Sometimes before the marriage can improve, it has to get worse. This can be a depressing concept for couples who feel like they are only holding on by a thread. Marriage counseling can help a couple navigate these obstacles as they attempt to make changes to improve their relationship.
The Marriage Dance
Marriage is a dance that requires both partners to step together in some sort of harmony. When one person changes their steps, it causes the other person to have to adjust. These adjustments take some time and work. Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable, causing people to go back to their old ways. Other times, they find a new stride that works even better.
When you decide to create some change, expect it to take some time. Your partner will need time to respond to your changes. You may decide to adjust some of the changes you are making. It takes hard work to find a new dance that works for both of you. It can be scary to change as well, especially if you develop doubts about what you are doing.
Problems that Can Get Worse
Problems that have been ignored for years will definitely get worse when you first start to address them. Admitting these problems exist, talking about them, and problem-solving what to do about them, can be difficult. This is why most couples try to ignore them in the first place.
As ironic as it may seem, conflict can get worse when you start talking about addressing it. For example, if one person has typically been passive in the relationship in order to try and keep things calm, working on new strategies to address the conflict can make it worse initially. Learning new strategies to solve problems and resolve anger takes time and commitment.
Sexual problems sometimes seem to get worse as well. When a couple has not addressed sexual issues, when they begin to bring these problems to light, it can make sexual activity feel forced or awkward. This may seem to be the opposite of what a couple was trying to accomplish. However, with time this can be resolved as well.
Addressing financial issues can increase the tension in a marriage as well. If one person wants to change spending habits or re-work the family budget, this can cause some extra friction. Learning how to set new financial goals together doesn’t happen overnight.
Working on other issues, such as addressing one partner’s substance abuse problems can also seem to make things worse at first. For example, if the non-using partner suddenly decides she isn’t interested in spending time with her husband anymore when he’s drinking, it can mean they spend less time together. This may seem counter-intuitive at first. However, over time, it may create some change in the marriage.
Change is a Process
Change is a complicated process. There are stages people pass through as they make a change. When people don’t think they have a problem, they are in the pre-contemplative stage. As they begin to think about making change, they become contemplative. The third stage is preparation, where people develop a plan for how to make a change. The fourth stage is the action stage, where change begins to occur. The last stage is called maintenance and it is where people learn how to maintain the changes.
Many people also believe there is another stage, called relapse. It is when people slip back into their old habits and revert back to past patterns. Recovering from a relapse is part of the change process.
Knowing that all change requires this process, it is a wonder anyone makes changes in life. They don’t happen over night. This process often leaves people feeling frustrated because change does not happen as fast as they would like.
When you tell your partner to give up his bad habit of leaving his dirty clothes on the floor, recognize that making this change is a process! All change, whether big or small, takes work. So don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough.
How Marriage Counseling Can Help
Marriage counseling can assist you and your partner with creating lasting change in your relationship. Working with a counselor can help you tolerate the difficulties if things seem to get worse before they get better. Counseling can also help you learn the skills to maintain the changes you have made and can teach you how to recover from a relapse if you slip back into your old habits.