Marriage: Are You Friends or Enemies?


All too often I see couples who come into my office with their marriage in trouble and on the verge of divorce.  They come to counseling in an attempt to save their marriage.  You can usually spot these couples from a mile away.  They sit on opposite sides of the couch (not touching AT ALL!), usually have their arms folded, and the moment they start talking, everything is the other person’s fault.

Somewhere along the way, they stopped being each other’s friend and instead started to view one another as enemies.  They no longer look at the marriage as a team effort.  Any positive feelings that they once had about their spouse are long gone.  How does a marriage get to this point?

We Stopped Talking

Often I observe that couples who are at odds have stopped communicating.  Maybe one spouse doesn’t feel like the other spouse listens to them.  Perhaps a husband or wife constantly feels attacked, criticized, or belittled by their spouse.

Maybe the communication was never really good to begin with, so both partners just got tired of trying and gave up.  Regardless, it’s very easy to view your spouse as the enemy if you don’t know their thoughts and feelings, and if they don’t ask you about yours.  This allows you both to assume the worst about each other.

We Stopped Trying

It’s not unusual for couples to share that there is a lot of anger and resentment towards one another from past hurts.  Often this resentment is so big that they don’t remember what it feels like to be in love with the other person.  So many couples enter into marriage not thinking about the time and effort they will need to invest.

The division between spouses can happen in scenarios like this: after what feels like the hundredth time of asking your spouse to not leave dirty dishes in the sink, you finally lose it.  You are convinced that your spouse leaves the dishes in the sink because they want to make you feel miserable/don’t care about you/don’t care about your feelings, wants, or needs.  When you confront them in anger, they feel attacked and get defensive.  And because you can’t communicate well to each other, there is no resolution.

We Stopped Caring

We all have emotional needs that we expect our spouse to meet, such as affection, sex, conversation, etc.  When we don’t feel like our spouse cares or if they have an “all about me” attitude, it can feel very empty.  Not having needs met in a marriage can be very isolating.

I hear couples say all the time “Well they don’t meet my needs, so why should I meet theirs?”  Having this attitude is guaranteed to continue to create a bigger wedge than already exists.  Meeting needs means not keeping score.  It means doing it because you care.

We Stopped Feeling

In order to cope with unresolved hurt and the pain, some partners put up huge walls in order to keep them protected from their spouse.  In doing so, they often start to feel nothing but numbness.  When your spouse has caused you pain and there has never been any closure, your heart hardens over the years.  It becomes a natural coping mechanism to build walls between you.

If you feel nothing when it comes to your marriage and/or your spouse, your spouse often becomes the enemy in the relationship.  You just exist in a marriage, but don’t feel any passion or love towards the other person.  It’s like a big black hole swallows up your marriage.

Getting Help

If you see yourself or your marriage in any of the above mentioned situations, please understand that the path you are heading down is not healthy.  The bitterness, pain, frustration, or even numbness that you feel is not going to go away on its own.

If you see yourself starting to view your spouse as the enemy, please get professional help.  A therapist can help you both identify ways that you are contributing to the overall problem areas of the marriage.  Yes, you both have responsibility for where marriage is now and where it goes from here.  You can continue to view one another as the enemy, or you can choose to do something different.

Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.

Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.