After the Affair – What Happens Now?



It’s a staggering statistic: more than 50% of all spouses are victims of infidelity, which means that one spouse in more than half of all marriages will suffer the greatest marital pain possible at some time during their lifetimes.

Affairs usually begin with an attraction to someone you know fairly well, someone you spend time with each week — your friends or co-workers. Contrary to what you may think, adultery is not merely about sex. In fact, sex is often a bonus to the affair. People cheat for varying reasons, but the most common reasons- probably the vast majority of reasons people have an affair is for emotional connectedness, the feeling of being wanted, needed, understood, important, and heard. They are feelings that are deeply lacking in the current relationship, which cause the cheater to obtain them elsewhere. The unloved and misunderstood wife, or the controlled and endlessly criticized husband- two very common stereotypes that are vulnerable to straying. To those on the receiving end however, adultery is a selfish betrayal of trust that brings with it devastating consequences.

Whether a marriage survives an affair depends on how healthy the marriage was to begin with, how long the affair lasted and the manner in which it was discovered. Research has shown that the couples who have a real chance of making it are the ones who are committed because they really want to be with each other, not because of the kids or because they feel obligated.

The first step is to talk about what happened. It’s important to ask and get an answer to any and all questions. More and more marriage experts agree that couples heal better after an affair if the adulterous spouse supplies all of the information requested by his or her betrayed partner. In one study of 1,083 betrayed husbands and wives, those whose spouses were the most honest felt better emotionally and reconciled more completely, reports affairs expert Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering from Affairs, who developed the international Beyond Affairs Network. “I’ve talked with plenty of people who say with pride that they never talked about the affair,” she says. “That’s not healing. You need to reach the point where you can talk about it without pain. If you never, ever discuss it, you cannot recover.

Understand also that although you must turn towards one another to heal if you want to be together, not turn away – you are each dealing with VERY different emotional experiences. While you each need to look within to your authentic desires and longings in your new world – you are likely feeling very different constellations of emotion, grief and pain. Betrayal can be felt as a deep trauma. Shame and guilt can feel paralyzing.

Here are some tips for navigating the flood of emotions that both of you may be dealing with:

1. Give yourself permission to feel. Don’t fight the emotions that you experience, try to identify them, understand them and respect that they are normal.

2. Make room in your mind for feelings. Sometimes people are so busy with day-to-day activities that they really don’t have a chance to reflect on where they are emotionally. It’s good from time to time to clear your head of clutter: physical exercise, prayer or meditation or a simple walk in the woods can help.

3. Don’t dwell. If you continue to get stuck, then something as simple as journaling or talking to a friend can help. If the negativity is unshakable, then it may be time to get professional help.

4. Just as was mentioned earlier, it’s important to talk to your spouse – you may not be able to move forward until you can have meaningful discussions together about what you are going through. If your connection grows after the affair, you may feel comfortable speaking up. If the relationship is still tenuous though, you should not give up on having a heart-to-heart. The best way to get started is to tell your spouse that you want to talk about how you feel, but you only want him or her to listen.

Strong emotions are your mind’s way of letting you know that something outside of the ordinary is happening. You wish the affair had never happened in the first place, but understanding, accepting and processing your feelings will bring you closer to healing. It’s also important to process these feelings with a neutral third party and that’s where counseling can help. Infidelity is not something that occurs in a vacuum. Therapy address the issues already in the marriage that led up to the affair.

By the time infidelity occurs, there are many deep issues that have already been present for some time, and in order for healing to come, these issues must be addressed. Adultery is the culmination of a long trail of unresolved underlying issues; and while it is a serious problem in a relationship, it is not the root problem. Nor does it have to be the end of the relationship. If the couple wants to work through the hurt and betrayal, counseling focuses on communication skills, rebuilding trust, and developing goals for the future to direct the couple providing hope for the future and restored love and intimacy in the marriage.

The Difference Between Sadness and Depression



How Do I Know If It’s Sadness or Depression?

