I’ve been practicing as a psychologist for almost 20 years now and can’t help but notice that a few mental roadblocks typically stop people from working on a struggling marriage. Today, I want to highlight a few of these mental barriers in hopes that you’ll move them out of the way, and take action to improve your relationship.
ROADBLOCK ONE: If we really love each other, we don’t need to work on our marriage. Marriage problems are not always about a lack of love in the relationship. Sometimes people who love each other deeply still end up divorced. The reality is that marriage these days is confusing! It’s not your imagination: Both the stress we are under and the huge expectations we have of marriage take a heavy toll on our relationships. Unfortunately, it can be a dangerous thing to leave your relationship to chance. Be sure to deliberately focus on your marriage from time to time, remembering that love is important, but may not be enough. When problems do crop up in your relationship, make it a priority to deal with them.
ROADBLOCK TWO: There’s something really wrong with us if we need help with our marriage. I tell my clients frequently that it’s the smartest and strongest people who seek help. Needing a hand with your relationship does not mean you are weak. In fact, because seeking help can make you feel vulnerable, you could say it takes courage to actually take this step. As someone who regularly gets to take a peek “behind the scene” of many relationships, I want to reassure you that even though it may seem like everyone else “has it all figured out,” it’s simply not true!
ROADBLOCK THREE: If our relationship hasn’t gotten better by now, what’s the point? Even when a marriage is not working, partners often keep doing what they’ve always done, simply out of habit. Change is hard, especially if you are clinging to old routines or don’t know which direction you are going. When you clearly understand exactly what helps and hurts a marriage, seeing new, more effective, behaviors quickly produce different results can jump-start change.
ROADBLOCK FOUR: Men and women are different, so we’ll never “get” each other. Contrary to popular opinion, men and women are not from different planets! We are all human, and need similar conditions to open up, including trust, acceptance, kindness, respect and open-mindedness. Don’t let stereotypes about men and women get in the way of your trying to connect as human beings.
ROADBLOCK FIVE: If we just work harder, we can eventually have the perfect life together. In my practice, I see a big gap between what my clients think they should be able to accomplish and what they can actually achieve. Most work incredibly hard chasing their dreams, but fail to notice that seeking perfection breeds so much stress that it ultimately undermines their marriage. Being busy makes it very hard to deal with any problems in the relationship. There is no such thing as perfect. The best anyone one of us can ever hope for is “good enough.”