It’s unfortunate but many marriages do fail and the divorced couple is often wondering what went wrong with the relationship. To help understand what common mistakes married couples make that lead them to divorce and what a couple can do to make marriage work, I have interviewed marital therapist Frieda Ling LMFT.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Play Therapist specializing in relational repair at all stages of life, with expertise in attachment, interracial marriage, international adoption, and court-ordered reunification. Trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy, Theraplay, EMDR, and cognitive therapy, I am passionate about helping children and adults heal attachment wounds and attain a secure attachment style to achieve lasting relational success.”
What are common mistakes that married couples make that lead them to divorce?
“Marrying for the wrong reason, often to get away from problems in their family of origin: All that achieves is dragging old problems and transplanting them in a new environment where they continue to fest. Marriage will not resolve existing personal/family problems; unresolved personal/family problems can destroy marriages.”
“Entertaining unrealistic fantasies about marriage, believing that a couple should and will “live happily ever after,” thereby getting shocked, discouraged, and disillusioned when problems arise ‘” usually no later than immediately after the honeymoon.”
“Not accepting the other as he / she is and wishfully thinking the other will change after marriage.”
“Having the misconception that happily married couples do not have problems and therefore encountering problems or any difference in opinion must be problematic and good reasons for divorce. Research shows that a major difference between happily married couples and unhappily married or divorced couples is this: one knows how to resolve problems and the other does not.”
“Emotional immaturity leading to an emotional disconnect, depriving the couple of the most important factor for success in a marriage.”
“Pointing the finger at the other, using unloving languages (criticism, complaint, condemnation, and control) that disengage and distance the two rather than drawing them closer for support and comfort.”
“Failure to learn proper anger release for themselves, thereby unintentionally but inevitably landing their anger on the ones they love the most, damaging and eventually destroying the relationship.”
What can a married couple do if they have a heated dispute that just doesn’t resolve?
“It helps to understand that the cortex and the limbic systems, i.e., the thinking and feeling parts of the brain, are never in competition and do not work at the same time. That means, when our emotions are high, we cannot think, and even we reach some kind of a truce, we most probably will regret or recant our decision afterward, worsening the situation.
Couples can benefit from three steps when in conflict:
1. Each partner must allow him/herself and the other to cool off individually by venting the anger in a pre-determined, safe, appropriate way. A useful rule to remember is this: “One must let out one’s anger appropriately and timely without hurting others, oneself, any animal, or any thing anyone wants.”
2. When both have cooled down and are capable of thinking rationally, the couple must come together, communicate own feelings, really listen to the other, and re-visit the problem to find a durable solution. (Unless this is done, conflict will recur and worsen.)
3. Follow the agreement, monitor the situation, support and affirm each other to enhance the relationship.”
What last advice would you like to leave for a couple who wants to make their marriage work?
“No couple can boast that they have got it all. There are so many things to know, learn, and do.
To name a basic few:
1. Reflect on your own life, resolve your own past, find weaknesses to improve on, strengths to enforce, and be the best you can for yourself and your loved one. This will include knowing and undoing your defense mechanism, discard your own distorted thinking, and strive for the secure attachment style.
2. Learn and practice communication skills. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s Compassionate Communication model is the one I would highly recommend. Even though it may sound “artificial” to begin with, it works wonders.
3. Learn your own and your loved one’s Love Languages and express your love to them in a way they can understand.
4. Never take your loved one for granted. Maximize positive noticing and show appreciation.
5. Point out areas they need to work on in a kind, respective, assertive way. Be their helpers, not enablers.
6. The marital relationship is like a plant. It will flourish if tended and wither and die if neglected. Nurture your relationship to keep it growing.”
Let me conclude with my favorite quotation:
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.”
– Mignon McLaughlin
Thank you Frieda for doing the interview on how to make marriage work. For more information on Frieda Ling or her work you can contact her at 623 414-1721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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