Mt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western AustraliaMt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western Australia

Perth Counselling   •   Individual Psychotherapy   •   Couples Therapy   •   Sex Therapy

  Home Page
  Contact Us

  Perth Counsellors
arrow Elyse Frankel        
arrow Hank Glorie
arrow Samantha McLaughlin
arrow Julia Pemberton
arrow Daniel Mills
arrow Fiona Owen
arrow Matt Tilley
arrow Adele Wilde
arrow Sherry-Lee Smith
arrow Sandra Manessis
arrow Katrina Alilovic
arrow Jeannie Minchin

  Counselling Articles
arrow Adolescent Depression
arrow Adolescent Self-harm
arrow Adolescents & Young Adults
arrow Adults Who Grew Up Unhappy
arrow Affairs
arrow After an Affair
arrow Anger Management
arrow Anxiety
arrow Anxiety, Trauma & Relationships
arrow Becoming a Parent
arrow Being Easily Overwhelmed
arrow Betrayal in Intimate Relationships
arrow Binge Eating
arrow Binge Drinking
arrow Body Image and Body
  Dysmorphic Disorder
arrow Childhood Attachments
arrow Child & Adolescent Anxiety
arrow Child & Adolescent Grief
arrow Childhood Sexual Abuse
arrow Children & Separation/Divorce
arrow Chronic Pain
arrow Commitment Phobia
arrow Confidence, Motivation and
  Self Esteem
arrow Coping with Trauma
arrow Couples Counselling for a
  Healthier Relationship
arrow Couples: Distance and Distress
arrow Depression
arrow Eating Disorders
arrow Eye Movement Desensitisation
  and Reprocessing (EMDR)
arrow Family Estrangement
arrow Fear of Rejection
arrow Homesickness in Adults
arrow How Therapy can help Trauma
arrow Hypnotherapy
arrow Insecure in Love
arrow Insomnia
arrow Internet Pornography
arrow Identifying Problems in Marital
arrow Jealousy
arrow Life After Divorce
arrow Menopause & Relationships
arrow Mental Health
arrow Mindfulness and Letting Go
arrow Motherless Daughters
arrow Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
arrow Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
arrow Postnatal Depression
arrow Recovery from Depression
arrow Redundancy: The Emotional Impact
arrow Relationship Counselling:
  What's Involved?
arrow Separation
arrow Sex, Intimacy & Love
arrow Sexual Assault
arrow Sexuality and Sexual Concerns
arrow Shame
arrow The Fly In Fly Out Lifestyle
arrow Trauma
arrow Weight Loss & Weight Management
arrow Working with Anger in Therapy
arrow Workplace Stress & Anxiety

Identifying Problems in Marital Relationships

Fiona Owen

Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Perth, Western Australia

Relationships have to be worked at, much like a business has to be worked at in order for it to flourish. As with a business, signs will manifest when there are problems in a relationship. In order for change to occur, partners need to be aware of the danger signs that a relationship is heading for a rupture. The sooner the problems are identified the greater the likelihood of repair will be. Some problem signs in relationships are outlined here;

  1. Harsh start up of discussion of a disagreement.
    • When the discussion starts up with criticism and/or sarcasm, it has started badly.
    • 96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first 3 minutes of a 15 minute interaction.

  2. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and shutting down
    • Criticism: There is a difference between complaint and criticism. A complaint only addresses the specific action or behaviour. A criticism is more global- it adds on negative words about the other's character and personality.
    • To turn any complaint into a criticism, just add "What's wrong with you?"
    • Contempt: Sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery and hostile humour are all forms of contempt.
    • Contempt conveys disgust.
    • Belligerence is closely related to contempt. It is a form of aggressive anger because it contains a threat of provocation.
    • Defensiveness: Defensiveness is really a way of blaming the other person- saying in effect "The problem isn't me it's you".
    • Shutting Down: Harsh start with criticism and contempt leads to defensiveness, which leads to more contempt and more defensiveness. Eventually one partner tunes out.
    • Shutting down is the result of flooding, a physical reaction including increased heart-rate, hormonal changes (including the secretion of adrenalin, which kicks in the "fight or flight" response), and increased blood pressure.
    • The physical sensations of flooding make it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving discussion.
    • All you can think about is how to protect yourself from the turbulence the attack is causing. One way to do this is to disengage emotionally from the relationship.
    • In 85% of relationships the man is the one to shut down.
    • John Gottman's research indicates that the male cardiovascular system is more reactive than the female's and slower to recover from stress.
    • Thus marital conflict that activates vigilance takes a greater physical toll on the male, so it's no surprise that men are more likely than women to attempt to avoid it.

  3. Failed Repair Attempts
    • Repair attempts are efforts made to deescalate the tension during a touchy discussion (eg "let's take a break" or "I need to calm down").
    • The failure of repair attempts is a mark for an unhappy future. The presence of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and shutting down are precursors of divorce.

  4. Pervasive Negative Thoughts about the Marriage.
    • When a relationship gets subsumed in negatively, it's not only the present that gets painted in a negative light; the past often gets rewritten in a negative light as well.

Signs that a relationship is in trouble are,

  1. You see your marital problems as severe.
  2. Talking things over seems useless. You try to solve problems on your own.
  3. You start leading parallel lives.
  4. Loneliness sets in.

Counselling provides a safe neutral space for couples to explore how communication is not working properly and what can be done differently, with heightened awareness, to help prevent divorce/relationship break down.

If you would like more information, or to make an appointment, please contact;

Fiona Owen
M Soc Sc (Counselling), B Sc Psychology, Grad. Dip. Ed.
Perth, Western Australia 0409 995 411

Main source of information 'The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". John Gottman and Nan Silver

Click here to go to Fiona Owen's page

Click here to go back to the main page

Elyse | Hank | Samantha | Julia | Daniel | Fiona | Matt
Adele | Sherry | Sandra | Katrina | Jeannie

© Mt Lawley Counselling Centre - Perth, Western Australia
Counselling • Individual Psychotherapy • Couples Therapy • Sex Therapy
Web Design Perth