All Marriages are Challenging


In recent decades, half of the first marriages in the United States end in divorce. The chances a second or third marriage will last are even less. Unmarried couples in long-term committed partnerships have no better odds at long-term success. Almost all couples that do make it say it’s not easy.

Thus it’s safe to say most couples find themselves caught in challenging and painful negative relationship patterns. Tragically, once partners find themselves in negative relationship cycles, they often remain stuck indefinitely.

Why are intimate relationships so challenging?

In Western cultures, suffering is a normal part of life. In intimate relationships, each partner’s suffering is the other’s suffering, too. On the one hand, couples have the potential to care for each other’s suffering in extraordinarily powerful ways. Alleviating each other’s suffering brings beautiful feelings of happiness to both. Intimate partnerships hold the promise to see, understand, accept, comfort, and appreciate each other.

On the other hand, many couples don’t have the level of awareness needed to support each other emotionally. Instead, they attempt to provide support in practical ways by making money, providing a home and possessions, spending time, and doing things for each other.

While partners may appreciate each other’s practical supports, these supports may not address deeper, underlying emotional needs. When partners don’t fulfill deeper emotional needs, they become frustrated. With continued frustration, they may judge themselves, each other, and their relationship.

How can partners find the way to happiness from suffering?

To find their way out of frustration and judgment, partners can first understand it is normal for negative patterns to emerge in relationships. Rather than judge each other or their relationship, partners can welcome them with openness and curiosity. These patterns are a sign that something critical needs more understanding and support. They are a sign of underlying and unaddressed emotional needs.

Second, partners can prioritize addressing underlying emotional needs over ignoring them or trying to “fix” things for each other. With more educational resources than available to previous generations, partners can attempt to do this independently. Couples can learn to own and use their anger to get the relationship they want and deserve. They can develop new levels of emotional awareness. Ideally, partners can focus on repairing rather than preventing hurt. When patterns are too deep to go it alone, they can seek help early on.

With the relatively new availability of educational and therapeutic resources, couples have a greater ability than ever before to understand and heal negative relationship patterns. By making depth of emotional understanding and support a priority in their relationship, partners can successfully rise above the painful patterns that otherwise destroy relationships and relationship potential.

Photo by Mylon Ollila on Unsplash