What Happened to My Marriage? 3 Things to Consider


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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 following:

  • 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 marriage?

  • 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.

Now what?

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 wrote 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 way possible.
  • 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 assistance.

Lisa Brookes Kift is a psychotherapist and author of The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples and The Marriage Refresher Course for Couples. See more relationship articles, tips, tools and advice by Lisa and other therapy professionals in The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com.

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