Who To Talk To About Marriage Problems: Will Talking About Your Problems Help Save Your Marriage

Talking about your problems may appear to be the most natural thing to do. I have heard many people suggesting that the best way a problem can be solved is by talking about it. The idea behind this belief is that when you speak out your problem, you are unconsciously analyzing the issues behind the problem and this will make you think and understand the issues better. Well, you can't fault this logic.

But the problem with those who suggest that talking about your problems will help save your marriage is that they fail to be specific about how this talking is to be done. It is true that as long as you don't talk about your problems, no one will know about them. If you have a problem with your spouse and if you just keep quiet about it, your spouse may not even be aware that you have a problem. Your spouse may be feeling comfortable with the relationship.

But what will happen if you talk about your problem? If your spouse was not aware of it all along, they will come to know of it and both of you together may find a solution. If your spouse is already aware of the problem, your bringing it out can make things easy for them to thrash it out. On the other hand, your spouse may become upset by your mentioning the problem. They may think that you are blowing something out of proportion. Or, they may be embarrassed about discussing it. What should you do now?

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When you start talking about your problem and if your spouse response is not encouraging, what should you do? This is crucial aspect of the 'talking about the problem' process. The mistake many people are likely to do is to keep talking about it. Perseverance should pay, shouldn't it?

Unfortunately, repeatedly talking about your problem may only alienate your spouse. If your spouse is not willing to listen to you, much less discuss the problem with you, then you should try to understand your spouse's mind. What you have perceived as a problem may only be a symptom and the real issue may be something deeper. So, you need to try a different approach. Stop talking about the problem for a while and observe your spouse's reaction. The immediate reaction will be one of relief.

However, the problem will not disappear by not mentioning it. So, try to look at the problem from different angles. Most importantly ask yourself whether your spouse is likely to perceive the problem in the same way as you do. If not, what will be their likely perception? Asking questions like this will broaden your perspective of the problem and you may even understand the mind of your spouse. Once you reach this stage, you will know how to talk about the problem and save your marriage.

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Caught in a difficult marriage? Not sure quite what's making it so challenging? It could be that you, unwittingly, utilized your marriage to help you complete the tasks of adolescence. Many people fall into this pattern-and usually they bump up against difficulties in their relationship sooner, rather than later.

A common example using marriage to separate from parents.

Can you hear it now? Jackson* never fully individuated from his somewhat overbearing mother. Jackson was cowed in the relationship, and saw Jillian as his ticket out of the pattern of dominance exerted by Mom. The two were married at twenty, and struck out on their own.

At first, Jackson was thrilled to be both free of the continued orders of his mother, and wanted very much to please Jillian and make her as happy as he himself felt in the marriage.

They came to me over 30 years later, both in their fifties, quite unhappily married.

Every time he went to the grocery store with her list he got a scolding because he forgot to take the recycled bags or bought the wrong size container or they were out of something and he failed to call her to find the proper substitution.

Jillian constantly critiqued Jacksons's driving--it was too fast, too slow, he let in too many other people, why didn't he let in that one? Jackson continually required constant instruction from his wife on the kids' schedules--on who had to be at which lesson when, and sometimes she included the "why" all over again.

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Jackson wasn't allowed to do the laundry, since he failed to separate colors from whites.

"It was the last thing in the world I wanted," moaned Jackson, "but I married my mother."

Because, fundamentally, Jackson never went through the process of separating from his dominant mother, he never fully believed in his own agency, and, over the years, Jillian came to step in as Jackson approached and then stepped back from responsibility, doubting himself, as he had been trained to do so many years before.

Aside from separating from parents, children use their teenage years to individuate in other ways, too. Adolescence is a time of rebellion, for many, and often that includes social rebellion, as well.

I saw one young woman*, a truly unique individual, in many ways, who had been a member of what was forthrightly called "the popular crowd" at her private high school. She was to the manner born--her parents had been popular in the same school, as had her two older brothers--same place. She didn't even remember how it came to be that way--she just said the right things, was invited to the right activities, had the right boyfriends.

And there it was, seemingly in a matter of weeks, that Rina had decided she no longer wanted to be a member of the popular crowd. She determined that their values were shabby [there's no one as upright as a wounded adolescent], their topics of discussion were dull, the boyfriends they offered her were tiring.

And, in a concerted effort, she befriended what she called the 'smart, nerdy' crowd. Soon she had no boyfriends, and had to spend an inordinate amount of time studying, but was, she said, as happy as she had ever been.

Her parents were beside themselves, as, to them, popularity was a decisive factor in life. And the angrier they became, the more pleased she was with her decision. This anger might have eventually played itself out, or been worked through in therapy, with less damage--had Rina not married at 18--an extremely intellectually gifted, awkwardly shy older man in his mid-twenties. Brilliant as Ray was, he had never been able to hold down a job, and Rina met him at a friend's house when Ray was working as a tutor promising to raise SAT scores.

Despite parental pleas and general storminess at home, Rina married Ray in a small ceremony--Rina's mother held over her daughter's head the bribe of the wedding she would throw her, if she would only marry the "right person," but to no avail, and they were man and wife, living in a friend's basement for free, job-less, penniless--but very intellectual, I suppose.

Rina had stopped seeing me right before her marriage to Ray, but returned six years into it. She had three children, all of whom were being or would be home-schooled, according to Ray's dictates, as schools really couldn't teach according to the level that their kids would need. Ray still cobbled together tutoring jobs, and Rina was home with the kids, seething with resentment.

