Fairytales end at the wedding – Marriage and Divorce

By David Joel Miller.

Why are there no happily-ever-after relationships around here?

Fairy Tale World

Fairy Tale World.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this collage of life, one recurrent theme is people’s search for that one ideal romantic relationship, the perfect person that will complete their life and make them happy.

The other side of that picture is the near-universal failure of the romantic relationship to live up to our expectations.

Every day millions, soon to be billions, of people fall in love. Some for the first time, many for the umpteenth time. Always we hope this time will be different, this time we have found the one. The result of these repeating patterns has been that more than half of marriages end in divorce. More than ever people are getting into relationships without the benefit of marriage.

A generation has come to believe that the principle cause of divorce is marriage.

Why can’t we all have one of those storybook romances where the prince finds his Snow White, Cinderella gets the glass slipper and the relationship of her dream and we all live happily ever after?

The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that in the fairy tale the curtain always comes down on the magical moment when the couple begins their relationship full of expectations.

We never see the rest of the happy relationship story.

Cinderella, should she have children, and there is a high probability that she will, then she will find that life is not so rosy after being up all night with a sick child. What does that prince do, after a few dozen nights of coming home and finding his beloved in a vile irritable mood after a day of scrubbing and cleaning and caring for princelings?

Most likely he starts spending time trying glass slippers on other women’s feet.

The truth is that life is real and fairy tales are fiction. Real relationships take hard work. Some time spent up front making sure you know that other person and that you are on the same page can pay off on those long nights when things in your realm are not going so well.

Good relationships, like good gardens, require work to maintain them each and every day.

In the real tale, the price may not get promoted to king, even if he does there is that long period of struggle before he gets there. Cinderella can get awfully grumpy when she finds that being with the prince is not an escape from doing chores for the wicked stepmother. A few years toiling over a hot fireplace can make the most charming Cinderella say things just like her wicked stepmother used to say.

Nothing tests romance so well as having a sick child cover you with vomit. Notice in the fairy tales the problems all end with the wedding? In real life that is when they begin.

Fairy tales are about fantasy, marriage is real life and real life is hard work.

My advice, for all it is worth, is to leave the fairy tales in the books and movies and spend the time in your real life relationships doing the hard work of making your life something that is worth the effort that inevitably needs to be invested in that relationship.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Advertisements

Length of time together in failed relationships or marriages

By David Joel Miller.

How long do relationships last?

How long do relationships last?

We counselors and especially those of us that are Marriage and Family Therapists, see lots of relationships that are troubled and at risk of ending. Some marriage counselors take the approach that they are “divorce busters” and seek to keep a couple staying together at any cost.  There are counselors that will align with one or the other person in a relationship and encourage them to put themselves first and the relationship second.

Personally, I try to stay neutral and help the two individuals find the solution that is best for both of them.

What are some of the factors that keep people together in their primary relationship and what forces them apart? Much of this material comes from a researcher and presenter on couples issues named John Gottman.

1. What was their intention when they got together?

Couples get together for all the wrong reasons and stay together for bad reasons also. Many couples find that they like dating, sometimes all they were looking for was fun, a good time or some casual sex. Once sex becomes part of the relationship it alters things, people who would have moved on and let that one go, they know they are not compatible, may stay together after they start having sex.

Being in a primary sexual relationship precludes finding someone else, at least someone for more than casual sex. No one likes falling in love with someone who is sleeping with another partner.

2. Everything changes with the pregnancy.

Pregnancy happens whether we plan on it or not. Sometimes birth control fails, sometimes we forget to use it or over time it becomes less critical.

It is one relationship when it is all fun, dating and having sex, but it is a whole other thing once the prospect of a child comes into things.  Someone who was good with a causal relationship before suddenly wants a commitment. After all, you are having a child together.

Whether the pregnancy is terminated or the decision is made to have the child everything is different after the pregnancy. Some couples decide to get married because of the pregnancy some do not. Either way, you and the relationship is changed forever.

It does not appear from my experience that the marriage license is the key factor here. The important thing is, does the couple decide that they want to be together as life partners or are they only doing this because they are trapped by a pregnancy.

3. The first year after the birth of the first child can be traumatic.

Couples that are not married have a high risk of breaking up during that first year after the birth of the first child.

