Marriage can finish and/or repair the work our parents never got to or neglected; it can be a corrective experience. Everyone has this work to do and it doesn’t mean you have bad parents, they just weren’t perfect. You don’t want perfect parents. Believe me.
Outside of infidelity, which I’m not going to touch here, a majority of the issues I find couples struggle with can be broken down into a few categories.
One major category is personality. There are reasons why we marry someone who is different than we are. Those differences have more to do with what we have to change than why the other person needs therapy. They have more to do with our early development than our marriage. The difference in the other is usually the thing we need to strive for in order to be a little more put together.
A husband who is rigid and freaks out when life doesn’t play by the rules may need to be more like his wife who is care free, less responsible and not so hung up on expectations. He may feel less alone if he didn’t view people and the world in such a black and white manner. He may be able to enjoy life more if he didn’t make everything a battle of principle.
The wife, in this example, may become frustrated at the lack of direction she feels her life has. She may feel disappointed in the confusing, all over the place relationships she seems to have with people. Maybe she gets a little tired of being a welcome mat. She can probably benefit from increasing her comfort with setting boundaries. She may be able to feel more in control if she learned to hold people accountable to certain legitimate expectations.
It’s about appreciating and learning from these differences instead of using them as reasons why we can’t get along. Using these differences to become more aware of how we can improve our lives instead of using them to explain why the relationship is on the rocks.
Many times the differences are not irreconcilable. It may be helpful to reconsider how a difference is viewed in our minds and what it has to offer us.
Communication is important, but before we can change how we fight we need to understand why we fight and whether fighting is necessary. Maybe what’s necessary is not fighting but learning.