Marriage is the sole cause of divorce

by Graeme Scott

I saw this on a shelf in a small shop yesterday and had to smile. Certainly, it’s true that without marriage there would be no divorce. However the greater question is what else causes relationship conflict and what can we do about these things?

You’ve probably heard it said that it all boils down to poor communication. However, I suggest that couples in troubled relationships actually communicate very well.

She can tell when he has just switched off. He knows as soon as he sees her look that she is pissed off with him. The truth is, couples in trouble can communicate so well they don’t even need to open their mouths.

So if it isn’t poor communication skills, what is it?

I would suggest that we’re on the right track but it isn’t about misunderstanding what’s being said (even non-verbally) so much as missing the emotion that is driving what is being said, both verbally and non-verbally.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation: He pushes her (physically of metaphorically) as he shouts “just shut up and leave me alone, you’re always telling me what to do.” Meanwhile she pushes back (again either physically or metaphorically) and yells “well if you actually listened, I wouldn’t have to.”

There is no misunderstanding what they have just said to each other. In that sense the communication is flawless. But what’s been missed?

Could it be that his angry outburst stems from a feeling of being patronised and a powerful primal need to feel respected? And could her critical retort actually be a desperate cry that she feels alone and valueless in his eyes?

I wonder how each might react to the other if the emotion was communicated instead of the anger that erupted simply because each one’s emotional needs hadn’t been met – perhaps for a very long time.

Emotion Focussed Therapy is a process that can help identify our deepest emotional needs so they can then be expressed to our partners in a way that gives our partners the opportunity to meet those needs.

Please make contact if you would like to set up an appointment by emailing talk@counsellingservices.net.au

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