It’s normal to feel sad from time to time. Sadness is a natural reaction to something upsetting that has happened and to which to feel a sense of grief or loss. Depression on the other hand is more extreme. It is more of a deep emotional response that has a lot more symptoms than sadness and can, if not treated, lead to other issues like an overwhelming anxiety, isolation and even suicide.

One major difference between sadness and depression is that a person experiencing feelings which they find disconcerting can reasonably tell you what it is that is causing their unhappiness, however, a person suffering from depression may not necessarily be able to do so. And though it is safe to say anyone going through depression experiences sadness, not every sad person is necessarily depressed although both emotional hindrances might need to be addressed and catered to in very similar ways.

It’s important to note that since depression is usually more burdensome than a state of sadness, one needs to be able to distinguish between the two to determine the amount of effort that may be needed to correct either of these emotions.

Listed below are common symptoms of depression in no specific order:

Irritability and mood swings.
Hopelessness and extreme pessimism (a negative outlook on life)
Loss of energy and motivation mixed with extreme fatigue and feelings of being tired
Loss of interest in hobbies that previously brought joy
Lack of effort relating to personal appearance (dirty clothing, lack of bathing or grooming)
Avoidance of loved ones
Low self-esteem and self-worth
Suicidal thoughts (in extreme cases)
Insomnia (lack of) or excessive sleep.
Inexplicable weight loss or gain

Though not a conclusive list as characteristics vary from person to person, the symptoms of depression listed above are the most common.

In contrast to the above, sadness is not constant. Sadness is not an every-moment-of-every-day thing like depression is. Sadness relents, depression doesn’t. Sadness is interrupted by periods of laughter; depression often can’t be budged. Sadness may usher in negative thoughts, but it does not propel a person into a place of suicidal ideation. Sadness may reduce our ability to enjoy life but it doesn’t destroy it all together. Sadness may last for what feels like a long period of time, but it does not remain constant for weeks or months. Sadness doesn’t produce significant weight changes or prolonged periods of sleep changes.

It’s important to understand the difference between sadness and depression because it clarifies which is an illness and which is not. It’s important to realize that depression is not a medicalization of normal, human emotion. Depression is a real illness. It is very different from sadness. The causes of depression are complicated, and research indicates that there is no single cause. Some people may be genetically or biologically predisposed to depression. Environmental and social factors, such as trauma and major psychological stress, may also play a role.

If you’re struggling with feelings of sadness or depression and you’d like to discover more about how to treat it, please contact someone at our office, another clinician with whom you feel comfortable or your primary care physician. Regardless of the cause, the most important thing to remember is that both sadness and depression are treatable.

How To Talk About Difficult Subjects



Avoiding topics that you know you need to discuss is common.  Unfortunately, in relationships it can be costly in terms of the distance it can cause between partners.  Here are a few guidelines that may be helpful to use the next time you and your significant other decide to talk about an issue that you have previously chosen to avoid or deny in the past.


1. Give your partner a heads-up that you would like to carve out time for a serious talk.

2. Create three talking points (and only three!) and memorize them. Be able to make each point in one sentence. If you say nothing else, these are the points you need to make. Now you have a skeleton outline to help you return to the issues at hand if you get sidetracked.

3. Be concise. We tend to say too much. Say it once. Let silence happen while your partner processes your points.

4. Don’t be in it to win it. Be in it to discover how your partner sees it. In fact, ask, “How do you see it?” This attitude shift is critical. It’s not a fight. It’s a discussion.

5. Stay in the present! Do not bring up past transgressions no matter how tempting it is to zap the other person with old atrocities. That’s hitting below the belt. Defensiveness and anger will follow, and your talk will dissolve into an argument no one can win.

6. After you’ve covered your three talking points, ask, “Where do we go from here?” Be prepared with your own suggestions, but listen to your partner’s ideas, too. He or she may suggest alternatives that never crossed your mind.

7. If you’re reduced to shouting, be confident enough to end the discussion. Suggest you both think about what happened and set a time to talk within the next 24 hours when both of you have calmed down.

