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Predictable Relationship Struggles 
And What To Do

Many couples stay out on the periphery of life, enduring frustrations, wondering if their struggle is normal, and whether or not help is required.

There are many issues that are normal to a relationship. Knowing what struggles are normal can be a comfort. Knowing what to do about them can be a blessing. The average couple waits 7-9 years after knowing there is trouble brewing before entering marriage counseling. My hope is to help you shorten that time and take action sooner.

Here's a quick quiz to help you learn about myths commonly held about marriage. Answer each of the ten questions with a  True or False answer.

  1. You will have approximately 10 areas of conflict that you consistently gridlock on.

  2. After the honeymoon, conflict is what brings a couple into full intimacy.

  3. Men aren't built for marriage.

  4. Anger damages a marriage.

  5. One spouse being dominant is dysfunctional.

  6. Mind-reading is dysfunctional.

  7. Similarities amongst partners are the basis for stability.

  8. Too high of expectations cause divorce.

  9. Changing a partner's behavior is essential to a happy marriage.

  10. Bickering about trivial issues is dysfunctional.

You may be surprised to know that only numbers 1 and 2 are True. The remainder of the questions are False.

61% of conflict in a marriage is irresolvable. 39% has a reasonable solution. The 61% is made up of differences in personality, core values and philosophy of life. Are you going to change these things in your partner? You may try... and try again, but the answer is a resounding NO. 

These are called "Perpetual Issues." They will come up over and again throughout the relationship. Remember, this is normal and occurs in happily married couples. If you believe in the myth that all conflict is resolvable you will become very disheartened that these conflict areas continue to pop up without "solving" the problem.

Once you realize perpetual issues are reflections of your personalities and deeply held values, the goal becomes not one of resolving problems but one of understanding and accepting your spouse as they are. 

When this type of dialogue takes place where you each feel understood (not agreed with) at a profound level there is an intimacy that occurs that is beautiful and far exceeds the satisfaction of a solved problem.

The first big step in implementing this in your relationship is to practice knowing what is resolvable and what is irresolvable. Sometimes there are parts of a conflict issue where there is both a solution and a strong reflection of personality involved. Other times, an issue is much more important to one partner than the other. 

Seek understanding first. This is a great challenge when two individuals feel misunderstood, hurt and angry. But, trust this process. It really does work and gets at the heart of the matter. In difficult moments revolving around a perpetual issue such as money, ask questions like:

"What makes this purchase so important to you?" 

"When did you first begin to have strong feelings about our financial situation?"

"What was the philosophy around money in your household growing up? How do you think that has affected you?"

"What are your financial dreams and hopes?"

"What does money mean to you?"

You may be amazed at how open the two of you can become once you feel understood. That alone is worth all the tea in China. When understanding is sought first and achieved, your desire to compromise is radically shifted. Now, does that mean you've changed your personality or compromised your core values? No. It means that you've shifted your behavior to serve the sacred space between the two of you called Marriage.

The questions above can be adapted and used in the same manner for issues such as lovemaking, parenting, frequency of communication, date times, show of affection and in other areas which recur in the marriage.



Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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"All things need watching, working at, caring for and marriage is no exception. Marriage is not something to be treated indifferently, or abused or something that simply takes care of itself. Nothing neglected will remain as it was or is, or will fail to deteriorate. All things need attention care and concern and especially so in this most sensitive of all relationships of life.."

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Ask Dave

QUESTION

Dear Dave,

I get confused about all the relationship advice I've read.  Can you tell me what what the "Key Ingredients" are to a successful relationship?

Thanks,

Erica

ANSWER

Hi Erica,

Thanks for writing.  First, I hope you read the main article today.  It's VERY important in the success of a long-term marriage.

There are many components to a successful marriage, but if I had to boil it down to three, the research may surprise you.

Making amends or repairing a situation with your partner when a discussion has ended poorly, or is beginning to grind to a halt, is reflective of healthy couples and lasting relationships.

The ongoing verbal and physical expression of fondness, admiration and affection is vital to the feeding of a delicious marriage.

And taking the time to maintain the friendship proves to be an incredible super-nutrient for marital bliss. 

Your friend,

Dave Turo-Shields 

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