For Rina wasn't any 'nerdy intellectual' any more than Superman is when he's lost his Clark Kent facade. Of average intelligence, she tired of Ray's and his friend's discussion of politics, of religion, or advanced string theory, she insisted. Ray, she complained, had no social skills, and when she tried to make plans with friends he embarrassed her with his tirades on the school system, his awkwardness, his tendency to fall asleep during meals.

"I hate him," she said. "I hate him so much I don't know what to do with myself. Sometimes I dream of killing him."

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I didn't need to write in to Ladies' Home Journal magazine to ask if this marriage could be saved.

Because using marriage to work through your adolescent social issues will inevitably cause problems.

Think of the numbers of people who will "marry down," out of their social class, or marry into a different ethnic group, to get back at their parents or to prove a point socially--and wind up heartily sorry. I had one patient from a prim and proper German background who tired of her own prim-and-properness enough to marry a super-exuberant Italian man, over serious parent protestations. She soon found herself--oversensitive, for sure--so embarrassed by her husband's, as she called it, "screaming and yelling and general carrying on," that she would hardly socialize together with him in public. She ultimately began having two birthday parties for each child--one where her German family could comport themselves in their old-fashioned uprightness, and one where her husband's family could freely do their "carrying on," without humiliating her in front of her nearest and dearest.

Shayna's parents were both doctors, as, they insisted, Jews should be today--if they weren't lawyers or investment bankers, and Shayna was raised with that old proverbial silver spoon stuck straight in her mouth. She attended Brown University, as had been her parents' dream, where she befriended all the 'right' people, and then moved into the world of computer programming, as they had encouraged her [apparently that field was okay, too, if you didn't want to be a lawyer et el] and spent some time "hanging" with her programming team. Attractive, with a good job and fun-loving personality, I believed Shayna, who had seen me on and off since her early teens, would have no trouble forming romantic relationships now that she was in her early twenties.

I was quite wrong. Shayna only dated men that were, to put it nicely, somewhat lower-class than she was. Of her three serious boyfriends up to this point, none worked. Two were on welfare, one had a "baby momma" and thus was already a parent, one had been in jail, and two used drugs--somewhat more than recreationally, I believed. To date she is living with a man--she says she'll marry him, but it's clear to me she may meet some resistance from him on that point--who stays home, smoking dope, while she works and earns the money. At night they go out and have, as she puts it, "a wild and great time. More fun than I've ever had."

Until Shayna works through her issues and completes her adolescent social rebellion, I'd say the chances of her marrying successfully are highly unfavorable.

If you have made a marriage that is a continuation of your adolescent rebellion, you may in fact be so poorly suited to your mate that you'll conclude that it's better to go, and that you have to throw in the towel. But until you get help working through your old need to rebel socially, your next mate might just be even more wildly unsuited to you than your first.

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Is there such a thing as a perfect marriage? Are you living in an idyllic marriage with a perfect spouse? The newness and euphoria of a new marriage is what I call the storybook relationship. The relationship is going great because both husband and wife are doing things to please each other. You know about each other's faults but you don't seem to care. The romance level is at a peak, which keeps you both attentive to each other's needs. But what happens after two or more years of marriage?

Eventually habits and faults and self-seeking escapades come out in the open. Now what? Well, that's just it. Now what? The problem is not that your spouse has faults and habits, or that you have faults or habits, the problem is that neither of you seek The Master Designer of marriage for the answers you need. You try and handle your marriage issues under the understanding of what you know. What do you know? You know that your feelings tell you negative things about your spouse. Your feelings tell you that your marriage problems are your spouse's fault because you don't have any faults. Your feelings tell you to stand proud and not humble yourself.

I'm not talking about troubles such as physical and mental abuse, or addictions, I'm talking about just day-to-day quandaries within the framework of the marriage. If you can't forgive then you aren't accepting the person you married. This is one of the reasons for the high rate of divorce. Couples just give up because they don't want to feel what they feel about their spouse. Ironically, you are making yourself feel bad because you won't forgive.

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No person is perfect, as a matter of fact; we are very imperfect individuals no matter how hard we try to be perfect. This is why we have to work at our marriage. This is why our imperfections cannot stay hidden for long. This is why God brought us His Son to the world! So we could learn to be patient with one another and forgive. Marriage is the one relationship that craves forgiveness almost daily. If Jesus Christ has forgiven us with all of our imperfections and sinful habits, how much more should we forgive the person we married? Did you know that when couples learn to humble themselves to God that is when they learn to humble themselves to the person they married?

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

If we don't want to work at being a loving and forgiving person, then we shouldn't get married. Our spouse is imperfect. Nothing on this earth is going to change that imperfection, so we ought to strive to love one another through the bad times as well as the good. This is what marriage is all about. We are never going to be perfect people, but we can work at being better marriage partners by accepting the forgiveness and love we have been given through the suffering and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is what actually heals a person's heart to be patient and forgiving in an imperfect marriage, and to be loving and supportive with an imperfect spouse.

In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

If marriage were made perfect we would never have to forgive our spouse. If our spouse were perfect then Jesus Christ would not have had to suffer and die for our imperfections. But as it is, married people should choose to forgive one another and live according to God's will for marriage. Marriage can be a very satisfying relationship when couples choose to be supportive with each other and forgive. That is the beauty of the imperfect marriage.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)

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