Surviving Tough Times

Every marriage goes through rough times. In fact, Dr. John Gottman, one of the leading researchers on marital stability and divorce prediction, states that it is actually how you handle incompatibility that predicts marriage success not how compatible you are. Wow, take a moment for that to sink in. For couples that are merely going through a rough patch here are some simple ideas to help connect.

One of the easiest things a couple can do when going through a problem in their marriage is to distance each other from the problem. How often do we say things like “my husband works too much and is never home,” “she yells a lot,” or “he is spending too much money?” All those statements are examples of placing the problem on a person. Instead, try viewing the problem outside of your spouse. For instance, instead of saying “my husband works too much and is never home” you can replace the phrase with, “I feel like we do not have enough quality time to spend together.” By changing the sentence, blame is immediately shifted away from each other, and it becomes a problem that the couple can tackle together.

Another simple tool a couple can do when going through a rough patch is to focus on the positive. Try to think of one positive thing you can do a week that would surprise your spouse and do it. It could be surprise flowers, a back massage, or cooking a meal for the other person. Make a goal to do one positive surprise a week for your spouse.

Lastly, the best thing a couple can do when having a rough patch is to work on their communication. Going to couples counseling can really improve how a couple communicates and responds to one another. A simple tool is “I statements.” Here is an example of how I statements work: “I feel ______ when you ______ because ______.” I statements are just another way to avoid placing blame on the other and to shift how the person responds and reacts the statement.

When going through a rough patch, realize that this can be a normal process in a marriage. However, it takes work to keep a marriage going. These are some very simple activities to try. Marriage counseling can help a couple work through problems and build positive communication skills that will assist with handling the “incompatibility.”  

Written by: Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting