Couples are always relieved to hear that even the “happiest” couples have fights. Many counselors will say that good communication in a marriage is what will make it work, and the couple will be happy. We have found that to be a myth. This started with a Psychologist by the name of Carl Rogers. He believed that non-judgemental listening and acceptance of another’s feelings creates rapport. When couples try this it creates distress in the relationship. When a couple does find a benefit from this, they will often relapse into their old conflicts within a year. Here are three myths about marriage:
- Major differences of opinion will destroy a marriage. We have found that most marital conflicts can’t be resolved. For example, Megan wants to have a third child and Donald does not. Dana always flirts at parties and James hates it. Couples spend years and huge amounts of energy trying to change their partner. Significant disagreements are about values and different ways of seeing the world – things that don’t change. The successful couple knows this and attempts to live with the disagreement. When people feel criticized or judged there is no chance they will change. Try to accept your partner’s position, and manage the conflict.
- Happy marriages are unusually open and honest. The truth is plenty of marriages shove a lot of issues ‘under the rug.’ When many couples have a fight the man will go and work on the car and the woman will storm off to the mall. When they see each other a couple of hours later, the argument has blown over and they are happy to see each other again. The truth is many relationships remain satisfied and stable without an airing of deep feelings.
- Gender differences are a big problem. Gender may have an impact on marriage problems, but they don’t actually cause the problem. What we have found is that the quality of friendship in the marriage was the determining factor of happiness.
For more information on finding out what makes a marriage work read, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by Dr. John M. Gottman. You may also call me for a consultation at (650) 892-0357.