Center for Conscious Living

I Love My Partner, but
I'm Just Not Happy

We hear this all the time from couples struggling to fix a marriage that has taken a wrong turn. Fortunately, the majority of marriages are repairable, even when they have become VERY uncomfortable for one or both partners. It is most often the case that people choose partners with whom they are generally compatible, but as they mature, and the arrival of children or other life cycle events interrupt the relationship, problems arise. When couples come to the Center for Conscious Living, we assume that the marriage is viable and work with both partners to learn to get what they want and help their partners get what they want from the relationship.

Marital Help Singly or Together

Marital therapy can take a variety of forms. Frequently, one partner comes to us seeking help with depression or anxiety and eventually it comes up in therapy that one of the reasons for the emotional distress is an uneasy marital situation. Other times, one partner phones the office, hoping we can help to convince the spouse to enter marital therapy. Thankfully, there are also those situations when both partners realize that there is a problem and agree to enter treatment together from the start. Either way, once treatment with both partners has begun, most of the couples we see are able to resolve their problems and create a strong relationship, often better than it has ever been.

A Good Relationship Needs Loving Care

People often ask whether we believe their marriage can be fixed. There is obviously no easy answer, but we have found that as long as both partners are willing to work at the relationship, the vast majority of the couples we see stay together and report that the relationship is still healthy at follow-up visits. It turns out that there are predictable qualities of marriages that succeed, and you can be taught to incorporate these qualities into your relationship. The basics of a good relationship include mutual respect between the partners, being free with positive words, avoiding criticism, in favor of complaining when things are not to your liking, and being wiling to stick it out and resolve differences. Be happy, not right!

Another frequently asked question is how long treatment will take. Again, there is no easy answer, but with two people involved, the modal length of treatment is six months. Few couples take longer to complete treatment, but many need less time.

It Takes Two, but One Is Better Than None

Yet another question we hear is "Can you help me to fix my marriage if my partner refuses to come to treatment?" This is possible. When only one partner enters treatment, considerable change can be initiated. But for the relationship to really be all that it can be, it is strongly preferable for both partners to participate. It takes two to create a good relationship. There is one question that is easy to answer. "Is it all my fault?" No. Just as it takes two people to create a good marriage, it takes two people to create a bad one. While one person may have a more obvious problem, such as an affair or anger or depression, there are issues involving each partner that will be dealt with in therapy to ensure that the new, improved relationship avoids the pitfalls the old one fell into. So if your partner is not ready to come into treatment, jump right in. The work you do will demonstrate your willingness to work hard to improve things and thus can encourage your partner to participate.

Breaches of Trust Can be Healed

And finally, the question, "Do you deal with affairs?" One of the guiding philosophies of the Center for Conscious Living in doing marital work is that problems are relationship problems. While an affair is a significant breach of trust within the relationship, there are most often other problems within the marriage which also need to be explored. Given time and effort by both partners, even the affair can be overcome. We have seen couples get over an affair and leave treatment with a healthy relationship.

Many times an otherwise strong relationship begins to deteriorate because the partners have different expectations of the marriage. While it is a given that two individuals come to a relationship with different needs and expectations, it is not necessary for people to stop having individual needs and desires in order for them to relate well. However, it is necessary for them to communicate their needs to one another in non-threatening ways, to listen empathically to one another, and to be willing to learn when and where compromise is needed. In treatment, couples learn to negotiate successfully with each other to enable both partners to get what they want from the relationship. Couples also learn additional relationship and communication skills to facilitate ongoing growth and understanding within the relationship even after therapy is terminated.

Sometimes Professional Help Is Just the Thing

Once both parties are committed to the therapeutic process, the therapist will help you to determine a treatment plan. This may involve exclusively conjoint sessions or, more likely, some individual sessions for each partner, combined with joint sessions. There will be homework. Research demonstrates that successful therapy requires the couple to participate in the change process between sessions. Dr. Carol B. Low at the Center for Conscious Living is a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive training and experience in marital therapy to help you to improve your relationship. Please phone the Center with your questions, and I encourage both partners to interview me as your prospective guide to a happier marriage.

Recommended Readings

Beck, Aaron T. (1989) Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstandings, Resolve Conflicts, and Solve
Davis, Michele-Weiner (1993) Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again
Gottman, John (1995) Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last
 A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.  -John Shedd