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Marriage Work-Out Team Building

Chapter 5: Marriage Work-Out:

An Action Oriented System for

Marital Team Development

Identification of Symptoms and Barriers

Step 1: Select a quiet time in which you can reflect on the 30 symptoms listed in the first section. Indicate the symptoms of your marital relationship by checking the symptoms which are true for your marital team. Do this task by yourself. Don't share this list with your partner yet.

Step 2: Review the list of 25 barriers next section.  Indicate the barrier in your marital relationship by checking the barriers which are true for your marital team. Do this task by yourself. Don't share this list with your partner yet.

Step 3: Next, each of you take a turn sharing the symptom list (Step 1) and the barrier list (Step 2) with your partner. As you are gently speaking, your partner is to listen   quietly, respectfully, and with an open mind. Then reverse the roles.Neither partner is to respond at this time.

Step 4: Before you proceed to respond and discuss the two lists, consider these questions:

1) Can we explain the problems in our marital relationship by knowing the barrier behavior patterns we bring to it?

2) How are our individual barrier behavior patterns a result of the experience each of us had in our families of origin and/or previous relationships?

3)  Why are these barrier behavior patterns such obstacles to resolving the symptoms we each listed?

4) Can we resolve our problems based on the barriers we brought to our relationship?

5) What do we want from each other to deal with the individual barrier behavior patterns in our relationship?

6) How capable are we of admitting behavior that is a barrier in our relationship?

7) How much effort will it take to overcome our individual behavioral barriers

8) How willing are we to support one another's efforts to change or alter respective barrier behavior patterns?

9) How willing are we to accept each other's behavioral barriers without over-reacting?

10) What options are available to us in handling these barriers in a healthier way?

After you and your partner have discussed these questions, you are ready to discuss the lists developed in Steps 1 and Step 2.

Step 5: In discussing each other’s lists, consider the following questions:

1) Which barrier behavior traits did we bring to our marital relationship?

2) How do we show each other these behavioral barriers?

3) Are these barrier behavior patterns irritating to one another?

4) Why is it that in discussing these behavioral barriers we find we are discussing issues which, in the past, we thought were problems in our relationship?

5) How deeply rooted in each of our personalities are these barrier behavior patterns?

6) What are the origins of each of our behavioral barriers? Was it the families in which we were reared? Was it a relationship in which we were hurt? Was it a previous marriage? Was it a past hurt in our current marriage?

7) How can we create a healing climate in our relationship, being accepting of each other's barrier behavior patterns?

8) Does it make sense to not blame each other for these barrier behavior patterns?

9) How real are our marital problems? Are they problems or are they just the interaction of the barrier behavior traits each of us brought to our relationship?

10) When a behavioral barrier interferes in our relationship, how will we deal with it?

Step 6: After completing Step 1 through Step 5 you are ready to tackle this next section.

Handling Barrier-Behavior Patterns in Marital Relationships

What barrier-behavior patterns can impede the growth of a marital relationship? There are many and we have listed some. These symptoms describe how the relationship appears to others:


_____1. The couple never talks to one another.

_____2. They are always fighting, arguing, or at cross purposes.

_____3. They are always testing each other’s loyalty and fidelity.

_____4. They are often jealous of one another.

_____5. They are always in competition to have their needs met.

_____6. They never resolve problems, disagreements or arguments.

_____7. They always insist on doing things together, never as individuals.

_____8. They appear to be chained to their marital relationship.

_____9. They talk to others about their problems, but never to each other.

_____10. One person seems to control the purse strings, the rules of conduct, and the

planning in the marriage.

_____11. They always seem to be competing for the role of leader in the relationship.

_____12. A    sense of non-productivity pervades the relationship.

_____13. One of the parties seems to be an enabler who covers for the lack of

responsibility of the other person.

_____14. They look confused and disappointed in the relationship.

_____15. They always talk about how it ''should'' be and find it hard to accept the way it

really is.

_____16. They constantly compare their spouse to a parent or other family member

regarding behavior, sensitivity, thoughtfulness. The spouse never measures up.

_____17. There is constant negativity in the relationship.

_____18. There is a limit to how close or intimate they can be with one another.

_____19.  Both ignore each other's feelings and rights in an aggressive pursuit of their

own needs.

