What Makes Marriage Work?

What Makes Marriage Work?

by Susan Neuhalfen

Getting through December and January is tough enough for many, but for couples who stay together for the sake of getting through the holidays, this is the toughest time of the year.

“March is one of the biggest filing months for divorce,” said Wayne Cagle, Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and a Certified Professional Life Coach as well as the owner of Lifeworks Counseling Center now located in the Castle Hills Village Shops & Plaza. “Many find it too difficult around Christmas to split up so they wait for the ‘right time’ to tell their families what they’ve already been planning.”

Wayne goes on to describe that many couples make their decisions either after the holidays or after long trips together when things don’t seem to get any better. Cohabitating for the sake of the kids is not a marriage either, he explained. The family unit is the couple and the kids are the extension of that unit. The condition of that unit affects the security of the kids. Therefore, the relationship is key to a child’s sense of security.

Wayne goes on to say that all parents with kids have to learn to co-parent, even if a couple decides to divorce. In order to do that well, the couple has to be friends.

“Friendship is the key to longevity of a relationship and the key to intimacy,” said Wayne. “No matter what state your relationship is in, you have to be friends first.”

That’s where Wayne and his team of counselors at Lifeworks come in.

“We’re here to bring hope to what may seem hopeless,” said Wayne whose marriage counseling program is based on research by John Gottman. “We help couples find the tools to connect. Even if they think they’ve done everything possible, we can help each person see his or her responsibility in the relationship.”

Wayne explained that the purpose of marriage and couples counseling is not to fix anyone or anything; it’s simply about making adjustments and recalibrating your relationship.
“69% of problems in the average marriage are not actually resolvable, but we treat them as such,” explains Wayne. “The problems are differences, not right or wrong or good or bad, but can lead
to impasse.”

What author Gottman deems the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the main reasons for marriage problems and potential break up during the first 6-7 years (see illustration): criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Emotional disconnect or growing apart is the main reason for problems around 16-17 years. That’s sometimes because the couple has focused more time on the children and not on each other.

80% of what Wayne sees in marriage counseling does not have a diagnosis. He and his team assess couples, learning all about how they met, what attracted them to each other, what made them decide to marry, and finally what caused the relationship to break down. Communication, intimacy, conflict, parenting, finance, extended family, family history, affairs, and a child’s chronic illness are just a few of the problems that are symptoms of the breakdown, but to be clear, these symptoms aren’t the cause of marriage instability and the potential ending of a relationship.

“Our job is to get to the root of the problems so we can help couples work through them,” said Wayne. “This is hard for many because unless you’re willing to change, you’re working against your own goal.”

More difficult marriage cases involve issues such as mental illness, extra-marital affairs, alcoholism, or substance abuse. Counseling can certainly help both parties to navigate through and develop hope for the relationship.

“We help people understand why they are drawn to a particular type of person,” said Wayne. “The bottom line is that we help you understand your responsibility and grow from that.”

Lifeworks has offices in Carrollton and Castle Hills, so Wayne has a team of several counselors, all with their own specialties, ready to help in any situation. In addition to marriage counseling, they help with addiction, stress management, depression, work and career and much more.

The mission at Lifeworks is to help their clients live well, whether it be at home or work. They provide comprehensive evaluations for their clients and offer several different types of therapy as well as different types of sessions from group sessions to individual sessions to help their clients. For Wayne and his staff, they are in the business of life change.

“There are no guarantees in counseling,” said Wayne. “The only guarantee is that you’ll remain in the same place, without growing if you don’t do anything.”

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse by Gottman

Withdrawing as a way to avoid conflict in efforts to convey disapproval, distance and separation.

Attacking sense of self with an intention to insult or psychologically abuse.

Verbally attacking personality or character.

Seeing yourself as the victim in effort to ward off a perceived attack and reverse the blame.

2625 N. Josey Lane, Ste. 250
Village Shops at Castle Hills
2540 King Arthur Blvd, Ste. 206

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