Family violence? Infidelity? Money troubles?
In a recent study done in the UK, forty-seven percent of couples claimed that unreasonable behavior had prompted them to untie the knot.
My experience with couples in the US bears that out. It is well-documented that a vast majority of couples survive infidelity. Some studies suggest numbers as high as seventy-five percent.
Unreasonableness… that’s another thing entirely.
When I ask couples what brought them to therapy, most complain about their seemingly unresolvable issues— issues that range from struggles around spending and tidiness to differences in parenting styles and sexual desire. Many claim that they have trouble communicating and most are worn out by the repetitive fights they’ve been having for years.
But the worst of it, the couples closest to the brink, are those who are dealing with extremely unreasonable behavior in some form or another.
Granted, unreasonable is a vague and subjective term. I might claim that it’s unreasonable for my husband to leave his shoes under foot and he might say the same about my tendency to dawdle or to be busily moving about until well after midnight.
As a couples therapist I have long since learned not to take sides or to claim the moral high ground about how other people should live. Nonetheless, I’m not the least bit passive when it comes to clients confronting their own unreasonableness or making decisions about what they themselves are willing to live with and what they cannot abide.
Drinking, lying, broken agreements, icy withdrawal, rage. People live in untenable situations because they live with people who are willing to behave in untenable ways.
One of the most powerful questions I can ask a client is this: “What do tell yourself that makes it okay for you to continue doing ___?”
Perhaps it’s a question we can all ask ourselves.
A few weeks ago in my post titled Want A Better Marriage? Change One Thing, I challenged readers to change one less-than-stellar behavior that is responsible for creating their less-than-stellar relationship.
I received at least a dozen private emails and a few public comments about which one thing people had chosen to change.
This one stood out:
For years I have been a very demanding person. When I don’t get my way I pout or I give my wife the cold-shoulder. I know that there are times that she’s cried herself to sleep because of the way that I treat her. My son sent me your article about changing one thing.
My wife and I will be married fifty years in November. I think there’s still time for me to change. Especially if it’s only one thing.
I’m not sure what to call my one thing, but my son once suggested that I stop thinking I’m entitled to have things my way. I think he’s right.
Thanks for your advice.
Old dog, new tricks.
What one thing have you changed? I’d love to hear how it’s going. Comment by pressing the dialogue box next to the title.
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