Couples that do get married still find the relationship changes, often in ways, they did not expect and want. It takes a lot of work to create and maintain a relationship after a child enters the picture, especially if a long-term relationship was not what you wanted in the first place.

4. How long did the couple know each other before they made the commitment?

Couples that have known each other, dated and had common experiences, for two to five years before getting into a long-term relationship are more likely to have a successful relationship.

Couples who date only briefly sometimes workout, but they are at extra risk. In the early stages of a relationship, we all want to be liked and put our best foot forward. You can’t keep that appearance up forever and after a few years the real you and the real them leak out. Couples who move through the dating stage and establish a long-term relationship to rapidly often find they are in a relationship they wish they had not entered.

If you have been dating for over five years and are still not feeling ready to make a commitment to a long-term relationship, then there is something in your gut telling you this is not the right thing.

Sometimes our reluctance is about the other person and sometimes it is about us. We find that two emotionally unhealthy people do not make for a good relationship. If you have issues, you need to work on yourself before you get into a relationship.

That does not mean that if you suffer from a mental or emotional illness that you should not be in a relationship. What it does suggest is that you need to work on yourself and your recovery before entering that relationship. No one else can fix you. Recovery is an inside job.

5. Has there been a history of angry fights, abuse or domestic violence?

Couples whose relationship is characterized by lots of fighting, little if any repair efforts and abuse and violence often end during the first five years. This bulge in failed relationships at five years is also influenced by substance abuse and other addictions.

6. Many marriages or long-term relationships fail at the 20 to 25-year point.

These relationships stay together because of the children, the influence of family or economic reasons. Then one day, often around the time that the oldest child is about to graduate from high school, the couple looks at each other and can’t remember why they liked each other in the first place.

These relationships do not fail because of anger or hatred, they just fizzle out. Suddenly one or both parties wake up and realize the feeling of love was lost a long time ago.

They have failed to maintain the relationship and now they have nothing in common.

7. Relationships that triangulate in a third-party or substance.

Added to these relationship issues is the ever-present possibility of affairs, emotional or sexual. Those relationships end because someone or something else pries one of the parties away from their primary relationship. One of the worst affairs is the drug-threesome caused by someone falling in love with a drug of choice and leaving their partner to follow that addiction.

There you have some of the more common reasons that relationships fail and people separate, break up or divorce.

Breaking up is almost always painful, even when you know you want out. The trick is to learn to be happy as an individual and then that happiness has a chance of spilling over into the relationship.

Here is wishing you a happy life, with or without that romantic relationship.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Success or failure?

By David Joel Miller.

Are you a success or a failure?

Success and Failure

Success and Failure

Men and women seem to understand success and failure differently. The kinds of things that most men see as successes and failures are different from those experienced by women.

I know those old gender stereotypes are not always true and things are changing, but when it comes to issues of success and failure the problems that bring men and women to the counseling room are usually different. Men in counseling may say they are not very successful. They want to be more successful. Women rarely say that.

When men say success they mean money or accomplishment.

Men talk about not being successful in terms of money, income, being a good provider for their family. They also think in terms of accomplishment. Men feel good about themselves when they win a contest, are famous for some sport or activity or because of education and promotions, they assume a position of authority.

It doesn’t always have to be about the money, it can also be about the position or the activity. A pastor, priest or director of a nonprofit may not make a lot of money but they can think of themselves as successful if they are able to see their organization accomplish its mission. If they feel that the role they fill is important.

Women worry about relationship failure.

Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see their therapist because they perceive that they have “failed.” They report they have “failed” at marriage or “failed” at motherhood. Traditionally men and women have evaluated themselves differently.

Men think they need to have things.

Men are most likely to evaluate themselves based on what they have or “are.” They have a nice house, they drive a new prestigious car, they have a good-looking “trophy” wife. Lacking a lot of expensive toys a man can still feel good about himself if he believes he “is” something worthwhile. He can be poor and still have “status” if he is a priest or pastor, a doctor or a professor.

