How to save my marriage alone – When a couple is quizzing, the success of this process correlates with how successfully they merge their beliefs, expectations and communication code. The new couple must begin to construct a new reality, and once married C.J. Sager, author of Marriage Contracts and Couple Therapy, [Bruner/Mazel,1976], calls it the marital reality.
People come into their relationships with expectations they picked up from their own families, from their immediate culture and from the media. Often these expectations are very different, but if a couple is to be successful, they must create from these expectations, order and cohesiveness.
As time passes and conversations are hard, couples learn which expectations are compatible but not so important and which are compatible and crucial to the marriage bond. Not acknowledging your spouse’s expectations may undermine the bond between you and create alienation.
When you quiz with your partner you both influence each others beliefs and how the other thinks and feels. T. Stephen in his article “Divergent Views on the Role of Communication” in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, (1985), says communication functions “…as a persuasive force which shapes an emergent couple reality…”
Merging Your Identities
“Each partner must match to some degree each other’s view of reality”, say authors P.L. Berger & H. Kellner in Marriage and the Construction of Reality, [Aldine Publishing ,1974]. Failing to mirror enough of each other’s values and beliefs often creates conflict and barriers in the marital relationship.
If you are resistant to accepting your partner’s views and perceptions, perhaps you should examine how open you believe he is to yours. Couples need to find ways to talk about these issues, because in a real sense communication is the life force of any relationship.
Communicating is crucial in all your interactions. But when misunderstandings occur, it could be that one simply doesn’t hear what the other person is saying. When people communicate using a different style than the other, it is very much like speaking another language.
Direct and Indirect Communication
If your intent is to relay information and get to the point, you may not take into consideration how your words affect the person you are speaking to. This style of communication is considered direct, according to Deborah Tannen, author of Talking From 9 to 5 [Harper, 1994]. And this style of communicating, to some, can often appear to be cold or rude.
Conversely, if your style is indirect, aside from communicating ideas and thoughts you also try not to alienate the person you’re communicating with. But to someone who is direct, your ideas and thoughts often get lost by communicating either too much or too subtly.
Resolving Communication Problems
Recognize everyone has a unique way of communicating.
Trust that the other person means no harm.
Ask the other person what he thinks he heard you say.
Paraphrase to the other what you think she’s said.
If the conversation becomes heated, take a time out and give it a rest.
Combining Your Communication Styles
In the successful marriage, both partners have an understanding of how they communicate and both have respect for a way of communicating that might differ from their own. If seen from a practical point of view, both styles of communicating have their advantages. But unfortunately, according to Deborah Tannen, couples have a tendency to negatively judge each other’s communication style if it’s different from their own.
Growing Number of Step Families
The rate at which step families are forming today is staggeringly high. With such a prevalent number of step families, or blended families, forming everyday, it is surprising that the information available for these new families is difficult to find. Being part of a blended family presents challenges that many adults do not expect, which makes success more difficult to achieve.
According to Stepfamily Solutions, “1,300 new step families are forming every day and over 50% of US families are remarried or re-coupled”. Further, they say, “50% of the 60 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and that parent’s current partner”. With statistics like this, more attention and resources should be offered to new families in order to steer the new family unit towards success.
The Challenge of Step Parenting
There are far too many myths when it comes to step families, and this creates unrealistic expectations for everyone. For instance, the myth of the wicked step mom creates a negative connotation and can make a new stepmother feel extremely self-conscious. Blending families is simply not as easy as it might seem. Step-families are not formed effortlessly and parents must not be under the expectation that everyone involved will adjust with ease.
Often in blended families, mothers and fathers place their priorities on their biological children. Tensions can grow within the family when rules are different for each parent’s offspring. Not only will jealousy erupt between the step siblings, but the differences in rules and expectations can place a great strain on the new marriage or coupling relationship.
Being a step parent has its own challenges. Step children will test the boundaries more often with step parents. Disciplining a stepchild is difficult and parents will gravitate toward protecting their biological children. Without the proper resources and communication among family members, the statistics for failed step families will continue to grow.
Resources for Stepmothers and Stepfathers
With such a high rate of failure for step families (2 out of 3 result in failure) and the impact this has to children, it is astounding that more resources are not readily available. Stepfamily Solutions contends, “It is generally considered by researchers that couples today have a deficit of skills with which to make partnerships last”. Fortunately, many counselors and therapists understand the need for offering help to these new families.
While resources are scarce, finding solutions to common challenges for blended families is possible. Recognizing that bringing together two different families can be difficult allows stepparents to better prepare for challenging times to come. There are online resources, books and seminars that can be valuable. Step families should recognize when they need help and take advantage of the resources available to significantly improve the chances for success.