I had lunch with a friend recently. He explained that he was seriously struggling in his marriage. He thought he needed to get a divorce because he disliked his wife so much. He said, “I really almost hate her, Cherilynn. There is no way this is normal.”
They just had a baby, they were both working full-time and barely making their monthly bills after suffering from severe financial setbacks. Understandably, they were overstressed, overburdened and they were fighting a ton.
“Oh, puullease…” I said to him with a mouthful of Panera Greek Salad. “Who doesn’t hate their spouse sometimes?! Suck it up, buddy. That is what marriage is all about. Welcome to the Thunderdome!”
(Do you remember that 80′s movie starring Mel Gibson? The one set in the future and Mad Max fights to the death in a very large cage?)
Coupledom Is Complicated
We busted out laughing. He knew I was not serious. However, there was a tiny, weeny, itsy, little bitty part of that statement that is true. Not the Thunderdome part, just that the feeling of intense negativity towards one’s spouse/partner can feel powerful and be overwhelming in its negativity.
BTW-Feeling nothing is much further away from love than intense negativity.
Of course I don’t think marriage or an intimate partnership is about hatred and tolerating misery. If there is only negative, and no growth is possible over time, then separation is definitely a good idea. And there are some marriages (I swear to you!) where the frustration level, stress level and the personality connection never get to that point. However, there are a lot of marriages where extremely negative feelings are present at certain times. This is a part of the complicated process of coupledom.
After 20+ years of marital counseling, here are 10 of the most common reasons for this compounded negativity in relationships:
1. One partner thinks his or her way of doing things is the right way. This means they are not open to listening and behaving differently. In this situation, compromise is not a value of one of the members.
2. Addiction of a partner. Along with this comes disconnection from the other’s feelings; chaos, manipulation and egocentricity; and sometimes cruelty.
3. Festering emotional wounds that never get talked about; or when they are, the other person tries to argue away the other person’s emotions.
4. Unequal partnerships. One person feels like he or she is doing it all. In couples with children, this can understandably lead to MAJOR resentment and anger.
5. Stress. Big-time breaker of even really good couples. If you don’t manage stress, it will cause difficulties in functioning and difficulties in the relationship.
6. Big differences on big life issues like: parenting, finances, in-laws.
7. Debilitating and dysfunctional family of origin issues that emerge and reemerge unaddressed . Issues from one’s original family and attachment relationships can get projected onto the spouse or onto other family relationships, like the kids. This will cause conflict.
8. Having little respect or not showing respect for your partner.
9. A partner not taking care of himself or herself. Big problems will come with that.
10. Being with someone who is narcissistic and has little self-insight.
Now this list is not exhaustive and doesn't include abusive behavior (including verbal abuse) either.
Marriage is like a Merry-Go-Round. I call it the Married-Go-Round.
In any intimate partnership, you will have cycles of good times and harder times. Some of those cycles may even get really bad. However, you will learn, grow, get better connected, become wiser, and you will learn new behaviors, make changes, and practice forgiveness. These are not easy tasks.
This Is Normal?
My lunch friend said, “Really? It is normal to hate your spouse?! I feel so much better. Now THAT is the book you should be writing!” He agreed to get couples counseling and I have a lot of hope for their relationship. Right now that is not the book I am writing. But, I will keep the recommendation in mind.
** If you or someone you know is struggling in their relationship, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule an Initial Assessment.