Women tend to evaluate themselves based on their relationships. They can feel like a success if they have good children who love them. The love of their husband is likely to be more important than his income. Women have told me they don’t care if they have to live in a car as long as they know their man and their kids love them. Now clearly there are materialistic women just like there are men who are more motivated by love. But overall women may look for a man who can be a good provider for them and the children, but having made their choice they are most likely to feel they are successful if the relationship is going well rather than if he sends the money home from a place where he lives with someone else.

In therapy, people get a chance to take another look at their understanding of success and failure. They decide just what they need to do to feel successful and they learn new skills to move to the position of feeling good about themselves. Sometimes they discard the yardstick they have been using to measure success and get a new understanding of what success and failure mean to them.

Whether you feel like a success or failure then is not all about the money or the relationship. It is mostly about the yardstick you are using to measure success or failure. How do you measure your success or failure? What would you need to have or accomplish to feel successful and what are you doing to get there?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why relationships fail – two large reasons

Photo from Wikimedia commons

By David Joel Miller.

Two major causes are responsible for the majority of failed relationships.

Most of the research in this area has been done by Marriage or Couples Counselors but the results of these insights are applicable to other relationships, particularly the relationship between boss and employee. The major reason for relationship failure turns out not to be the thing we most expect.

Conflicted relationships fail and they often end early.

We expect couples who fight a lot to have a bad relationship and for the relationship to fail. That does happen – sometimes but not as often as you would think.

Relationships with lots of negativity, constant conflict are likely to end fairly soon. Gottman has done a lot of research in this area and he tells us that these relationships commonly end in the first seven years, with an average length just over five years. These relationships are easy to spot lots of obvious arguing and fights. Sometimes there is violence. The police in every town know where these couples live.

After a few years of non-stop conflict these couples part. Often they are still angry with each other and they may have to make the exchanges of the children at a supervised site.

Sadly what often happens is both parties get into new relationships and they discover that the second or eighth time is no better than the first. Gottman tells us based on his research that almost 70% of fights are about things for which there is no solution. She likes green tea and he wants black or it could be religion, politics or any other area of preference. Much less often a couple disagrees about something where they might be able to work out a solution that makes them both happy.

In other relationships, like jobs and friendships, people who have these kinds of conflicts quit jobs, get fired or don’t stay around long. Sometimes they have an employment history of lots of short-term jobs. They may also have an arrest record for domestic violence or bar fights. They are also likely to have over-close friendships followed by a complete rupture of that relationship.

Getting into hugely negative conflicts is not the same as being assertive though some people confuse getting there way and giving in with being assertive or being victimized.

As dramatic as unrestrained conflict may be it is not the major reason that marriages fail. It is also not, in my experience, the reason productive employees leave companies or that long-term friendships end. There is a bigger cause of failed relationships.

Relationships without love, friendship or caring take longer to fail but eventually these couples pull apart.

In these couples, there is nothing positive between them. They have no fun together and often prefer to live the majority of their lives apart. Now I know that there was a time that couples like this stayed together till death do them part, but that was a long time ago.

Couples in these kinds of relationships describe themselves as feeling “dead.” There is nothing that the couple has in common and eventually, the relationship ends. In the workplace, these relationships are devoid of positive regard for the other party. The only things the employee hears from the boss are the complaints and the errors. The only time the employee seeks out the boss is when they have a grievance. Neither may enjoy coming to work anymore. They forget to ever have anything positive to say about each other or about the goal their organization is pursuing.

So often couples start out the relationship describing themselves as best friends, somewhere along the way they forget that the best of friendships require work and they require shared experiences. These couples are especially prone to the “empty nest syndrome” or the “we only stayed together for the sake of the kids.” Eventually, the kids grow up and move out on their own and this couple is stuck with each other. Sometimes they are able to recreate a positive relationship but often there are no feelings left to build on.

These are not the couples who are content with each other and who are comfortable whether alone or together. They are the couples who hate to be together. There is always tension in the air if they are both in the same room but the discomfort never erupts into overt hostilities. In these relationships, neither partner makes an effort to consider the other and you will never see one comfort the other in times of pain. These are empty and uncaring couples.

So there you have it, two kinds of relationships that end on the rocks. The openly hostile violent relationships may end first but the hidden dislike eventually takes its toll. Just avoiding fights is not a solution to relationship failure. Creating more positive experiences together than negative ones is the safest route to keeping the relationship intact and healthy.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.