Jody is seriously considering divorcing Josh. She doesn’t feel they can connect anymore, and hasn’t had any romantic inclinations toward her husband for a long time. As the old song laments, she’s lost that loving feeling.
Jody’s telling Josh she “needs her space.” Josh recognizes the relationship is on a perilous path, and is trying to make things work with his wife. But Jody just can’t see how the marriage could ever become satisfying for her again. If it weren’t for their two kids, she tells him she’d have left a long time ago.
Emotionally, Jody has already left. She became friends with another man over the past year. They started talking about being unhappy, lonely, and needing more from their marriages. The two of them talk about their dreams of creating a life together, but he’s married with kids as well.
Jody and Josh have become secure in their career, but terribly insecure their marriage. As parents they’re doing a lot with their kids, but as partners they’re rarely spending time as a couple. They talk to their friends more than they do to each other. When they do try to discuss their dissatisfaction, they end up in an argument over what they think the other person is doing wrong.
Jody’s negative emotions are generating powerful fight or flight impulses. It seems like getting away from the problem will make her feel better, but she’s mistaking relief for authentic happiness.
For many people divorce looks like the best way to fix an unhappy marriage. Rather than being shackled to a relationship with problems, it seems like the best solution is to go and seek happiness elsewhere. But a funny thing happens to people on their way to a happier life with someone else. Their next marriage often doesn’t work well either. Many people actually experience more problems regarding money, children, time, and relationships.
Often their children are more disturbed by the break-up than their parents had imagined. A child’s connection with one or both parents can easily become less secure, diminishing their ability to trust in any relationship. Because parents are role models for dealing with problems, kids sometimes learn that people should do whatever they want to make themselves happy – even if other people suffer as a consequence.
Divorced parents face the challenge of trying to create a more satisfying relationship with their next partner with children from their previous marriage who can be presenting a host of problems. Frequently it isn’t exactly the happy family they had hoped for.
For many people divorce is more difficult path than staying and learning how to make their marriage work. Even if they leave the marriage, they’ll take their unresolved issues with them – which they’ll eventually have to face when they inevitably arise in their next relationship.
While at a holiday party, Jody noticed that one of her girlfriends was getting along much better with her husband. In the past the two of them had commiserated about being dissatisfied with their marriages. Jody commented to her girlfriend about how much happier she and her husband seemed. “It only happened with a lot of great coaching,” her girlfriend disclosed.
Jody said that she hadn’t had much success with counseling. “This doctor is different,” her friend told her. “He’s more like a teacher who tells you how good marriages work and makes you do homework until you get it right.”
Jody and Josh decided to try counseling one last time with this therapist. He told them that he could see that they didn’t have much hope left. But he told them he believed that people can transform their marriages by learning to use positive relationship skills. He taught them about research that had identified how happy couples create satisfying marriages.
Like any tough teacher, this therapist was adamant about their trying out these new behaviors to see if a positive outcome might be possible. His asked them each to make a full-fledged effort to learn how to put healthy relationships skills into practice.
This psychologist told them that their first task was to stop looking at what the other person was doing wrong. He wouldn’t let them criticize each other during sessions: “Blaming your partner is self-defeating because you’re putting yourself into a position of trying to change the other person rather than making the effort to change yourself. Instead, ask yourself what it would look like if your marriage were working well. Then be the change you want to see.”