Are you in a dysfunctional marriage? Is it a lack of communication skills, or something else? Is it possible that more marriages are in dysfunction now than ever before?
Maybe because of the media and the Internet, we constantly read about people having affairs, or addiction in relationships or some other form of dysfunction that seems to be killing more relationships and more marriages all over the world.
For last 28 years, number one best-selling author, counselor and life coach David Essel has been helping to educate couples on what it really takes in order to have a healthy, and happy marriage or relationship.
Below, David talks about dysfunctional marriages, the causes and the cures
“I am asked constantly on radio interviews and during my lectures across the USA, what percentage of marriages are doing well at this current time?
After 30 years of being a counselor and life coach, I can tell you the percentage of marriages that are healthy is extremely low. Maybe 25%? And then the next question I’m asked is, why do we have so much dysfunction in love? Is a lack of communication skills, or something else?
The answer is never easy, but I can tell you that it’s not just a problem with communication skills, it’s something that can go much deeper than that.
Below, let’s discuss the six major reasons why there’s so much dysfunction in marriages today, and what we need to do to turn it around
1. Following the role models of our parents and grandparents
We are following the role models of our parents and grandparents, that may have stayed in unhealthy relationships for 30, 40 or 50 years. This is no different then if your mom or dad had a problem with alcohol, drugs, smoking or food that you might have a similar addiction running your life right now.
Between the ages of zero and 18, our subconscious mind is a sponge to the environment around us.
So if you see dad is a bully, mom is passive aggressive, guess what? When you get married or in a serious relationship, don’t be surprised when your partner is blaming you for being a bully, or passive aggressive.
You’re just repeating what you saw growing up, that’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.
Unresolved resentments, in my practice, is the number one form of dysfunction in marriage is today.
Resentments that are not taken care of, can turn into emotional affairs, addiction, workaholism, passive-aggressive behavior, and physical affairs as well.
Unresolved resentments crushes relationships. It destroys the chances of any relationship to prosper when there are resentments that are not resolved.
3. Fear of intimacy
This is a big one. In our teachings, intimacy equals 100% honesty.
With your lover, your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, one of the things that should separate the relationship you have with them from even your best friend, should be that you risk being 100% honest with them in life from day one.
That is pure intimacy. When you share with your partner something that you might be rejected over, or criticized about, you are risking everything, you’re honest and you’re vulnerable which to me is what intimacy is all about.
A year ago I worked with a couple that was in extreme dysfunction. The husband had been unhappy from the beginning regarding his sexual relationship with his wife. His wife never liked to kiss. She just wanted to “get it over with“, because of some experiences she had in previous relationships that were very unhealthy.
But from the beginning, he never said anything. He held resentments. He wasn’t honest.
He wanted a deep kissing relationship, prior to and during sex and she would have nothing to do with that.
In our work together, he was able to express with love, what he desired and she was able to express with love, why she was so uncomfortable being so vulnerable in the area of kissing.
Their willingness to risk to be open, be vulnerable lead to an unbelievable healing in love, something that they had never achieved in the 20 years of being married.
4. Terrible communication skills
Now before you jump on the “communication is everything” bandwagon, look where it is in this list. It’s way down. It’s number four.
I tell people all the time who come in and ask me to teach them communication skills as if that’s going to change the relationship, that it’s not.
I know, 90% of counselors you’ll talk to will tell you that it’s all about communication skills, and I am going to tell you they are all wrong.
If you don’t take care of the above three points here, I don’t give a crap how great of a communicator you are, it’s not going to heal the marriage.
Now is it worthwhile to learn communication skills in line? Of course! But not until you take care of the above three points.
5. Low self-confidence and low self-esteem
Oh my God, this will make every relationship, every marriage an absolute challenge.
If you can’t hear your partners criticism, I’m not talking about screaming and yelling, I’m talking about constructive criticism, without shutting down. That’s an example of low self-confidence and low self-esteem.
If you can’t ask your partner, for what you desire in love, because you’re afraid of being rejected, abandoned or more, that’s a sign of low self-confidence and low self-esteem.
And that’s “your“ job. You’ve got to work on yourself with a professional.
