Believe it or not newlyweds can have issues from the start of their marriage. Starting off on the wrong martial track can negatively impact the marriage unless those issues get resolved. To help understand common issues that newlyweds face soon after getting married and what they can do to resolve those issues, I have interviewed therapist Yoshimi Enger, LMFT.
Tell me a little bit about yourself
“Every day I get to do what I love; that is to listen to people’s problems. As a Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Mission Viejo, California, I sometimes am asked if it’s hard to listen to people’s problems all day long. They often follow that up with, ‘I could never do what you do.’ For me, it is incredibly rewarding and adds such depth to my life. Though I’m a marriage and family therapist, I work quite a bit with individuals one on one. For the last 12 years, I have provided counseling to people struggling with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, low self esteem, communication issues, couple’s conflicts, substance abuse, parenting, loss and many more issues. Currently, the age range of my clients is teens to adults. I have also worked as a contract worker for an adoption agency for the past six years and in the past year have begun to work with an agency that provides counseling to those on federal probation.”
What are common issues that newlyweds face soon after getting married?
1. “View marriage as a contract.
When we get married, we can easily view our relationship as a contractual agreement where the other spouse must fulfill a set of spoken and unspoken expectations. After a while, every action is placed on a mental ledger, keeping track of what each person has or has not contributed. If those expectations are not met, one can feel frustrated, angry and resentful. Suddenly, feelings of love begin to wane and are replaced with blame and criticism.”
2. “Lack of emotional intimacy.
Couples are failing to be emotionally intimate. As marriage moves from the ‘Honeymoon stage’ to the routine, we can easily slip into filling our lives with distractions (such as using marijuana or alcohol, spending time on the computer, playing sports many nights a week), which inevitably distances us from our spouse and damages our ability to be emotionally intimate. This is a habit that starts innocently enough. We use the excuse of unwinding after a long day or dealing with typical daily stresses to drop out from our responsibility to be emotionally available to our spouse. A lack of daily connection erodes the strength of a marriage and over time can cause two people to become strangers.”
3. “Fail to set clear boundaries with families of origin.
I have seen too many marriages crumble because a spouse has taken his/her family’s side or isn’t ready to let go of them.”
What can a newlywed do to resolve these issues?
1. “First, you may need to change the way you view your marriage. As discussed before, marriage is often viewed as a contract, though it is not a contract at all. It isn’t even a 50/50 proposition. It’s a 100/100 proposition. Each person should bring 100% of their best in talents, gifts and selves into their marriage. There is no holding back. So, if your spouse gets sick and you are required to put up about 90% of the effort in the marriage for a season of your marriage, then that’s what you should do. One example, in which bringing 100% of yourself is more obviously evident, is if you have children. If something should happen to your spouse, you are 100% your child’s parent. You cannot say that mommy or daddy is better at bath time, so you won’t do it. That is not an option. In addition, rather than holding on to rigid roles or modeling your marriage after someone else’s, you’ll want to bring your unique gifts into the marriage. If the husband is an excellent cook and the wife is a better mechanic, then by all means do those things. Try to envision yourselves pooling your resources into the marriage.”
2. “Emotional intimacy is a tough one. In a world where texting and avatars are the proxies by which we communicate with each other, the art of true connection is becoming lost. However in marriage, emotional intimacy is absolutely necessary. My suggestion is that you create traditions to keep you connected each day. I once knew of an older couple who told me that every night for a few years, they had been setting aside time to talk about their day over a cup of tea and fruit. They would shut the door to their room, so as to not be disturbed by their teenagers. Though they would be made fun of by their teenagers, they relished their time together. Some couples make sure that they show their spouse affection with a kiss or an “I love you” before they leave the home and when they return. You and your spouse will have to find what works best for you.”
3. “So, how do you set boundaries with your family? Well, perhaps you’ve heard of the term, “leave and cleave.” That is, leave your parents’ house and cleave to your new family. That means that you and your spouse are now your first priority. Your parents, siblings and friends are secondary. This may be especially difficult for your parents, who may feel shut out and not ready to stop giving you well meaning advice. It certainly takes courage and a willingness to not be liked by your family or friends at times. However, it is part of becoming your own person as an adult. Becoming a united team is essential for the survival of your marriage. So when your mother tries to guilt you into spending Christmas day with her, tell her you have to consult with your husband about it. That doesn’t mean that you and your spouse will always agree on things and that others won’t have good advice to give you to take into consideration. The ultimate decision will be yours and your spouse’s and you will have to take his/her side.”
As a therapist how do you help a newlywed resolve their issues?
“The first thing I do is to make sure that they have adequate listening skills. Surprisingly, about 70% of the people that I encounter are lousy listeners. They are often thinking about what they want to say next, rather than listening to the person in front of them. When I ask them to repeat what their spouse said, they are often missing large portions of what was said. A good listener can repeat what they heard almost verbatim.”
“I also provide a safe environment by setting the pace of the interactions so that they are in manageable bites and by promptly intervening when things get heated. My ultimate goal is to help the couple to get to a point where they can discuss and resolve any issue without my help.”
What should a newlywed do to help prevent having to deal with these issues in the first place?
“Have a plan to succeed. Invest in your marriage, much like you would invest time, energy and money into your education or your retirement account. It has to be as regular and predictable as those things.”
What last advice do you have for a newlywed who is having issues in their marriage?
“Prevent infidelity. Make a pact with your spouse that you will immediately share with the other person, should you begin to develop feelings for someone else. This agreement can provide much needed accountability and the two of you can work on what’s missing in the marriage right away.”
“Find a good therapist. Even a few sessions can be very helpful. Those issues won’t magically disappear and you could save yourself a lot of anguish and pain by dealing with it early. Many people contend that counseling can be expensive, but is divorce cheap? How about the cost in time and energy repeating the same fights over and over again? There are a few different ways to go about finding a therapist. The first is to get a recommendation from someone who has gone. The second is to go online to websites that have a number of therapists with profiles, such as www.networktherapy.com or www.goodtherapy.org.”
Thank you Yoshimi for the interview on resolving newlywed issues. If you would like more information on Yoshimi Enger you can check out her website on www.prayingcounselor.com.
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