Signs of a Healthy Relationship


Healthy Relationships

Healthy Relationships


What makes a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship is when two people develop a connection based on:


Mutual respect
Separate identities
Good communication
A sense of playfulness/fondness
Realistic expectations


A healthy relationship should bring more happiness than stress or disappointment into your life. While in a healthy relationship you:

Have healthy self-esteem independent of your relationship
Maintain and respect each other’s individuality
Maintain relationships with friends and family
Have activities apart from one another
Are able to express yourself in the environment you are in without fear of consequences
Are able to feel secure and comfortable
Allow and encourage other relationships/friendships
Take interest in one another’s activities
Trust the person
Ability to be honest with each other
Have the option of privacy
Have respect for sexual boundaries in intimate relationships
Give and take
Resolve conflict fairly: Fighting is part of even healthy relationships; the difference is how the conflict is handled. Fighting fairly is an important skill to help you have healthier relationships.

Resolving Conflict With Active Listening – Give Your Partner An EAR


Active listening

Active listening

Many couples struggle with how to effectively handle difficult topics as they come up in their relationship, or try to find ways to be sure the other person hears and understands their thoughts and feelings on an issue that can sometimes be a trigger for both of them.

One approach that many therapists suggest, and many couples find difficult to remember the steps to, is active listening where both partners sit and listen to the others uninterrupted thoughts and then repeat back what they’ve heard and believe they understand regarding what was shared. The conversation then goes back and forth until both people feel the other person has accurately processed the information they wanted to share.

Difficulties arise when one, or both, partners forget the steps and then begin to interrupt, defend or try to insist that the other person see things the same way they do. Couples struggle to hold onto the boundaries of how to handle an active listening conversation when they both can’t recall the exact steps to work toward a respectful and satisfying conclusion. As a result, couples walk away even more frustrated than before.

An easier method to try and remember is EAR. EAR stands for ENGAGE, APPRECIATE and RESPOND. Here are the steps:

ENGAGE – reach out to your partner in a moment when both of you aren’t distracted or involved in another project. It might be after the kids have gone to bed, or before the workday begins. This can be accomplished by scheduling the meeting in advance, or simply asking the other person if this is a good time to talk about an issue you both have been working on.

APPRECIATE – have a mutual agreement that each of you will allow the other person to share their thoughts, feelings and struggles without interruption. Even though you may feel that you were misquoted, or your partner has a completely skewed viewpoint on a situation, you have to hold to the agreement that you will not step in with your own opinion until it is your turn to do so. Once your partner has finished, express genuine appreciation for what they shared and repeat back what you heard them say (not what your interpretation is of their narrative).

RESPOND– when it is your turn, share your thoughts and feelings on what your perception is regarding the same event or issue. Be sure to keep your opinion focused on your own feelings and not those you have projected onto your partner and fight the urge to bring up past events that you feel somehow relate to what the two of you are struggling with currently. This is not a time to defend, dismiss or deny anything your partner has shared. Instead, you should focus on owning what your part was in the issue and validating those thoughts and feelings that your partner has shared with you.

If you feel, after you have tried the above steps, that things have gotten heated between you it would be a good idea to take a break and return to the topic, and the steps outlined above, within 24 hours and try the process over again. Remember, your goal is to achieve a greater understanding of your partner’s perspective and a deeper level of connection between the two of you.