_____20. They are unable to express how they feel ''about'' or ''in'' the relationship.

_____21. They can't seem to get on with their relationship. Their marriage seems to be

handled at an immature or basic level.

_____22. It looks like one of the partners clings to the other.

_____23. It appears that one or both act like they are ''free agents'' with no pressing ties

or obligations to the relationship.

_____24. One or both are always blue or depressed; the pressures of the relationship

seem to exacerbate this mood.

_____25. They seem unwilling to make a permanent commitment to one another or the


_____26. They never seem to have fun with each other or enjoy each other's company.

_____27. They are  unwilling to get outside ''help'' for  their problems.

_____28. They appear to be stubborn, bullheaded, and obstinate as they address their


_____29. They deny having problems and get angry at others for suggesting that they


_____30. They ignore and/or run away from all offers of help; this shows that they need

to change how they interact.

What Barrier Behavior Patterns Exist in Marital Relationships?

Study the following descriptions of negative behavior patterns.


_____1. Mistrust: Believing that-your spouse dislikes you and does not accept you for who you are. Always on guard, you are looking to be taken advantage of in the relationship.

_____2. Fear of rejection: Believing that your spouse couldn't possibly accept you or your ideas. Knowing you will be rejected sooner or later, you are always watching for the slightest sign of it.

_____3. Need for approval: Needing ongoing approval from your spouse to validate yourself and your feelings. You are always cautious in the way you act, believe, feel, or speak so as not to offend or lose this approval.

_____4. Insecurity: Believing that you cannot rely on yourself or your spouse to always take care of you. You are anxious about how your personal needs will be met under every circumstance.

_____5. Inflexibility: Your way is the only or the best way to relate, act, interact, communicate, and solve problems. It is holding to a rigid, structured, absolutist belief about the way things must be in your relationship.

_____6. Lack of Autonomy: Your spouse must act, believe, think, feel, behave, and relate like you do and spend all free time with you. It is not allowing each of you to behave as independent, functioning human beings.

_____7. Lack of honest, open, or effective communication: Communication that lacks active listening, effective, helpful responding, and open problem solving. Communication is either closed, one way, or parallel (talking side-by-side with no one listening).

_____8. Avoidance of conflict: A belief that if you and your spouse never argue, fight, or disagree you have a better chance of a lasting relationship. Afraid of confrontation, you always give in to the other's ideas.

_____9. Lack of respect for the rights of the other: A conscious or unconscious belief that your rights are the only ones that count. Thus, your spouse's rights are ignored, negated, discounted, or offended. Your rights remain supreme.

_____10. Fear of intimacy: A belief that if your spouse gets too close, all your most secret feelings and fear will be revealed.    Having this knowledge would give your spouse power over you; you would be completely vulnerable.

_____11. Need for control: You can only enjoy this relationship if you are in complete control. Otherwise you will be smothered, taken advantage of, or ignored. Your spouse would have power over you; again, you would be completely venerable

_____12. Need for power: You feel you must exert the most power or strength of will in the relationship. Otherwise you will be consumed, ignored, powerless therefore ineffectual.

_____13. Irresponsibility: You take no responsibility for the relationship or for your spouse. You do nothing to nurture the relationship or to help your spouse cope with life. (“Hey, it’s not my fault.'')

_____14. Over-responsible:  You alone are responsible for the welfare and wellbeing of both the relationship and of your spouse. You constantly do things to make the relationship better and to cover for your spouse's lack of responsibility. (''This has to be done and there is no one to do it but me.”)

_____15. Low self-worth/low self-esteem: A belief that you are worthless, of no value, and that you have nothing to offer your spouse in a relationship. You do not take the initiative in the relationship; you feel or act inferior, defensive, tentative, or resistant.

_____16.  Fantasy or idealized relationship: Believing how a relationship should be and how people should interact in marriage. These standards idealistic and unrealistic, are often unobtainable. Their lack of attainment leads to depression and dissatisfaction with your marriage, your spouse and/or yourself.

_____17. Lack of healthy role models: Living in a high­stress family of origin, you may lack appropriate examples or role models of a healthy marital relationship. Do you know what ''normal'' is? Trying to build a marital team with no frame of reference would be like taking a 747 jet out for a ride without prior flight training or knowledge.

