John and Ann are asked about the history of their relationship. They have nothing positive to say. In fact, all they can remember are the problems. For years, they have been unable to deal with conflict in a way that repairs problems thus, they are left with negativity about the relationship.
When John and Ann try to talk about a problem, it doesn’t go well. Ann usually comes on harsh with several statements of criticism. John becomes defensiveness and thinks about how much he doesn’t like Ann. Ann rolls her eyes and really believes John acts like a jerk and doesn’t care. John wants out of her sight. A defensive wall goes up between the two and neither talks it out.
Overwhelmed with negative feelings towards each other, neither looks to the other for emotional care. Instead, they grow apart. Trying to deal with Ann upsets John to the point that he feels it in his body. And Ann is convinced that someone else is better suited to meet her needs.
This couple is ripe for divorce: They don’t repair the damage they do to each other with their words and actions. They feel very negative about the relationships and can’t even discuss issues without arguing and name-calling. They are critical and defensive with each other and have put up emotional walls. And when couples get to this point, they usually call it quits.
But should they?
No, they should find a well-trained licensed marriage and family therapist and work to turn their relationships around. A couple therapist knows how to help.
But here is the kicker. They must be willing to work on the relationship. Without the commitment to work it out, they will simply become another statistics. And that is sad since we know how to help people like John and Ann fix their relationships.
Willingness to work on a relationship usually requires humility. Can you humble yourself enough to see your part of the problem, work on that and begin to repair the damage?
If so, repair can take place. But so many times, I have asked couples like John and Ann to work with me and they are unwilling to let down their guard and work it out. In those cases, not only will they divorce, but they will simply repeat their negative patterns with the next person.