I UNDERSTAND MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIPS
I have learned and continue to learn how a long-term marriage is created. I studied marriage relationships specifically for 4 years as a returning student with almost 30 years of marriage experience (43 years in 2015). Happy and satisfying marriages do not just happen by chance or luck, but by each spouse’s intentional desire and ability to both seek and experience pleasure together AND to solve problems together. There are many variables that influence the experience of pleasure and problem solving in marriage. Mutually satisfying and rewarding marriages do not exist independent of the way two people interact with each other, whether in pleasure or in problem solving.
MARITAL ISSUES ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT
Having fun is one way to experience pleasure. But pleasure can also be experienced when marital issues and problems are successfully resolved. Dan Wile, a respected therapist, author, and lecturer in Oakland, California states: “When you choose a partner, you’re choosing a particular set of problems. And if you choose a different partner, you’re choosing a different set of problems.” In essence, Wile is saying, “Choose a partner you’re willing to learn how to solve problems with.” When problem solving becomes like being in a squirrel cage, couples are competing for affirmation of their wants and needs. There is usually an underlying unmet need or want that is making it very difficult if not impossible to talk to and understand each other. The ideal marriage is really one in which spouses work hard to understand each others’ differences, accept those differences, and make sincere and concerted effort to prioritize the needs of the marriage relationship. The ideal marriage is not problem free, but it doesn’t feel like a competition to be heard and understood when trying to solve problems together. I incorporate many of the principles of Susan Johnson’s EFT model of couple and marital therapy, which suggests that when a spouse, male or female, believes their partner understands and affirms their point of view, and then demonstrates that understanding and affirmation through words and actions, connection is likely to increase. In that way, problems create opportunities for connection.
MY EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN MARITAL THERAPY
Aside from my life experience in a long term marriage, I am fortunate to have received my education, training, and supervision as a therapist from William A. Griffin, Ph.D., who did a 3 year postdoctoral fellowship with John M. Gottman, Ph.D. Dr. Gottman’s research on marital interaction and marital quality spans over 40 years, and Bill’s over 25. Their many and significant contributions to the marital research literature, based on observational methods, has been invaluable to our understanding the critical importance of interaction to marital quality. This research guides my clinical work with couples. Bill is a good friend, and remains a valued consultation resource for me in my clinical work as a marriage and couples therapist.
COMMON MARITAL ISSUES
• Talking vs communicating
• Time management
• Change of focus
• Emotional infidelity
• Inability or unwillingness to forgive
• Technology interference
• Lack of appreciation
• Responsibility and chore sharing
• Parenting differences
My blog: HOW MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIPS DEVELOP COMMON ISSUES AND PROBLEMS provides some additional description of the above typical issues that couples create, discover, and perpetuate in their relationships. If any of these are issues in your marriage, are creating problems, and you have not been able to resolve them, I can help (See *Therapy That Works for examples).