Your Family|August 2019
Destructive behaviours can tear marriages apart – But it doesn’t have to be that way for yours
Jokingly criticising your partner, being sarcastic or even something as ‘innocent’ as eyeball-rolling may not be as harmless as you thought. Joburg-based couples counsellor and relationship therapist Michael Kallenbach explains how to stop these behaviours from driving you and your spouse apart.
1 LACK OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
In all his years of practice, Michael’s found that many couples don’t know how to communicate effectively, which can seriously undermine their relationships. ‘It’s important to tell your spouse what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. It’s equally crucial to do it at an appropriate time,’ says Michael. Instead of bringing an issue up during the morning rush, rather wait till the end of the day, when the children are asleep or doing their homework and you’ve both settled down. Then have an honest chat, without assigning blame: instead, explain how whatever happened made you feel. Bottling things up can cause even more conflict in the long run.
Don’t make the mistake of only talking about the serious stuff. Make an effort to spend time chatting about your day, how you felt about the outcome of a meeting, how your presentation went, what you spotted in a shop window, etc. Ensure you also ask your spouse how their day went – and listen while they’re telling you, giving them feedback. Sharing experiences in this way strengthens your bond.
The danger of this goes without saying. ‘One of the most obvious sins someone can commit is having an affair. Of course, people’s reasons for infidelity vary and, as a therapist, it’s vital and only fair to also consider the role the ‘victim’ of the betrayal might have played in driving their spouse to do this,’ says Michael. The infidelity may have been the result of a major change in your lives, like becoming first-time parents, or one of you getting retrenched or losing a loved one. While grieving, you may be isolating yourself, which could make your spouse feel pushed away and cause them to seek attention elsewhere.
Care for and nurture your relationship, even when there are changes and new dynamics like a baby. Find supportive ways of dealing with the various nuances affecting your marriage. Ask your spouse to help take care of the baby, so they don’t feel left out.
3 TAKING EACH OTHER FOR GRANTED
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