by Jessica Page, LMFT | Mindsight Clinician, Somerset, KY
As a marriage and family therapist, I have had the privilege of working with many different types of couples in therapy for a variety of reasons. During the initial intake session, I always ask them one question within the first 15 minutes. What do you think is the leading cause of divorce? I have gotten a variety of answers over the years from financial instability, infidelity, communication, poor sex life, difficult mother in laws (ha)…
Although each one of those answers cause problems in marriage, they do not necessarily explain the root cause of internal conflict. I have found that all marital issues stem from one source-- inability to meet personal expectations (defined or undefined). When a spouse has unmet wants and needs in a marriage, dissatisfaction begins to evolve. This often results in an internal war that convinces you are “unloved”, “ignored”, insignificant” and “under appreciated”.
So how does marriage counseling help resolve this “expectation issue”?
1) Lay out all expectations on the table.
This is where communication is key! No matter how minimal you believe your needs and wants are, it is imperative you identify and discuss them with your spouse. A counselor can help mediate this process, so each person is adequately heard with the least amount of conflict.
2) Determine whether your expectations are rational or irrational?
Sometimes we need to alter our expectations if they are not reality based or “over romanticized”.
For example; if you have the expectation that your spouse needs to wake up at 5:00 am every morning to serve you coffee simply because that is what your father did for your mother, it may or may not be practical for your marriage. Maybe your spouse works a late shift? Maybe they are not a morning person? This expectation could be a romanticized idea formed from childhood that might eventually become toxic to your marriage. It is important to explore where your expectations stem from (family or culture) that may need to be altered.
3) If your expectations are rational, what can you or your spouse do to make them a reality?
Listen, life is filled with challenges and seasonal difficulties (children, financial strain, family conflict). It is often difficult to make your spouse’s expectations a priority when you are trying to keep your head above water. However, it is worth the effort! When you make your spouse (and ultimately your marriage) a focal point in your daily routine, you will notice your overall marital satisfaction improve, and ultimately personal happiness.
4) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
A counselor can help guide you and your spouse in this area if you find it challenging. There are a lot of reasons why people find communication difficult and there is no shame in seeking a professional to help you in this process and teaching you skills that can be used every day!
“Conflict is an opportunity to learn to love your partner better over time” Dr. Julie Gottman.
At some point in a relationship, all couples need support and outside perspective into a situation.
If you feel like you and your spouse could benefit from marriage counseling, our warm and caring providers at Mindsight would be happy to provide a safe and confidential space to begin your journey!
Starting February 6th, all Mindsight Clinicians will be attending a 5-week Couple's Therapy course by Tara Vossenkempber of the Counseling Hub. They will receive additional one-on-one training and support to better serve YOU, their client!