According to Karol Ward, author of Find Your Inner Voice: Using Instinct and Intuition Through the Body-Mind Connection, if either spouse is disrespectful or dismissive about trying to repair issues in the marriage, this indicates that the one using the disrespect is no longer regarding the other one as an equal partner. 'There is a big difference between being angry or hurt with your spouse and treating them with scorn. Disrespect means you no longer value or cherish your spouse, which is a major problem in a relationship,' Ward explains. If you'd like to fix matters, Ward suggests, 'When things are calm, express how hurt you feel when you feel you are disrespected and ask what is triggering it. You don't have to agree with the other person's perspective, but indicate you are willing to try and work on the relationship and ask them if they are too.' Be honest, calm and direct, Ward adds. 'If you find out the other person does not want to continue, at least you will know the truth and stop the cycle of bad behavior,' she says.
This might sound good in theory, but if you and your spouse aren't fighting anymore, that means you're also not communicating. 'If you've been fighting, or just dread fighting, moving into a phase of not talking meaningfully at all can feel like a relief,' says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a.k.a. 'Dr. Romance,' psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, 'but it could be a sign that you've both given up on being understood.' When this happens, Tessina points out, divorce is often the next step if you don't get counseling and figure out how to talk to each other without fighting.
Lauren Mackler, relationship coach, psychotherapist, and author of the bestseller Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life warns that if one or both partners in a relationship engage in emotional or sexual infidelity, you might be headed for divorce. 'People step outside their marriage because they don't know how to deal with their or their partner's feelings of anger, resentment, low self-esteem, and boredom -- common causes of marital discord,' she explains. 'Instead of acting on feelings of attraction to someone else, use this as a wake-up call that your marriage is in peril.' You and your spouse can seek out a professional who can help you identify the root causes of the marital discord and take action to change the interpersonal dynamics that led to the marital collapse, Mackler advises.
If there is a decrease in sexual interest and activity (and there are no physiological conditions at play), you and your spouse might be headed for disunion. And the worst part is couples often avoid talking about this issue due to feelings of rejection or shame, Mackler points out. 'Instead of feeling rejected or angry, understand that a decrease in sexual intimacy is not the problem, but an indicator of deeper marital issues,' she explains. 'Then, find a good therapist or relationship coach (who has a background in psychology) to help you cut through the symptoms of your ailing marriage to effectively address the root-level causes.'
'If you have focused so much on being a family and raising your kids, and let your couple relationship go, you may find that you've lost your couple connection completely,' warns Tessina. 'This is why so many couples break up as soon as the kids are grown (or even before). Your man-and-wife relationship is vital -- it's the foundation your family is built on.' Tessina advises that you and your spouse not get so into your role as parents that you forget to be partners. Yes, your children are important, but so are your love and your relationship as a couple. It's not just about the kids.
'When either spouse withdraws emotionally from the relationship for an extended period of time, this means that the person no longer wants to put in the effort,' Ward points out. That might be hard to hear, couples, but pulling back because you are hurt is very different then removing yourself from the relationship while you are still in it -- those are two totally different things. 'If a spouse stops giving affection, refuses to communicate or does not spend time at home for long periods of time, this usually indicates they have emotionally left the relationship,' Ward explains. To fix matters, you can verbalize your concerns or write a note telling your spouse you need to speak with him. 'When you do meet, tell him you have noticed his disappearance, how it makes you feel and ask him what's going on,' she advises. 'It may feel awkward and rusty to connect again, but if you want your relationship back on track, let it be awkward without judging it.'
'If one of you refuses to try and work out conflicts or problems, you are in a dead-end relationship,' says Ward. 'There is a difference between not knowing how to resolve arguments and the refusal to do so. If one spouse or both are unwilling to negotiate, stop arguing or go to a therapist to heal the relationship, then the relationship has no where to go except towards divorce.' You and your spouse have to be willing to try and save the relationship in order for it to survive, say relationship experts. If you and your spouse are both willing, it's a good idea to find time when you are not fighting to communicate and share your concerns. 'Tell your spouse that you don't know how to fix things between you and you are feeling stuck,' Ward suggests. 'Ask him if he has any thoughts on how to make things better and then discuss one thing you are willing to try that week to rebuild trust. If you still can't agree, tell your spouse you feel you both need professional support and guidance and then find a couples therapist.' Hopefully, he'll want to give that a shot.
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