6. Did you make a mistake, and married the wrong person?
Did you marry someone who is a free spender, that constantly keeps you in financial stress, and you knew it from the beginning, but denied it, and now you’re screwed?
Or maybe you married an emotional eater, that over the past 15 years has gained 75 pounds, but you knew they were an emotional eater if you want to be honest with yourself from day 30 of dating.
Or maybe an alcoholic? In the beginning, many relationships are based on alcohol, it’s a way to decrease anxiety and increase communication skills with some people, but did you allow it to go on for too long? That’s your problem.
Now, what do we do about the above challenges, if you want to create a healthy relationship out of your current dysfunctional one?
Seek professional help
Hire a professional counselor or life coach to see if you’re just mimicking, repeating your parents’ behavior and you’re not even aware of it. This can be shattered, but you’re going to have to find someone to help you.
Write it down
Write out what they are. Get really clear. If you resent your partner for leaving you at a party, unattended for four hours, write it down.
If you have resentments that your partner spends all weekend watching sports on TV, write it down. Get it out of your head and onto paper, then once again, work with a professional to learn how to release resentments in love.
Learn how to start to talk about your feelings
Fear of intimacy. Fear of honesty. This is a big one too.
You’re going to have to learn how to start to talk about your feelings in an extremely honest way.
Like all the other steps, you’re probably going to have to work with a professional to figure out how to do this long-term.
Begin with asking really good questions
Poor communication skills.
The very best way to begin to improve your communication skills begins with asking really good questions.
You’ve got to figure out how to ask your partner what their needs are, what their dislikes are, what their desires are in order to get to know them at a deeper level.
Then, during communication, especially those that get difficult, we want to use a tool called “active listening.“
What that means is, when you are communicating with your partner, and you want to be really clear that you’re hearing exactly what they’re saying, you repeat the statements that they’re making to be sure that you are very very clear in your listening skills, and you’re not misinterpreting what they’re saying.
“Honey, so what I heard you say is, you’re really frustrated that I keep nagging you every Saturday morning to cut the grass, when you would rather cut it on Sunday evening. Is that what you’re upset about?“
In that way, you get a chance to get super clear and on the same wavelength as your partner.
Find the root cause of your low self-confidence
Low self-confidence and low self-esteem. OK, this has nothing to do with your partner at all. Nothing.
Once again, find a counselor or life coach that can help you see and find the root cause of your low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and get action steps from them every week on how you can improve it.
There’s no other way. This has nothing to do with your partner, just you.
Break the illusion
You married the wrong person. Hey, it happens all the time. But it’s not their fault, it’s your fault.
As a counselor and life coach, I tell all my clients in dysfunctional marriages, that what they are experiencing now was totally visible within the first 90 days of the dating relationship.
Many people at first disagree, but as we do our written homework assignments, they come in shaking their head, shocked to find out that the person they’re with right now hasn’t really changed that much since the beginning when they were dating them.
Several years ago I worked with a woman, who was married for over 40 years, had two children with her husband, and when her husband went behind her back and got an apartment, and started staying over there claiming that he was going through midlife depression, she found out he was having an affair.
It rocked her world.
She thought they had the perfect marriage, but it was a total illusion on her part.
When I had her go back into the very beginning of the dating relationship, this is the same guy that would take her to a party, leave her for hours and hours by herself, and then when the party was over and come and find her and tell her it was time to go home.
This was the same guy that would leave the house at 4:30 in the morning, tell her that he needed to go to work, he would come home at six and be in bed at 8 PM. Not engage with her at all.
Do you see the resemblance from when they first started dating? He was emotionally unavailable, physically unavailable and was repeating the same behavior in a different way.
After working together, in which I helped her through the divorce, she healed within about a year which is very fast, realizing that he had not changed from the beginning, that she had married the wrong man for her.
If you read the above, and you truly want to be honest with yourself, you can change your own approach to your dysfunctional love relationship or marriage, and hopefully turn it around with the help of a professional.
But it’s up to you.
You can either project blame that everything is your partner’s fault, or you can sincerely look at the above and make a decision of the changes you need to make in order to hopefully save your relationship if it’s possible to save. Go now
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
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