As a Marriage & Family Therapist for over 40 years, I have counseled many couples. With the goal of improving their relationships, I helped them understand themselves and each other, practice constructive communication, express their resentments, make positive agreements, and create win-win solutions. Then I ask them to forgive themselves and each other for anything they did or said that was not loving. I tell them that they both did the best they could with the information they had, and now they know better.
I believe that most people struggle with their partners, because love is not enough, and they lack the necessary insights and solutions. "It is like you want to build a house," I tell them, "but you have no manual or tools to succeed. Then you wonder why your relationship is struggling."
Couples may choose to stay miserable or separate from their partners when things are too troublesome. However, often if they resume their relationship, and their behaviors did not change, they will consequently end up splitting for good. I believe that this happens because they did not learn and heal what was not working.
On the contrary, I have counseled couples who came in for therapy, whether they were still together or separated, and did very well changing their hurtful patterns to loving ones. They were willing to grow and change.
However, if couples keep fighting during the sessions, I suggest a Therapeutic Separation where they live apart and only connect in the office with me. This process helps them avoid reinforcing their old destructive patterns that keep pushing them apart, and practice new ones.
Once I observe them getting along and being kind and loving to each other, I suggest that they start dating again. I tell them, "Your previous relationship obviously did not work, love is not enough, and the goal is to learn and practice what it takes to maintain a successful, long term, loving relationship. Act as if you are starting over and being conscious of what you are doing and how you are expressing yourself."
Only when they report to me that their dates went well and they are feeling good and enjoying each other, I suggest that they go away for a weekend. If they were harmonious spending days together, I ask them if they feel ready to get back together.
If they are, we still have sessions to check-in and resolve any of their disharmonious issues.
If their relationship continues to improve, we meet every other week, or even once a month to make sure that they are resolving issues constructively. I explain to them that the test of a healthy relationship is how both of you deal with upsets. If you manage to feel closer after the disharmony, you are well on your way for a successful relationship.
As you can see, if you have relationship problems, it is important to learn what hurt your love connection and how to be the loving person you are. You can avoid break-up or divorce. You can have the long-term, loving, successful relationship you desire, and you deserve it! Learn how and go for it!