How Well is Marriage Working for Modern Couples?

Bohena Evans Therapy, BE Therapy, Wheat Ridge Counseling near me, Couples counselor in Wheat Ridge, Wheat Ridge marriage counseling, sex therapist in Wheat Ridge

The divorce statistics are all too familiar to us, as we all know, they’ve stayed high for decades–lingering around 40-50%, and sex outside of the marriage without the consent of the marriage partner at approximately 20% (though it may be higher as secrecy around the issue prevents disclosure in many cases). And these numbers do not include other forms of extra-relational connection which are harder to measure.  

Is the traditional model of marriage working for couples? The answer predictably is, sometimes. And what does it mean when it is “working”? 

As an individual and couples therapist I can discuss a slew of existential phenomena and mental health issues that impact my clients, but I’d like to focus here on the omnipresent marital woes that show up particularly around the midlife period or for parents, around the time that the heavy task of raising children is underway. I have observed both professionally and personally that it is around this time that couples are frequently faced with the often stark realization that a disconnection between partners has occurred, relating to emotional, recreational, existential, romantic or sexual needs. It leads us back to the question of just how well is marriage working for today’s couples?  

Many of the individuals and couples I see come to me at pivotal points in their long-term committed relationships. The common concerns for these clients seem to be around feeling less connected with their partners, in many of the ways described above. Most of these folks are ready to make changes and commit to improving their relationships even while others drift farther away from their partners and ultimately separate. What I have discovered is that in those relationships where the couple seems to be generally content and connected, there are several factors that are present. 

Bohena Evans Therapy, BE Therapy, Wheat Ridge Counseling near me, Couples counselor in Wheat Ridge, Wheat Ridge marriage counseling, sex therapist in Wheat Ridge

As highly acclaimed couples and marriage therapist John Gottman, PhD, discovered in his research and noted in his book The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work, those couples who did not show chronic signs of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling were the most emotionally connected and amicable, and their marriages had the highest survival rates.

He also discovered that “turning toward” one’s partner at times when the partner makes a “bid for connection,” as well as frequent expressions of “fondness and admiration” or appreciation led to higher feelings of love and connectedness between partners. I see the same in my work with couples: those who offer more loving gestures and words to one another and generally move through conflict more smoothly tend to be in better relational shape, as it were.

Furthermore, for clients who come to me motivated to improve their respective relationships, some express curiosity about opening the relationship up to include other intimate connections, and some couples contact me for support for their existing polyamorous relationships, often referred to as consensual/ethical non-monogamy (CNM/ENM).

Not only the boomer generation will widen its eyes or snicker at this growing–and often somewhat taboo–relationship trend, since it has its roots in the “free love” hippie movement in the 60s and 70s. Plenty of otherwise more self-proclaimed evolved folks today might show skepticism about this structure as well. But whatever personal feelings one might have about polyamorous arrangements, I encourage educating ourselves as we would when looking at any other minority demographics. “Polyamory” is an umbrella term for many different types of non-exclusive relationships with others, from low to high sexual exclusivity (yep, some folks don’t even care that much about the sex; they just like having multiple intimate connections).

There is plenty to say about polyamory and CNM structures that will be left to another more in-depth post, and of course it is not for everyone. However, I present this relationship framework specifically because it is evidence that traditional monogamous relationship/marriage structures aren’t working for everyone, and CNM offers some couples an opportunity for a more invigorating and fulfilling chapter of their lives if they navigate it conscientiously and with attuned self-awareness of insecurities, fears, and needs. These folks express wishing to have greater need fulfillment, more personal growth, and greater sexual and self expression in their lives, which poly structures may afford them. I particularly enjoy seeing evolution in relationship structures since I often wonder, why should we be limited to a binary decision between couplehood and divorce? Perhaps marriage working means including these additional open-minded thoughts and potential behaviors.

I have seen clients with irreparable volatility and wounding that has destabilized some marriages; some clients may eventually divorce, others might fizzle out of therapy, but couples who really commit fully to doing the hard work that is required of keeping long-term committed relationships healthy and joyful have higher chances of thriving.

When clients commit to learning how to identify triggers and tender points, take accountability for hurt feelings, experiment with new communication patterns, and persevere to speak each other’s love languages in order to keep their so-called love tanks nice and full, they tend to enjoy greater longevity. Having an openness of mind and security in oneself and each other is another protective factor for couples who might want more excitement in their marriage, i.e. in sexual growth. Those who can manage any of these feats or relate to the supportive traits mentioned here deserve recognition for making their marriages function. If you are one of these couples who has put in this work, you should feel fulfillment and pride in your accomplishment!

About Bozhena Evans | BE Therapy Couples Counseling & Sex Therapy in Wheat Ridge, CO

Bozhena Evans, the compassionate owner of BE Therapy in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, is a dedicated couples counselor with a passion for helping individuals and relationships thrive.

With a warm and non-judgmental approach, Bozhena creates a safe and supportive space for couples to explore their challenges and work towards healing and growth. Her extensive training and experience in various therapeutic modalities allow her to tailor her approach to each unique couple, fostering effective communication, conflict resolution, and deepening connection.

Bozhena Evans, psychologist counselor therapist in Arvada, Colorado near Denver.

Bozhena believes that every couple has the potential to overcome obstacles and create a loving, harmonious partnership. Through her guidance, couples gain valuable insights, develop effective coping strategies, and learn to navigate the complexities of their relationship with empathy and understanding. Bozhena’s genuine care for her clients shines through in every session, as she actively listens, validates their experiences, and provides the tools and support needed for lasting change. Whether couples are questioning their marriage working, are facing communication issues, trust issues, or struggling with intimacy, Bozhena’s expertise and compassionate approach make her a trusted ally on their journey towards a healthier and happier relationship (whether with their partner, or themselves.)

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