage, don’t panic. With the right support, you can turn toward one another again – and recreate the love and trust you once enjoyed.
As a professional couples therapist with decades of experience, Janae Munday, LCSW, has helped hundreds of Phoenix-area couples build stronger, more loving relationships. To schedule a confidential appointment, contact Janae now.