Marriage troubles? Get help, and stop beating yourselves up!


The most glaring truth about marital conflict is that couples don't have 1000 arguments, they have the same argument 1000 times. Or that's where any conflict goes back to, the same big wound. I'll call it "The Issue." How's that working out, rehashing that over and over?

Probably, "The Issue" needs marriage therapy. But that takes time. You aren't going to solve that issue in your first session, and as a result, it is still going to be unproductive to rehash it. Doing so will undermine any progress made in therapy, and will make therapy seem shallow and insignificant. In actuality, it is freeing to lay The Issue aside temporarily, and leave it for your therapy sessions.

Often, The Issue is built on a foundation of seemingly less important, or even unexpressed, conflicts. Maybe an affair, sex, or finances brought you to therapy. But quite often, the solution has just as much, or more, to do with things like family-of-origin issues, barriers to trust, low-boiling resentments, or even trauma in childhood.

So what do you do between sessions while The Issue gets taken care of in therapy? Well, something similar. I help my clients understand that their marriage could be better on any number of levels. I help couples develop solutions for smaller issues, which can give immediate relief, smaller issues they can work on themselves without falling apart. This feeling of working together, and being able to have faith that The Issue is not being ignored, is empowering. And I would mention again that sometimes the big problem is undergirded, or even given power, by those smaller things.

Committing to marriage therapy can be like hitting the ejection seat in an airplane that is going down in flames. You're definitely not safely on the ground, but think of it this way--you just worked together to solve a major problem, agreeing to take 100% ownership on both sides to address The Issue. It's a parachute. Feel good about that.

Some people think that divorce will be like opening a parachute. But very soon it feels like going down in that doomed plane, full of fear and despair. Instead, please talk it over together, and (sooner rather than later) pull the ejection seat handle by picking up the phone and finding a good marriage therapist.