McWade – who describes herself as a collaborative divorce coach, a parent educator and collaborative trainer – outlines these marital dead-ends as: partners ceasing to be partners; chronic complaining and blame-throwing; narcissism and addiction.
Ceasing to be partners: When one partner feels the other is immature, irresponsible, untrustworthy or selfish, the marital dynamic will crumble, destroying intimacy and sexual attraction. One partner will then ‘detach’. Domestic abuse is the most extreme version of this.
There’s often no turning back from detachment, so it’s important to recognize and start marriage counseling before breaking point. A marriage counselor can’t manufacture a connection, only strengthen it.
Chronic complaining and blame-throwing: When marital problems are not resolved to the satisfaction of both, resentment builds – and this erodes relationships.
Solving a problem by compromise is more important than being ‘right’. Individuals who cannot accept accountability are doomed to fail in relationships.
Narcissism: Everyone is narcissistic to some extent, but this is problematic when partners are unable to empathise with each other and instead compete over issues such as who works harder, who spends more time with the children, who had a tougher day.
When partners don’t understand the other’s contribution, each assume the other has it easier and neither feels understood.
Addiction: Addiction will always be an addict’s main focus above marriage and family, and their partner will feel angry and embarrassed by their lack of consideration for others.
If a user is unable to give up their habit they will shift blame onto their partner, who may try to hold the relationship together for a while – especially if children are involved – but will eventually give up if there is no recovery.
McWade explains it is important to correct marital issues before they become habitual behaviours and are imposible to change.
She says: ‘It’s difficult for couples to change long-standing relationship patterns by themselves because people tend to argue for their own points of view. Communication doesn’t get anywhere without a neutral perspective. Patterns must be recognized and interrupted.’