This week, I am speaking at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in Nashville, TN. My first session is entitled, Advances in Marital Therapy: What Works? We know what works, but the frustration is that too many couple do not get help when their relationships begin to drift apart.
The road to emotional distance is well documented thanks to the efforts of marital researcher John Gottman. Couples lock into negative cycles of interactions that often lead them apart. They turn away from each other rather than towards each other when stress mounts. Instead of forming a united front against stress and life pressures, the spouse becomes the enemy and the source of criticism.
The progression of growing apart begins with criticism. Criticism leads to feelings of contempt. Those feelings raise defensiveness. Defensiveness is a self-preservation response to relationship problems. It blocks intimacy and is usually motivated by fear and insecurity when you feel attacked. When your spouse is overly critical or on the attack, it is easy to become defensive. But if you stay defensive, the relationship suffers. Defensiveness leads to stonewalling. Stonewalling is just like it sounds-putting up a stone wall and shutting the partner out of your life. The result is emotional distance-the number one predictor of divorce.
Marital therapy helps stop this negative cycle of growing apart and teaches couples to turn towards each other in times of stress. Therapy aims at strengthening the emotional bond and repairing relationship damage quickly.
So marriages could be saved if couples were willing to submit to the therapy process. The path to lost love is known and can be turned around. But it takes a commitment by the couple.
Do not allow your marriage to grow apart. If you see the signs of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling operating, contact a licensed marital therapist and get help.
Do you agree that too many couples divorce over fixable problems?