“You don’t communicate”, “You keep nagging”, “All you want is sex”, “I’m just the invisible provider”, “We argue about everything”, “I’m not your Mother”, “I can’t do anything right”, “You used to be fun”, “You drive me nuts”, “I don’t feel appreciated/valued/respected/wanted” …….. Sound familiar?
In a perfect world, the general idea is that couples commit to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love, and will carry them forward to their final days on this earth. Except, of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way for most people. The bad news too is that, according to a recent Australia-wide survey, relationship satisfaction typically deteriorates over time anyway, with men in their 40s most likely to be dissatisfied, while for females, dissatisfaction peaks in their 50s.
So what exactly is a workable relationship with enduring qualities? This has been the focus of debate and research over many decades world-wide, and there appear to be some common themes. When couples are calm and connected together, they promote warm and affectionate behaviour, even when they disagree. Couples who also create within their relationship a climate of trust and intimacy, and who are kind and generous, in terms of time, energy and interest, toward their partner, as opposed to being critical, contemptuous, resentful, or hostile, allow their partner, and themselves, to feel emotionally and physically comfortable, and above all, satisfied. A simple act of kindness in a relationship, whether given or acknowledged despite feeling stressed, tired or distracted, can make each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated – to feel loved. Kindness doesn’t mean you can’t express your anger or disappointment, but it does enable you to get your point across through understanding your partner’s perspective and intentions rather than automatically jumping to the attack with a negative assumption.
In Australia, around 1 in 4 marriages fail, ending in separation or divorce, and for many, bitterness and dysfunction. Invariably, however, there is a recognizable though often ignored pathway to the breakdown of a relationship. As the normal stresses of life together pile up – kids, career, budgeting, friends, house stuff, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out time for romance and intimacy – couples tend to put less effort into their relationship, and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. As a consequence, couples become increasingly dissatisfied, and resentment, animosity, sadness, and emptiness can rapidly build if left unchecked. Recent research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, however, found that only one in five couples having relationship problems seek professional help despite the fact that marital discord can affect children, mental health, work performance, and social relationships.
No relationship is perfect but that’s not to say you can’t aim for as many “perfect moments” as you can create. Let’s face it, if your car or your computer wasn’t functioning properly, you probably wouldn’t just let it continue to deteriorate – you’d have in the workshop quick-smart! So, if things are getting tough in your relationship, it may be that you would benefit from some impartial help from a professional trained in relationship counseling who will guide through the exploration of your relationship with the aim of identifying its strengths and weakness, and developing more effective strategies to build and maintain a relationship that is not only fulfilling but also valued. At Bayside Psychology, we have a number of very experienced Psychologists who can provide such a service, and are ready to help you make a positive difference.