All marriages, even the great ones, have irreconcilable differences. While some differences are deal-breakers, many are natural and even necessary in order for relationships to thrive. An unfortunate all-too-popular myth held by many people is that irreconcilable differences are an indicator that the marriage is doomed. The courts even see it as legitimate grounds for divorce.
Ironically, it's the ways in which we are different that makes us attractive to each other. The idea is not to eliminate differences by trying to change each other or ourselves. Rather, we can learn how to appreciate and grow from them. Learning how to view differences as the compost that fertilizes our relationship rather than seeing them as problems can transform conflict into connection and suffering into gratitude.
Most couples wait too long to get help.
A recent survey found that couples with persistent marital difficulties made their first outreach to a counselor six years after the initial onset of the problem. Wishful thinking or the hopes that things will just "spontaneously improve" is rarely sufficient to implement necessary corrections to a troubled relationship. Things don't generally stay the same when they are unattended.
Relationships are either growing or dying. There's no neutral ground, and continued breakdown diminishes the chances of full repair. The longer couples wait to get the help that they need, the longer it takes to heal the relationship. Couples should make their best efforts to use the skills they have to do their relationship work on their own as a first resort. However, when your best efforts fail to bring about the desired outcome, it's better to get help sooner rather than later.
Dennis Stoica, President of the California Healthy Marriages Coalition claims that "Eighty percent of divorces are completely avoidable. If people are able to access resources, they can restore their marriages." It's an unfortunate truth that many people go into marriage with the expectation that eventual divorce is a likelihood for most couples. Others enter marriage with another equally illusory belief that "love is enough" to get you through the rough times.
Love goes through many seasons and there can be some harsh winters. Some of the factors that can determine whether or not a couple makes it have to do with challenging beliefs that can set us up for disastrous self-fulfilling prophecies. There is no shortage of good resources to keep marriages healthy and to heal them when they're not. But there has to be a willingness to recognize when help is needed as well as an intention to engage in the repair process. When these conditions are met, the prognosis is good.
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