The Relationship Between Sleep Patterns and Happiness


According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, yet a CDC study found that 40 million workers get fewer than six hours of sleep per night. Research has shown that a lack of sleep may be associated with decreased productivity, an inability to remember information, an increased risk of accidents, diabetes, heart problems and weight gain. Setting a routine sleep schedule may be the answer to assuring an appropriate amount of sleep is reached on a regular basis.
In addition to aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, numerous studies have shown the benefit of getting up early. Here are just a few:
1. Becoming an early riser will make you more successful.  It’s plain and simple. A 2008 study out of Texas University concluded that those students identifying themselves as morning people earned a full point higher on their GPAs than those who identified themselves as night owls. Who knew waking up early could be the difference between a 4.0 and a 3.0?
2. Studies have shown that morning people are actually happier than night owls. We aren’t just referring to being happier for those 15 minutes in the morning, but rather they are happier with life overall. Night owl tendencies tend to fade as people age, and the study says this switch to a morning-focused schedule could be why older adults are happier than younger ones. The study involved two populations: the first was made up of 435 adults ages 17 to 38, and the second of 297 older adults, ages 59 to 79. Both groups answered questions about their emotional state, how healthy they feel and their preferred “time of day.”
“We found that older adults reported greater positive emotion than younger adults, and older adults were more likely to be morning-type people than younger adults,” Biss said. “The ‘morningness’ was associated with greater happiness emotions in both age groups.”
3. Morning people are often in better shape than night owls.
The reasoning behind this is simple. Waking up early allows people extra time to exercise before the family is awake or before their official work day begins. For this reason, many successful businesspeople wake up early. This morning exercise helps to boost mood and provides energy for the rest of the day.
So, now that you know the benefits to getting up early, how do you go about doing it? First, don’t make drastic changes. If you’ve been waking up at 7:00 every morning for your entire adult life, don’t start off your new early riser schedule by getting up at 4:30AM. Start small. If you have a goal of waking up at 5AM, slowly work to it by waking up just 15 minutes earlier than you usually do. Stick to this schedule for a few days until your body adjusts and then cut back another 15 minutes. Continue with the cycle until you’re waking up at 5AM. It might take longer than you want, but you’re more likely to stick with the new routine by easing into it gradually.
Another big change is to go to bed earlier. If you try to get up earlier while staying up late, you’ll find yourself giving up the newest habit of being an early riser. Eventually, you’ll have to start the whole process over.
Some other suggestions:
Put your alarm clock across the room from your bed. If it’s right next to your bed, you’ll shut it off or hit snooze. If it’s across the room, you have to get up out of bed to shut it off. By then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Don’t allow yourself to go back to bed no matter how tired you feel.
Have a routine. Don’t make getting back in bed an option. Have an activity planned (reading the paper, exercise, meditate, drink a cup of coffee) so that you are moving toward a plane event as opposed to wandering around the house wondering what to do next.
Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that you’re forcing yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look forward to waking up early. A good reward is to make a hot cup of coffee or tea and read a book. Other rewards might be watching the sunrise, or meditating. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.
Take advantage of all that extra time. Don’t wake up an hour or two early and waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day!
Exercise. There are other times to exercise besides the early morning, of course, but I’ve found that while exercising right after work is also very enjoyable, it’s also liable to be canceled because of other things that come up. Morning exercise is virtually never canceled.
Productivity. Mornings are the most productive time of day especially since there are fewer distractions, Then, when evening rolls around, you have less work that you need to do, and can spend it doing something else you enjoy.
Goal time. Got goals? Well, you should. And there’s no better time to review them and plan for them and do your goal tasks than first thing. You should have one goal that you want to accomplish this week. And every morning, you should decide what one thing you can do today to move yourself further towards that goal. And then, if possible, do that first thing in the morning.


Adult ADHD and Its Affect on Relationships

We have all heard the stories and statistics around children who struggle with ADHD, but have you ever thought about how that same disorder may affect you later in life? Adults with attention disorders often learn coping skills to help them stay organized and focused at work. Recently though, experts have reported that many of them struggle at home, where their tendency to become distracted is a constant source of conflict in their primary relationships. Some research suggests that these adults are twice as likely to be divorced; another study found high levels of distress in 60 percent of marriages where one spouse had the disorder.
Over 80 percent of adults with ADHD are undiagnosed, so most couples are not aware of the impact it has in their relationships. Here are just a few examples of the role it can play:

Trouble paying attention. If you have ADD/ADHD, you may zone out during conversations, which can make your partner feel ignored and devalued. You may also miss important details or mindlessly agree to something you don’t remember later, which can be frustrating to others.

