It’s time for a relationship check-up. Let’s take a 20,000-foot view. Overall, how is your relationship with your spouse? Would you say that it’s happy? If you have your partner’s support, if they see the best in you, if they’re honest and caring (and if they can say the same about you), yours is probably a happy partnership.
But maybe you’re not happy. Maybe it’s complicated. Maybe the “yes” doesn’t come so easily.
You’ve probably heard it said that the divorce rate in America is about 50%. We have, too. And we didn’t question that grim figure until we started doing a bit of digging.
In fact, decades of research shows that the divorce rate has actually been steadily declining since the 1970s and 1980s. The New York Times calls the 50% “statistic” a myth, too. And PsychCentral reports that divorce rates hit a 50-year record low in 2019.
This myth was first brought to our attention by author Shaunti Feldhahn. She says, “in looking at data from the Census Bureau and other reliable sources, it appears that somewhere around 25% of first marriages end in divorce.” Feldhahn goes on to say, “Our study for our book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, which independently surveyed both the husband and the wife, found that 71% percent were both happy.”
Those are some encouraging statistics! You’re not up against a 50/50 chance of your marriage ending in divorce after all!
And you can raise the chances of your marriage succeeding astronomically, especially if you check in on your relationship frequently (a daily stress-reducing conversation is a great place to start).
For one couple we recently worked with, this was their exact problem — they weren’t checking in and updating one another about what was going on in their internal world. One partner is dealing with depression, it’s especially hard for him to be vulnerable. But the couple realized that not checking in and connecting in a meaningful way was causing a lot of friction in their relationship. So they’ve made a point to work on that.
One great tool for better understanding your relationship — and deciding whether to seek outside help — is our free relationship assessment.
Another way to help your marriage is to be proactive about seeking outside help. It’s important to come into therapy sooner than later. According to Dr. John Gottman, “couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help… Couples have six years to build up resentment before they begin the important work of learning to resolve differences in effective ways.” By then, so many couples have the walls built up between one another.
In our experience, that‘s who we often see coming into therapy: those who are getting counseling as a last-ditch effort. But by then, it’s almost too late. And yes, it really can be too late for some couples for whom the pain and suffering and hurt have lasted too long. That sort of damage can feel irreparable.
We encourage couples to get connected with a therapist and start developing the skills to build a happy relationship from the get-go. If you sense something is going wrong in your relationship, it’s critically important to get help sooner than later.
If you found a lump in your breast, you’d get into the doctor to be screened within weeks. You wouldn’t wait six years. Your relationship deserves that same level of care.
One thing that often stands in the way of getting help is when only one partner feels the relationship is broken; one partner thinks everything is fine while the other is really struggling.
If this feels like you, check in with yourself about your answers to Dr. Sue Johnson’s three questions from Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love:
- Are you there for me?
- Will you come when I call?
- Do I matter to you?
It’s possible to internally answer “yes” to these questions while still feeling a sense of disconnect in different areas of your life. You might think, “Yeah, he’s there for me, but he’s always worried about finances.” Or “He’ll come when I call, but I know he might be annoyed about it.” Some couples just aren’t adequately aligned in each area. And things could be so much better for them if they would align themselves.
Don’t settle for a marriage that’s in survival mode. Your relationship might seem “good enough” or “okay,” but if you get irritable and the frustration continues to compound because you and your partner keep talking about doing something… but never actually do anything to make a change… That’s when you have to act. You might think you don’t have the bandwidth to seek help, but you and your partner deserve better. You can be the hero of the story simply by saying you want to be a better partner and would like to do this together.
Counseling and coaching can be a game-changer.
If committing to counseling sounds like more than you can manage, how about just one weekend?
Our two-day conference for couples created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, called The Art and Science of Love, has been shown to achieve results similar to those of six months of marital therapy. It’s the perfect opportunity for you and your partner to communicate better and do better.
And you don’t have to wait. Register today for our next session.