A study at Stanford by Michael Rosenfeld revealed that 60% of unmarried couples don’t make it a year. If couples do make it past a year, their chances of breaking up decrease with every year that goes by. Why don’t couples make it?
Most people recognize relationship troubles long before they address them. You feel it. Maybe you haven’t had sex in a few weeks, feel distant from your partner, or notice feelings of anger and resentment in your partner’s presence. You may not know what caused this, but you know that your relationship has hit a rough patch.
Most often, people choose to do nothing initially. They hope that the relationship will recover on its own. Some will approach their partners and try and talk it out. It is only after a significant time of being concerned that people will seek out advice from a trusted source. Most people begin by reaching out to either a friend or family member about their relationship. In time, they turn to professionals. So, people have been stuck in problematic dynamics for quite some time before they get professional help.
Why don’t people reach out for help earlier? Here are the top 6 reasons people are slow to get help:
1. Denial: It is just something we are going through and will pass. You just hope that the rough patch will pass and get better on its own. During this time, it is common not to speak to anyone about what is going on.
2. Fear: if you talk about it, it is going to get worse. You are scared that opening up the discussion with your partner will result in the two of you breaking up. The faulty belief is that if you talk about it, it will become a big deal.
3. Embarrassment: I don’t want them to know my business. You don’t want to discuss with your friends because you worry about their judgment. It feels too vulnerable to share that things aren’t going well.
4. Minimization: It isn’t a big enough problem to get help. You don’t think that your problem is big enough to warrant help from a professional.
5. Stigma: I am embarrassed that I am having an issue. You think it will reflect badly on you and that something is wrong with you that you are having relationship problems.
6. Discouragement: If we are having problems at this stage, we shouldn’t be together. This just isn’t true and this belief can stand in the way of you two making it work. Relationships get stuck at a lot of different times in their life span. In fact, whether the problem occurs early on or after several years, it is really helpful to have an objective ear to help you gain insight into what is going on and to assist you in shifting the dynamics.
Getting help early on has the best chance of improving your relationship. The biggest mistake that people make is waiting too long to talk to anyone about their problem to get input on how to change the dynamics in the relationship. Intuitively, we know that getting help earlier on can increase the likelihood that the relationship can get on a better path. So, don’t let these roadblocks get in the way of doing what is best for you and your relationship.
Rhonda Milrad, LCSW
Founder and Chief Relationship Advisor