Forgetfulness. Even when a person with ADD/ADHD is paying attention, he or she may later forget what was promised or discussed. When it’s your spouse’s birthday or the formula you said you’d pick up, your partner may start to feel like you don’t care or you’re unreliable.

Poor organizational skills. This can lead to difficulty finishing tasks as well as general household chaos. Partners may feel like they’re always cleaning up after the person with ADD/ADHD and shouldering a disproportionate amount of the family duties.

Impulsivity. If you have ADD/ADHD, you may blurt things out without thinking, which can cause hurt feelings. This impulsivity can also lead to irresponsible and even reckless behavior (for example, making a big purchase that isn’t in the budget, leading to fights over finances).
Emotional outbursts. Many people with ADD/ADHD have trouble moderating their emotions. You may lose your temper easily and have trouble discussing issues calmly. Your partner may feel like he or she has to walk on eggshells to avoid blowups.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. With these kinds of issues (and more) certain predictable patterns develop. For example, the non-ADHD partner tends to become a “parent” figure — controlling and nagging in order to remind the ADHD partner to get things done, while the ADHD partner becomes a “child” figure who lacks authority or responsibility in the relationship.

Many couples feel stuck in this unsatisfying parent-child type of relationship. It often starts when the partner with ADD/ADHD fails to follow through on tasks, such as forgetting to pay the cable bill, leaving clean laundry in a pile on the bed, or leaving the kids stranded after promising to pick them up. The non-ADHD partner takes on more and more of the household responsibilities. The more lopsided the partnership becomes, the more resentful he or she feels. It becomes harder to appreciate the ADHD spouse’s positive qualities and contributions. Of course, the partner with ADD/ADHD senses this. He or she starts to feel like there’s no point to even trying and dismisses the non-ADHD spouse as controlling and impossible to please.

As you expect, the issues outlined above negatively affect the quality of your relationship. In fact, the divorce rate for older adults who have ADHD is almost twice that of those who don’t have ADHD. So what can you do to break this pattern?

Tips for the non-ADHD partner:

*You can’t control your spouse, but you can control your own actions. Put an immediate stop to verbal attacks and nagging. Neither gets results.
*Encourage your partner when he or she makes progress and acknowledge achievements and efforts.
*Stop trying to “parent” your partner. It is destructive to your relationship and demotivating to your spouse.

Tips for the partner with ADHD:

*Acknowledge the fact that your ADD/ADHD symptoms are interfering with your relationship. It’s not just a case of your partner being unreasonable.
*Explore treatment options. As you learn to manage your symptoms and become more reliable, your partner will ease off.
*Find ways to be more attentive to your spouse. If your partner feels cared for by you—even in small ways—he or she will feel less like your parent.

Tips for both partners:

Develop a routine. Your partner will benefit from the added structure. Schedule in the things you both need to accomplish and consider set times for meals, exercise, and sleep.

Set up external reminders. This can be in the form of a dry erase board, sticky notes, or a to-do list on your phone.
Control clutter. People with ADD/ADHD have a hard time getting and staying organized, but clutter adds to the feeling that their lives are out of control. Help your partner set up a system for dealing with clutter and staying organized.
Ask the ADHD partner to repeat requests. To avoid misunderstandings, have your partner repeat what you have agreed upon.
If you think you or someone you care about has adult ADHD, the first thing you should do is learn about the disorder and how it’s diagnosed. You can start by looking over free online resources from organizations like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and the National Center on ADHD. These sites can help you find local doctors, and support groups where you can meet people facing similar issues. You can also find out how to get tested for the condition.


Start the New Year With the Power of Forgiveness

imageChances are, you have been hurt in the past, and you have experienced the anger, pain, frustration and resentment that comes along with the pain of knowing you have been injured by the words and/or actions of another. All of these emotions, whether you know it or not, have somehow shaped your current perception of the world, along with the decisions you make, your health, your attitude – nearly every aspect of your life.