_____18. Chronic hostility: Due to your high-stress background, you harbor resentment and hostility toward yourself and others. You cannot bide this hostility, and your spouse often misreads the negativity and hostility, taking it personally. Hurt feelings and misunderstanding are the results.

_____19. Hiding feelings: A belief that you should not let your spouse know how you are feeling, especially if the feelings are negative or self-deprecating. The result of not revealing your feelings, be they positive or negative, is that your spouse is left in the dark and must resort to guessing or mind reading.

_____20. Lack of positive reinforcement: A belief that no reinforcement is needed for your spouse's good behavior. As a result, your spouse gets no verbal or physical support regarding appreciation, being wanted, and needed. This leads to a sense of apathy, lethargy, and a lack of desire to please on the part of your spouse.

_____21. Overdependence: A belief that without your spouse you are nothing, incompetent, meaningless. It is clinging to your partner in such a way that you never act independently, requiring and expecting full support for the majority of your thinking, believing, and problem solving.

_____22. Too independent: A belief that you cannot afford to risk depending on anyone except yourself for fear that you will become too vulnerable to being hurt, let down, rejected or disappointed.  Without a full and complete response to any request for assistance, support, or help. your feel separate, unconnected, alone. But you can't let anyone think you depend on them; that would be too scary.

_____23. Chronic depression: A state of melancholy and low feelings about yourself that pervades your marriage and your life. Your behavior and emotional state often give the impression that your spouse is at fault. There is no appreciation of the marital relationship, or the blessings in your life, just negative thinking.

_____24. Avoidance of risk taking: A fear of failure that results in dishonest feelings and communication. In order for a marital relationship to come into being or to grow, active risk-taking by the spouses is essential. In the absence of healthy risk taking, marital relationships stagnate.

_____25. Absence of fun: A belief that having fun is frivolous, unnecessary to nurture the marital relationship. Such a belief leads to spouses taking themselves and their relationship too seriously, becoming ''problem focused'' in their mutual marital interactions. All spontaneity is soon gone.

Solving Problems for a Healthy Marital Relationship

Step 1: Do this step on your own. First admit at least one problem in the marital relationship. Use the symptoms list in the above section to help identify the symptoms of the problem. Record the problem and its symptoms in your journal:

1) One problem in our marital relationship is

2) I know it is a problem because the following symptoms are present in our marital relationship

Step 2: Based on your open admission of this one problem, decide which of the barriers listed above are revealed in this problem. In your journal start this section with: The barriers in our marital relationship affecting this problem are:

Step 3: After listing one problem and its symptoms together with the barriers, show the information to your spouse. Ask your spouse to read your descriptions in your journal for Step 1 and Step 2 and answer those same questions using the same outline in your journal.

1) My spouse’s view of the problem in our relationship is:

2) I agree it is a problem because of the following symptoms present:

3) Barriers in our marital relationship evident in this problem are:

Step 4: Based on your spouse’s response in Step 3, compare your responses to the three questions. Analyze the points of view. Record in your journal, the points upon which you and/or disagree.


1) My partner and I agree on this issue as a problem

2) My partner and I disagree on this issue as a problem


1) My partner and I agree on these as symptoms of the problem

2) My partner and I disagree on these as symptoms of the problem Barriers

     1) My partner and I agree on that the following barriers are present in this problem

     2) My partner and I disagree about the presence of the following barriers in this problem

Step 5: You and your spouse are now ready to develop a plan of action to address those barriers that you agree do exist in your specific marital problem:

1) Take each barrier, one at a time, and decide:

2) For whom is this barrier more active or even present?

3) Is the barrier an irrational or blocking belief?

4) Can the belief be refuted?

5) Can the party with the barrier handle it in the relationship with assistance? Is outside help needed?

6) How long will it take to overcome this barrier?

7) What behavior patterns can to help each of us overcome this barrier?

8) How will we know if we have been successful in overcoming this barrier?

9) What preventive action can we take to ensure that this barrier is no longer an obstacle in our marital relationship?

10) What replacement behavior is needed to keep this barrier from recurring?

11) Are we in agreement with the remedial course of action needed? If so, then we need to commit to working on it.

Answer the above questions for each of the barriers that you agree do exist in your marital relationship.