By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.
There are two types of unhappy marriages: those that are
actively painful and those that are neutral.
The partners in the first type of unhappy marriage give
each other more pain than pleasure. Each has been hurt or disappointed in their
marital relationship, and so strike out at each other through bitter arguments,
criticisms, accusations or physical abuse.
Or a marriage can be unhappy not as a result of bitter fighting
and mutual hurt, but because of the absence of pleasure. Neither partner is
fulfilling each other's needs or giving support to the other. This is a neutral
type of unhappy marriage that may seem fine on the surface but is dead or dying
underneath. Unhappily married people seeking counseling for their marital problems
have to make one of three difficult choices.
First, they can continue to live as they have without changing
their behavior. Hopefully, however, marriage counseling will help them to understand
their relationship and to better relate to other people even if they still can't,
or won't change their unhappy relationship.
Second, they can decide to dissolve their marriage. The
partners may realize that there has been too much mutual hurt and disappointment
in the past to reconstruct their marriage on a more cooperative basis. The counselor's
task then becomes to help them divorce as painlessly and cooperatively as possible.
At this point his concern also includes any children living
at home because a bitter, angry divorce can be traumatic for the offspring,
especially if they are used as pawns in their parents battles.
Third, they can choose to save the marriage but change it
so there is less pain and more pleasure given. This is not easy to do, however.
To change a long-standing, unhappy marital interaction takes great flexibility,
hard work, and the willingness to accommodate and compromise. But it can be
In order to do so, both spouses have to be committed to
saving the marriage and be willing to make the needed changes in their own behavior
patterns that will enable the marriage to succeed. Marital counseling without
the cooperation of both spouses is difficult if not impossible.
In short, the basic purpose in marital counseling - and
indeed in all psychotherapeutic efforts - is to help people reduce their emotional
pain and find more happiness in their the marriage, by dissolving it, or by
Needless to say, the counselor must remain absolutely neutral
on this question. Only the marital partners can and must decide what to do with
their marriage and their lives. The counselor can only be an instrument through
which they can explore their marital interaction in order to decide what to
do about it. He cannot make that decision for them.
In addition , the marriage counselor cannot take the position
that one spouse is entirely at fault or responsible for the marital unhappiness,
and the other entirely blameless. He cannot consistently take sides with
one spouse against the other but must remain on the side of mental health however
that is to be found.
It takes two people to make a marriage fail and two to make
it succeed. In short, the therapeutic focus in marital counseling is primarily
upon the relationship and secondarily upon the individuals in that relationship.
To do otherwise is to fail to provide unhappily married clients with the best
possible service that will help them to find more satisfaction in their lives.
About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with
Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book,
Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available
directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com,
all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors
copyright and website hyperlinks.
DivorceInteractive.com tries to provide
quality information, but cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness or adequacy
of the information, opinions or other content posted on the site. It is not
intended as a substitute for and should not be relied upon as legal, financial,
accounting, tax, medical or other professional advice. It should not be
construed as establishing a professional-client or professional-patient
relationship. The applicability of legal principles is subject to amendment by
the legislature, interpretation by the courts and different application by
different judges and may differ substantially in individual situations or
different states. Before acting on what you have read, it is important to obtain
appropriate professional advice about your particular situation and facts.
Access to and use of DivorceInteractive.com is subject to additional
Terms and Conditions. DivorceInteractive.com
is a secure site and respects your Privacy.
Advertise With Us |
Professional & Resource Directory
Divorce News | Glossary | Divorce Discussion Forums
DivorceInteractive.com All Rights Reserved.