As I was archiving old counseling files this week I scanned through the reasons that clients gave for seeking counseling. Most were pretty routine: improve communication or conflict resolution, deal with an affair, etc. But one really struck me.
My wife is unhappy with her marriage, but I am happy with mine.
I think I read it a few times as I considered the response. Can people really see their marriages as separate entities? His marriage? Her marriage? We see marriage as a “oneness” or “us” relationship. I did not dig into the file further (confidentiality), but it did get me thinking about his viewpoint and what might be the reason for the relational disconnect.
- Spiritual Disunity If two people are not on the same spiritual wavelength it is entirely possible to view the marriage differently. One person could feel very discontented with the lack of intimacy they experience when the spiritual connection is absent. They may be living with an entirely different values framework. We know, because we have lived it. In Christian parlance we call this being unequally yoked.
- Lack of Emotional Connection When a couple does not have good emotional connection, it is hard to feel empathy for the other person. This can leave a spouse feeling very alone in a marriage. One of the partners may not be aware (or care) while the other is deeply wounded by the emotional distance.
- One Spouse is a Taker In some relationships there is a husband or wife who always seems to get their way. The relationship becomes very one-sided as he or she comes out on top in every conflict or decision. This person has a high satisfaction in the marriage because things always fall into place for them. However, the other half of the marriage (who may be codependent) is left feeling like they have very little power and always has to give, and never receive in order to keep the marriage stable.
- Change or Growth Nan just commented that one other common reason is when one person has gone through a significant change in their life. It could be normal, like pregnancy or menopause, or not so positive, like an illness, a job loss, or a stressful job change. Emotional or spiritual growth also can cause a significant separation in a marriage. When one spouse enters counseling alone, or deals effectively with an addiction it affects the other spouse. They may have just lost their drinking buddy or lost some other aspect of the relationship that was comfortable or predictable. They will often “cry foul” and complain that this isn’t the person they married; they liked it the way it was. However, if the couple enters counseling together this adjustment is usually easier on both of them and may avert potential marital drift.
Whatever the reason may be, in order to thrive, a marriage must have unity. When one person is distressed, the marriage is distressed. There is no win/lose in relationships – either we both win, or we both lose.