Author by Dr. Kondoor V. Abraham
Based on research, marital happiness is at its peak at the beginning of marriage, but as stress levels increase, it tends to take a downward trend and reaches bottom, especially when children are very small and the couple has more responsibilities. Usually, this is one of those times when conflicts arise to the degree that they consider divorce. The good news is that if the couple somehow continues to hang on during the relationship, they are likely to reach the original peak again when children are gone and they experience the ‘empty nest stage.’ The difference is that instead of romantic love that led to marital happiness at the original peak, companionate love has now taken over!
What do couples state as major issues? Based on over two decades of couples’ therapy experience, I find that couples differ when it comes to reasons for divorce. For some, it could be physical violence, infidelity, or the husband not taking financial responsibility. For others, serious psychological problems, sexual dysfunction, addiction and lack of communication are also among serious Issues that drive them to a divorce attorney or a therapist. A trusted colleague, a leading trial attorney and mediator in Broward County, Florida, adds finances, unforgiveness (usually for something minor), and unequally yoked (religion/moral belief system) as reasons she has been given for the need to divorce.
Once the initial data is collected, I work with the couple to develop treatment goals based on their answers to a questionnaire. The questions, noted below, assist us in developing a clear plan for treatment.
Treatment Goal Questionnaire
• What are your personal goals for the next three months?
• What behaviors have you brought into the marriage that
you have not worked on?
• What are some behaviors that you need to work on in
addition to the above?
• What are some behaviors that you want your partner to
• List your strengths and weaknesses.
• List your partner’s strengths and weaknesses.
• Who makes decisions in your family? Is it collaborative?
• What are your family goals?
• Have your sought counseling before? How did it help you?
• How do you solve problems as a couple?
• What are some of your happy moments?
• What are your sad moments, if any?
• Are you thinking of giving up on your relationship? Why?
• In your opinion. what is an ideal marriage relationship?
In addition to the treatment goals, the Marital Counseling Inventory and personality test help therapists take a closer look at the psychological issues that may be contributing to the current situation.
Once treatment goals are developed, psychotherapy begins, which includes communication skills training, assertiveness training, role-playing, psychodrama, writing contracts to stop physical violence, and more. I use the cognitive behavioral model of treatment as well as the systemic family approach that focus on structural, solution-focused, and trans-generational models to guide the process. The cognitive-behavioral model focuses on correcting irrational beliefs/assumptions that have been reinforced. The structural approach focuses on the roles of the family unit that have been destabilized, while the solution focused approach focuses on solutions. The trans-generational model focuses on messages that have been passed on from generation to generation that are still present in the communication of the couple. For this purpose, both husband and wife will also be asked to create their respective family genogram.
What has been the outcome? The treatment success of psycho-therapy cannot be measured quantitatively. On the other hand, qualitative outcome, based on all observable data, show positive results and undoubtedly fewer divorces.
About the Author
Dr. Kondoor V. Abraham, Psy. D., (Clinical Psychology) works with children and adults at the Atrium Executive Suites, 4801 S. University Drive, Suite 241, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33328.