Real therapists answering real questions.
Growing up I thought that as soon as I got married, my friend problems, family issues and money troubles would go away.
However, the reality of life is that being married doesn’t solve all your problems. It’s the greatest thing to have someone who will support and cherish you, but problems don’t magically disappear when you say “I do.” Marriage is all about learning to work together with someone you love, not about dropping into a flawless fairytale.
Even in the happiest marriages, problems happen. But can married couples really make it through anything? As I thought about my future I wanted to make sure that “happily ever after” was really a possibility. So I turned to some therapists to weigh in.
Couples can overcome challenges that come their way
Solution-focused therapist and licensed clinical social worker Julia Colangelo recently shared with FamilyShare that yes, “couples can pull through anything, when (and if) they are on the same page about asking for support, help and guidance, and they are both open and willing to accept suggestions from professionals … whether it be a therapeutic or spiritual support, or in some cases both.”
This obviously is easier said than done. Getting on the same page takes a lot of “maturity, commitment, and openness” says couples consultant and coach Lesli Doares. It is hard, but totally possible for every couple.
What is the hardest thing for a couple to overcome?
The two hardest things for a couple to go through is death of a child and infidelity.
In an email conversation with FamilyShare, Doares shared the following: “Probably the hardest situation for a couple to overcome is the death of a child. People grieve in different ways and these differences can be misinterpreted which makes recovery more difficult … if one needs to talk it out/explore feelings and the other is more internal, it can create an unbridgeable gulf.”
Grief affects each person so differently that it can be hard to bridge the gap between a couple’s pain. A couple should never ignore these problems as they grieve, instead they should find ways to support each other through this heart wrenching time. Even things as simple as holding hands can help to close the gulf of pain.
Doares continued, “The next hardest situation may be infidelity. This is because, while one partner is never responsible for the other partner’s decision to cheat, they do have responsibility for what the relationship looked like.”
The best way to overcome an affair in a marriage is for each person to take responsibility for their future choices. “The betrayer needs to understand why they chose this path (and not lay any blame for that decision on their partner), offer a full and no-excuses apology, and never tell another lie or hedge on anything in the future. They must be completely transparent.”
But the betrayer is not the only person in the marriage that has to make a change. “The betrayed partner must work through their hurt and anger as well as be able to acknowledge their part in what the relationship looked like. They must be willing to entertain the idea of forgiving (not forgetting) and what that would mean. They also need to allow their partner’s new transparent behavior to take root and not hold the past over them.”
Theresa Herring, a licensed marriage and family therapist agrees. “Breaches of trust are the hardest situations for couples to pull out of. Without commitment and trust, relationships crumble. Your relationship, as you knew it, is over and a new one needs to built.”
It is very possibly to rebuild your relationship and make it into a stronger and happier marriage, as long as both people are willing to choose to work together again.
The best advice
Herring gave the best advice for couples seeking to stay together. “In my work as a couples therapist, I’ve noticed a few traits that help couples pull through hard times. Couples with high levels of personal and relationship perseverance are more likely to survive hard times. Perseverance is focusing on long-term goals when faced with obstacles.”
It’s too easy for couples to think that the relationship needs to end because they are not totally happy today. Instead the couple needs to focus on the future. Life is long, and couples will be happier if they focus on their long-term goals, instead of instant gratification.
How do you know if you are in a successful relationship?
We all want to know if we are making it in a successful relationship. So what do therapists look for to know if a couple is in a successful, healthy relationship. Colangelo says, “Success is when you’re both willing to ask for support and you don’t just assume that ‘the relationship is over.’ This comes however when both of you are willing to seek support, and want things to get better.”
As long as you both continue to want to work together, you will have a successful, healthy relationship.
Marriage is really one of the greatest blessings a person can have. Don’t give up on your partner and continue to seek ways to build love in your marriage.