Worried to Wed in the New Year
By Laura Zipris, Psy. D., LMHC
Dear Dr. Z.,
My fiancé and I are planning on getting married in early 2012. We have been together for 3 years and we definitely love each other. However, I worry sometimes that we might not make it as a couple in the long run because we fight too much. Our fighting can get pretty ugly sometimes, with name calling and yelling. There are never any physical fights but sometimes we say things we don’t mean and our words can be so hurtful. When things get heated between us, my fiancé tends to just shut down and ignore me. I am left screaming at a wall and then we don’t talk for days. I want our relationship to be solid but I know we need to change our ways in order for that to happen. So, being that it is a New Year and we are approaching a new marriage, do you have advice on how we can strengthen our relationship?
Worried to Wed
Dear Worried to Wed,
You are absolutely correct that things have to change before you and your fiancé choose to tie the knot. Fighting, in and of itself is not the problem though, as it is a natural and healthy part of any intimate relationship. It is the way that you two are fighting that is so damaging to your relationship and may, if not corrected, become the demise of your future marriage.
John Gottman, Psy.D., a famous marriage researcher, outlined important discriminators between what he terms as “master couples” and “disaster couples.” He found that successfully married couples approach their problems using a soft start up, they learn to make and receive repair attempts, they soothe themselves and each other, they compromise with one another and they are tolerant of each other’s faults. He also found that they evidence a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative exchanges. That is, for every negative exchange, masters have at least five positive exchanges between them that counterbalance it.
Gottman indicated that couples who are headed toward divorce demonstrate harsh start ups to their discussions. They also evidence criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling in their fights, with contempt being shown to be the most damaging to relationships. It sounds to me that you are certainly evidencing at least two of these predictors in your relationship: 1) you are critical of one another (i.e. use character assassinations like name calling versus simply complaining about specific behaviors) and 2) your partner is stonewalling.
Conflict is truly an opportunity in your couple-hood because it is growth trying to happen. If you and your partner can learn to explore your differences with compassion and from a place of learning, your relationship can evolve into a long-lasting, nurturing, conscious love. I would encourage you both to make a New Year’s Resolution to commit to changing your ways and to learn how to fight with love and respect.
I recommend that you invest in a wonderful resource called the, “Getting the Love You Want Workbook.” It will help you learn new tools so that you and your partner can successfully and respectfully dialogue with each other and step out of your damaging conflict dance.
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her office located in Delray Beach. For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at .
Questions for this column should be sent to ”Dr. Z” atDrlaurazip@gmail.com.