By: Lisa Kift, MFT
You're married and you and your
spouse have lost much of the connection you once had. You used to
talk more, spend more time together, be more intimate and feel more
loved when with one another. You can't quite put your finger on
what's led to the great divide between you. Or perhaps you're keenly
aware of the tension that's been building between you.
If you can relate to the above, you're
one of many married couples who have asked themselves the question,
"What happened to my marriage?"
Every couple will have their own unique
answer to the above question but I suspect there's a good chance
that whatever the specifics are to their situation, there's more of
a common thread than might be initially evident.
Three things to explore when
considering the question, "What happened to my marriage?" are the
- Emotional Safety Levels:
Emotional safety is one of the most important elements of a
healthy relationship and represents the quality of the
attachment or bond between you and your spouse. Ask yourself
whether you view the other as a "secure base" in which to return
to. The lens at which I assess emotional safety includes eight
aspects; respect, trust, feeling prioritized, feeling heard,
understanding, validation, empathy and love.
Question: How much emotional
safety exists for both of you in your marriage?
- Family of Origin Lessons:
The experience you each had in your families of origin
with parents or primary caregivers is part of the tapestry
of what makes up who you and your spouse both are and what
you learned about relationships. Whether we like it or not,
many of us repeat behaviors we saw or experienced. Sometimes
we even pick partners who remind us of the negative and
positive traits of our parents! At the very least we often
relate to our intimate partners with a certain attachment
style similar to what we learned in very early childhood, a
response to the quality of emotional attunement we received
by our primary caregivers.
Question: Are you or your
spouse's childhood wounds negatively impacting your
- The Resentment
Garbage: Resentment is a build-up of anger or hurt
feelings. The longer those feelings go unexpressed or
invalidated, the higher the "mountain" of resentment can
get. Couples I see in my office on the brink of divorce
typically have massive amounts between them. Part of my
work is to help them work through their resentment,
ideally leaving a small pile of dirt in place of the
mountain that loomed in front of them at the onset.
Unfortunately, the reality is, sometimes too much damage
has been done for the marriage to recover.
Question: Is the
build-up of resentment between you and your spouse
harming your marriage?
- There are a number
of other aspects to consider when exploring the
question, "What happened to my marriage?" but for
sake of this piece I've covered the "big three." I
hope you've found some clarity around this question
in your own case.
If you and your
spouse both are interested in getting reconnected
then you're off to a great start. Here are a few
options you have to attempt to recapture the
connection you once had.
- If your
communication is effective enough to try to
tackle it on your own, sit down together and
have an honest look at what's going on. Perhaps
that's all you need!
- If you're
concerned you need a bit more assistance, I
The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for
Couples which provides a framework for you
to strengthen the relationship foundation that
supports your marriage, further exploring what
we've covered and much more. The workbook starts
out with basic communication skills to help
navigate through the rest in the most productive
- If you and your
partner are a high-conflict couple, you may need
more than a workbook can provide. I would
recommend finding a local couples therapist for
Kift is a psychotherapist and author of
The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples
The Marriage Refresher Course for Couples.
See more relationship articles, tips, tools and
advice by Lisa and other therapy professionals
Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com.