Phone: (510) 428-0111
The divorce rate in the United States is over 50% for first marriages, and for 2nd and 3rd marriages the rate is even higher. A recent Gallup poll found that 57% of people who divorced said that they did so because of incompatibility and arguments concerning money, family issues, or children.
Why couples lose love and affection for one another,
develop conflict &
The honeymoon phase
Often, couples are brought together by a strong physical attraction and the excitement that each partner finds the other desirable. There is a tendency early in a relationship to spend a lot of time together engaging in mutually interesting activities, emotional bonding, and sexual activitiy. During this time, any differences between partners are usually brushed under the rug, and there is a certain amount of idealization of one another.
After the glow
When this early period in a relationship comes to an end, partners begin to see each other's faults and the differences between them, and they often begin to experience conflict. Many people think that if their partner is not perfect or does not always make them feel special or happy, that the relationship is not right. However, marriage is a union of two individuals who have unique viewpoints, past experiences, and values, and conflict is a normal part of any relationship. If a couple's bond is not strong enough, many couples become alienated, have affairs, or break apart at this point.
Children & conflict
Early in a marriage, having a child can be a great source of joy for a couple, but it can also be a source of significant conflict. After the birth of a child, it is common for a man to feel as if he is being dropped from first to second priority for his wife. At the same time, it is typical for a woman's body to change, for her to be tired much of the time, and for her to have a decreased interest in sex, all of which may be difficult for the husband. For the wife, there may be a feeling that the husband is selfish in not understanding her desire to focus more on the new baby. In addition, she may feel that her husband fails to appreciate the difficult and all consuming nature of child rearing, and she may feel that he is not helping out as much as she would like. If these issues are not discussed and resolved, conflict and alienation can result.
Keys to creating a successful long-term relationship
Building a lasting relationship
If a couple stays together beyond the honeymoon phase, this is when a relationship really begins. A couple is forced to start looking at each other more realistically, to accept personal differences, and to negotiate conflicts in a way that will lead to compromises rather than acrimony. A good relationship is never perfect, but requires a lifelong commitment to balancing the good with the bad, communicating, working through differences, and finding a deeper source of attraction than the physical attraction that first brought the couple together.
It is important for couples to have respect for one another, to be honest and trustworthy, to express appreciation, and to show love through physical and emotional intimacy. It is also important for couples to balance time spent together and apart- a relationship can be stronger if each partner has time for exercise, friends, and hobbies outside the relationship. Another essential ingredient for a lasting relationship is equality and sharing of power. Both partners must perceive that they are respected and honored as equal partners and decision makers in the relationship.
Often, after courtship and marriage, couples fail to spend as much time with each other or engage in the activities that inspired closeness between them when they first met. Marital closeness can be renewed by partners taking the time to talk with each other and engaging in mutually enjoyable activities. Doing nice things for one another, complimenting each other, and leaving small reminders that one's partner is special can also increase feelings of closeness.
An important building block for resolving conflict and restoring trust is for each partner to acknowledge any feelings of unresolved anger or resentment that they have. In addition, partners need to express to one another that they genuinely care about the relationship and are willing to work at restoring closeness and at forgiving each other for ways in which they have hurt each other. It is often the case, however, that couples do not have the skills necessary to communicate more effectively. The couple needs to learn how to better communicate and listen to each other's thoughts, feelings and desires.
Marital Conflict can be successfully treated in psychotherapy under the care of a qualified Psychologist.
Conflict styles to avoid
First and foremost, it is crucial for couples to learn to avoid behaviors that are counterproductive such as interrupting, exaggerating, using sarcasm, giving ultimatums, making personal attacks, yelling, or giving the silent treatment. It is also essential for couples not to dig up the past and use intimate knowledge of each other to hurt one another. Additionally, partners should not assume that they know each other's thoughts or feelings or tell each other how to feel. It is also important to avoid fighting in public or attempting to embarrass one another.
Positive approaches to conflict
Timing is crucial when it comes to conflict resolution. It is important for couples to talk about a conflict when both partners are calm. If either partner is angry or upset, he or she can take a time out, and the couple can agree to a time within 24 hours when they will discuss their conflict. It is important to identify one conflict at a time and to stick with it until a resolution is reached. Each partner should express their feelings about the issue with clarity and respect and must not blame their partner for how they feel. It is equally important for each partner to fully hear the other person's feelings before responding. It can be helpful to reflect back to one another what each person hears their partner to be saying and requesting. Then, a couple should generate mutually satisfying solutions and negotiate an agreement along with actions that both partners will take. Finally, after both partners have had time to follow through with the plan, the couple should evaluate whether the solution is effective and make changes if necessary.
Sexuality & Romance
When one or both partners feel romantically or sexually starved in their relationship, the couple will naturally grow apart. In fact, one reason that affairs tend to occur is that an individual no longer feels special to their partner and feels a lack of attention and affirmation in the relationship. Romantic interest must be kept alive in a marriage in order for a love relationship to prosper. Regularly giving physical affection to one's partner is important. Giving an unexpected kiss or a gift can help keep the romance alive. Sexual intimacy is also one of the primary ways married couples express their affection for one another. Loving behaviors such as these can help rekindle a couple's love.
Noah Oderberg, Ph.D.
5435 College Avenue, Suite #201
Oakland, California 94618
Phone: (510) 428-0111