All too often I see couples who come into my office with their marriage in shambles and on the verge of divorce. They come to counseling in an attempt to save their marriage. You can usually spot these couples from a mile away; they sit on opposite sides of the couch (not touching AT ALL!), usually have their arms folded, and the moment they start talking, everything is the other person’s fault.
The sad thing about these couples is that somewhere along the way, they stopped being each other’s friends and instead started to view one another as enemies. They no longer look at the marriage as a team effort. Any positive feelings that they once had about their spouse are long gone. How does a marriage get to this point?
We Stopped Talking
Often couples that view one another as the enemy have stopped communicating with one another. Maybe one spouse doesn’t feel like the other spouse listens to them, so they stop talking. Perhaps a husband or wife constantly feels attacked or belittled by their spouse.
Maybe the communication was never really good to begin with, so both partners just got tired of trying and gave up. Regardless, it’s very easy to view your spouse as the enemy if you don’t know their thoughts and feelings, and if they don’t ask you about yours. This allows you both to assume the worst about each other.
We Stopped Trying
Some couples report that the anger and resentment they feel towards their spouse has increased so much that they don’t remember what it feels like to love and appreciate one another. So many couples enter into marriages not thinking about the time and effort they will need to invest in their marriage to keep it afloat.
The division between spouses can happen in scenarios like this: after what feels like the hundredth time of asking your spouse to not leave dirty dishes in the sink, your anger and resentment towards them takes over. You convince yourself that your spouse leaves the dishes in the sink because they want to make you feel miserable.
When you confront them, they feel attacked. Nothing ever really changes because you stopped trying to approach and communicate with love and understanding and your spouse stopped trying to help you because nothing is ever good enough.
We Stopped Caring
We all have emotional needs that we expect our spouse to meet, such as affection, sex, conversation, companionship, etc. When we don’t feel like our spouse cares or if they have an “all about me” attitude, it can feel very empty and bring a lot of pain. Not having needs met in a marriage can lead to a very dark place of feeling isolated from your partner.
I hear couples say all the time “Well they don’t meet my needs, so why should I meet theirs?” Having this attitude is guaranteed to continue to create a bigger wedge than already exists. Meeting one another’s needs means not keeping score. It means doing it because you care.
We Stopped Feeling
To cope with the hurt and the pain, some individuals put up huge walls to keep them protected from their spouse. In doing so, they often start to feel nothing but numbness. If your spouse has caused you pain and
there has never been any closure, your heart hardens over the years as a coping mechanism.
If you feel nothing when it comes to your marriage and/or your spouse, your spouse often becomes the enemy in the relationship. You start to blame them for the nothingness you feel. You just exist in a marriage, but don’t feel any passion or love towards the other person. It’s like a big black hole swallows up your marriage.
If you see yourself or your marriage in any of the above-mentioned situations, please understand that the path you are heading down is not healthy and is full of uncertainty. The tension, pain, frustration, or even numb that you feel is not okay.
If you see yourself starting to view your spouse as the enemy, please get professional help. A therapist can help you both identify ways that you are contributing to the overall problem areas of the marriage. Yes, you both have the responsibility in where your marriage is now and where it goes from here. You can continue to view one another as the enemy, or you can choose to rebuild your friendship.