So, the critical question is – to what extent can you let these negative emotions go and forgive the person who hurt you?

Holding on to anger or resentment can sometimes trigger an addictive sense of strength and righteousness. It can feel good to blame someone else, but the downside is that it also leaves a negative imprint on us. Ultimately, who wants to have a life defined by anger, pain or suffering? There’s an important distinction about the act of forgiving – you can still condemn the act while forgiving the person who committed it. Forgiveness can’t be forced, but if you’re open to the possibility, it will come at the right time and the right place. You might wake up one morning and think “Now is the time to move on since my divorce” or “I’m tired of focusing on how selfish my brother has been all his life”.

Forgiveness is not easy. It’s not a benevolent gesture to be bestowed on someone who has wronged you, to free them from guilt. Actually, it’s not about the other person at all. Instead, it’s an active, challenging internal process that is specifically meant to help you. It is a shedding of those negative emotions that hold you back, that prevent you from feeling peace, happiness, and even love.
Tim Laurence, founder of the Hoffman Institute in the UK, strongly believes that forgiveness is an essential part of healing. Over the past 15 years, he has been amazed by the courage he has witnessed as people let go of anger and pain.

“I have seen people whose lives have been determined by a grievance that has affected not only themselves, but also generations after them. To then see that person forgive and be able to move on in their lives is like watching them unlocking the door to their own prison and stepping out into freedom,” Laurence said.

Not every person or every situation that has hurt us is meant to be a part of our lives and memories forever. Sometimes, they are there for a period of time to teach us something, and once their purpose is served they move on and the next chapter of our story begins.

As difficult as it may be to let people, or their hurtful actions, go, whether they are a long time friend, a family member, a spouse, or a lover, when we forgive them we create a space for them to move onto their next chapter, as well as ourselves.

The faster you can forgive those who have caused you pain and let go of the memory of the injury, the quicker you can focus on creating the most amazing life imaginable.

So, take the time to soak in what’s happened, learn from it, laugh a little and when you’re ready, set yourself free. You’ll be amazed at how much lighter you feel when you no longer carry around the burden of the past.

The Winter Blues: Top 10 Tips for Getting Through the Darkest Months



Winter got you down? If so, you are certainly not alone. As we switch over to Daylight Savings Time it bring us less sunlight, frigid temperatures and often a sense of accompanying lethargy and apathy.


Here’s a list of “Top Ten” ways to help improve your mood and energy level during the winter:
Acknowledge that you feel blue. 
So often we try to deny what we feel because we don’t want to burden others. Admitting you feel down can sometimes lead to feelings of vulnerability and self-doubt. However, when we acknowledge our feelings, it creates an opening for us to let the feeling pass instead of working so hard to push it away. Processing our feelings can also help you to feel less isolated.

Move your body. 
You don’t have to run a marathon or take a spin class to feel the benefit. Take a short walk around the block, vacuum or pick up around the house or just practice some gentle stretching. Any type of movement can have a positive effect on mood and energy levels.
Take in something beautiful everyday. 
It may be the color of the sunset, a picture on your computer, a beautiful poem or quote, a favorite soft blanket. Appealing to our senses counteracts feelings of numbness or apathy we often have during the dark winter months. Take time to notice what feels beautiful about your space and appreciate it.
Light Therapy. 
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects as many as one-third of the population and impacts women twice as often as men. While there is an initial expense in the purchase of the light, daily use has shown to provide a significant improvement in mood.

Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine and increases the level of endorphins in the body. So watch a favorite comedy that gets you every time, no matter how many times you’ve seen it!
Research shows that even a small commitment to a cause leads to feelings of worthiness and improved self-esteem. In addition, the social connection is a great antidote to the isolation many of us experience in the winter months. So go ahead, offer to read to children at a local school or sign up for a park clean-up day. If you’re feeling more ambitious, help organize a neighborhood food drive!
Practice meditation. 
The beauty of this age-old practice is that it can be practiced anytime or anywhere. Today there are many opportunities to learn how to meditate including local classes or c.d.’s that can be downloaded straight to your MP3 player. The Johnson County and KCMO public libraries also have meditation classes on CD’s and DVD’s to check out.

