Marital Problems

Marital Problems


Marital problems are an inevitable part of any relationship, and they can test the strength and resilience of even the most devoted couples. From communication breakdowns to financial stress and intimacy issues, these obstacles can feel overwhelming.

Couples therapy encompasses the Systemic Model of Distressing Intimate Relationships, offering an integrated approach to address marital problems. Baucom and Epstein (1990) developed Marital Problems based on cognitive factors that contribute to and sustain marital dysfunction. These factors include perception, attributions, expectancies, assumptions, and standards

Some common Marital Problems according to the integrative approach are:

1) Unmet Needs for Intimacy and Power: 

It recognizes that males often desire physical closeness but seek psychological distance, while females long for emotional intimacy. Power dynamics also play a role, with males favoring traditional gender roles and associated benefits, while females strive for egalitarian relationships. Conflicts around intimacy often arise from differences in time spent on intimate conversations and sexual satisfaction. Power-related disputes stem from authoritarian behavior and nagging by males, as well as concerns about personal autonomy and independence from females.

2) Behavior Patterns: 

Distressed couples on the path to separation show a significant increase in negative interactions. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling become common communication patterns, intensifying strain and dissatisfaction in the relationship.

3) Beliefs: 

As negative interactions outweigh positive ones, partners tend to fixate on negative behaviors and ignore positive ones. In distressed couples, negative intentions are often attributed to their partner’s actions, while positive behavior is seen as situational or incidental.

4) Family-of-Origin Experiences: 

Family-of-origin experiences greatly influence belief systems and behaviors in distressed couples. These experiences encompass parental conflict, separation, violence, ineffective communication, and various parenting styles. Enmeshed or disengaged parent-child relationships and exposure to authoritarian or permissive parenting also play a role. Neglect, abuse, bereavement, or prolonged separation from parents without consistent caregivers can profoundly impact individuals’ mental relationship maps, shaping their expectations and behaviors in adult intimate relationships often leading to marital problems.

5) Wider Social and Cultural Factors and Personal Vulnerabilities: 

Various factors influence relationship difficulties and divorce rates, including cultural values, socioeconomic status, geographical location, age at marriage, premarital pregnancy, psychological well-being, and parental divorce. Couples from different cultures with distinct role expectations may encounter additional marital problems.


Adopting the Systemic Model of Distressing Intimate Relationships allows couples therapists to understand the complexities of troubled relationships. By addressing core issues, behavior patterns, beliefs, family-of-origin experiences, and social and cultural factors, therapists provide a holistic approach to couples therapy for Marital problems.

Remember, it takes commitment, effort, and a shared vision to navigate the stormy waters of marital problems and emerge on the other side with a deeper bond and a love that stands the test of time.

Source: FAMILY THERAPY: Concepts, Process and Practice (2nd ed.), Carr, A. (2006).


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