With the start of the New Year, it’s a great time to look at your relationship and make it a priority.
In today’s blog, part one of three, Staff Clinician Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, discusses what can happen when a spouse doesn’t seem to have their partner’s back.
Red Flag #1: “You don’t have my back.”
Trust is a key ingredient in a healthy marriage. It allows you to believe that your spouse has your best interests at heart. Trust acts as an emotional and energetic shortcut. It is the difference between:
- “I take you at your word.”
- “I listen to your words, seek data that confirms or denies that, run it through my own internal sensors etc. …,” which is exhausting.
Untrustworthy behavior (including around money and sexual fidelity) creates a sense of “you don’t have my back.” It is very difficult to stay in a marriage when there has been a breakdown in trust. But trust can be rebuilt, usually with the help of couples therapy.
- Maintain trust by valuing direct communication (say what you mean and mean what you say), practicing emotion regulation (“It’s hard to be honest with you because you freak out when I am”), and asking the question “What does the marriage need?” (Which may be different from “What do I need?” or “What do you need?”).
- Two ingredients are key for rebuilding trust:
- Time. Trust builds slowly with time and with repeated opportunities to behave in a trustworthy fashion.
- Accountability. The one who has behaved in an untrustworthy fashion must be willing to apologize and make different choices going forward.
If you find that trust is lacking in your relationship, talk to your partner. A couples therapist can help guide you on a path back to trust and work with you to get through the hurdles blocking that trust.
The next installment of “Stop the Fighting” will discuss disengagement, where one spouse separates him/herself from the relationship either emotionally or physically.
Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Read more about Dr. Solomon on our website.
The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. We have a team of clinicians dedicated to helping couples strengthen their relationship. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.