Coping with marital dysfunction:
- It is often very difficult to cope with ourselves and life when our marriage starts to break down. There are many reasons why our marriages don’t work. Some may be as follows:
- You may have discovered either early on in your marriage or later that the two of you are mismatched.
- You may be sexually incompatible or that you are socially and culturally so different that there is no common ground and you are constantly fighting over what’s right and trying to prove the other wrong.
- Your own parents or those of your spouse may be the priority in your life.
- You constantly refer to them, meet their demands and needs so that you nourish your family before your spouse.
- Your childhood ties are stronger than your marital vows.
- Your career may be interfering with your marriage – it may be all consuming or you work different hours, late into the night and at weekends so that you seldom meet.
- The birth of a baby or being over-involved with your children to the exclusion of your spouse will create conflict in your relationship and can lead to a breakdown.
- You may be disappointed in the person you married. You expected to be made happy, to always be looked after, and to have always remained passionately in love but your spouse is not the person you married. You may feel resentful and let down.
- Your spouse may be addicted to drugs, alcohol, other women or a gambler which may have become too difficult to cope with.
- These are some of the causes of marital breakdown. What then happens? You may try to deal with problems by ignoring them, pretending they don’t exist and further withdrawing from your partner, you may be sulking, being cold and unloving or at the other extreme you may be fighting – shouting and screaming and hitting out at each other, accusing and blaming your spouse for the breakdown. Your communication and behavior are probably destructive and is aggravating the problems. What can you do?
- Take a good look at your spouse and ask yourself whether you want to stay in the marriage – remain married to that person.
- If you answer “Yes” or “I think so,” or “I don’t know” – your marriage is not dead, and it is worth working at. Beneath your pain, hurt and resentment, there may be some love and respect left. If you answer “No”, then divorce may be the road you will take.
To work on your relationship both of you need to realize and accept:
- That it takes two to make an unhappy marriage and that both of you are responsible for the unhappiness you are experiencing. This is difficult as no one likes to admit to this.
- That both of you are doing harmful things to each other out of unawareness not on purpose to hurt.
- Both of you need to be willing to change the old ways of behaving and communicating that are destroying your relationship. Take a good look at yourself. What can you change?
- Both of you must decide you would rather be happy than right – this may mean letting go of your anger and trying to forgive each other, learning to respect and accept rather than change the other. There are things we can change but there are things we can’t. We must learn to accept that some things will never change.
- Both of you need to be prepared to work on your problems and not run away, both of you must create a new and different marriage within the old. Try to become best friends again, let your guards down, risk yourselves, plan to be spontaneous, laugh together, surprise each other and bring joy back into your sex life.
- If you find it too difficult, or if you are both too hurt and angry or even if only one of you is prepared to work on your relationship, you may need to get professional help. Be courageous and ask for help.