Do something nice for yourself.  Get a massage, take yourself to the movies or buy yourself some flowers. Cultivating love for yourself is a sure fire way to create openness to your spouse, partner or a love interest you haven’t even met! No matter where your love life is, remember that a solid relationship starts from the relationship you share with yourself.

Eat more foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. 
There is a host of evidence that increasing intake of these essential oils found in fish such as salmon and tuna can result in improved mood, concentration and energy. Omega 3 fatty acids also benefit cardiac health and decrease inflammation. If you’re not a fish lover, try walnuts, beans, olive oil or winter squash.
Seek professional help if necessary. 
Clinical depression is more than a case of the blues. If you suspect you are suffering from a clinical depression seek help. Often learning the strategies to help combat the signs and symptoms of depression can go a long way in treating it.

Relationship Warning Signs

imageWe’ve all heard the daunting statistic: 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. No one wants to be a cliché, and everyone wants to find themselves amongst the 50 percent that beat the odds. Although no test exists that can tell you if your problems are typical reactions to the stress and strain most marriages experience at one time or another, troubled marriages do tend to exhibit many of the same characteristics.
To see if your falls into this category, check to see how many of the following statements apply to your marriage:
Scorekeeping: The ease of give and take has been replaced with playing “Tit for Tat”, and you actively keep mental notes on how much you are contributing versus how much your partner isn’t.
Avoidance: Your marriage may be in trouble, if you both are using distractions to avoid dealing with core relationship issues. Do you always have one more thing to do before you can settle down, or is your spouse always hiding behind the newspaper, television, cell phone or computer? If yes, then it is time you both cut out the distractions and focus on your relationship, before it is too late.
Wheel-spinning: If discussions about the issues in your relationship seem to get stuck revolving around the same arguments again and again, it’s usually a sign pointing towards your inability to communicate thoughts and feelings effectively. Sweeping issues under the rug makes for a carpet that’s very difficult to walk on.
Lack of Intimacy: If you notice that intimacy between you and your partner has reached an all-time low, or is non-existent, you may begin to feel like roommates – you live together in the same home, but do not share the intimacies of a marriage. Intimacy levels directly relate to how well you and your partner are communicating. If you’re not talking, you’re probably also not having sex.
No Compromising: A major part of marriage involves trying to fulfill your partner’s needs while also making sure your own needs are met. It’s a lifelong dance, a give and take, and it requires constant communication. But if your partner continually refuses to listen to what you need (time, affection, sex/physical contact, help with children or chores), or refuses to share their own needs, this could indicate trouble in your relationship.


Power and Control: Partners who are rigid, inflexible and controlling often manipulate events to stop them from getting out of control, or making them feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable. As a relationship grows and changes, the balance of power shifts, causing couples to realign their roles and responsibilities. Relationships can see-saw out of control when issues arise such as educational inequality, personal dominance and control, differences in earning capacity, a wife returning to the workforce and becoming more economically dependent, or an imbalance in the power and decision-making process within the couple’s relationship.


Poor Communication. Many relationships can survive infidelity, but most will break down because of poor communication, verbal and nonverbal. Couples who use vague and unclear communication patterns as a way of avoiding closeness and conflict set the stage for misunderstanding, frustration and hurt. A survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 70 per cent of people surveyed whose relationships had fallen apart listed lack of communication as the major cause of their relationship failure.
Recent studies have shown that five years after the break up of their marriage, 40 per cent of individuals said they wished their divorce had never happened. They believed it could have been avoided had they only recognized the warning signs.
When couples see the signs that indicate that their relationship is struggling or “stuck” and are informed about the causes of their relationship breakdown and given solutions for how to deal with these issues, they are better equipped to avoid their dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors, and thus can effectively work toward improving and sustaining their relationship.