What Are Your Marital Distress Pacifiers?


In his book, The New Rules of Marriage, Terrance Real refers to misery stabilizers or what I call distress pacifiers.

They are the things people turn to instead of turning to their partner.

They distract themselves from staying engaged with their partner and facing the tough issues in their relationship.  are you in marital distress

He gives the analogy of a valve, where people slowly bleed off their discontent with distractions, which may hold off a crisis, but causes chronic lack of fulfillment and discontent.
Most couples who come to see me are usually just one step away from divorce.

Most of them have been unhappy for years.

The first thing I look for is their distress pacifiers or methods of distraction, because in situations of chronic unhappiness in the relationship, one or both partners usually turn to someone or something outside of their relationship for comfort.

is your relationship in marital distressIf they didn’t, the pain, discomfort and loneliness that shows up in a long-time unhappy relationship would probably be too hard to bear.

So people turn away from each other, choosing to numb the pain instead of addressing the cause.

Common Distress Pacifiers

  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Porn/sex
  • Food
  • Spending
  • TV
  • Children
  • Exercise
  • Work/busyness
  • Buying/spending

How Can You Avoid The Catch-22 Of Distress Pacifiers?

The most difficult thing about the distress pacifiers is that to some extent they work.

They give you just enough satisfaction and relief in the short-term, to be able to withstand an unhappy situation, even though you would be much better off dealing with it the long-term.

Forms Of Distraction

marital distress issuesMens form of distraction usually shows up as workaholism, alcohol, gambling, porn, TV, online games and sex.

Women tend to become overly involved with their kids, food, prescription drugs, spending money, exercise and busy-ness.

How To Transform The Relationship

To begin to transform your relationship, you and your spouse need to get rid of the props that keep you in the limbo, status quo state and let the relationship fall into crisis mode.

This will force you to deal with discomfort.

Our society teaches us to avoid discomfort, but going through it is the only way to transform and change.

If removing your crutches throws you into anxiety or depression, there are ways to deal with and fix it, if you don’t mask or hide it.

I understand that the idea of going without your crutches is frightening and may sound unappealing to most people.

You will definitely need support.

But the reason you may be reluctant to give up your crutches is the reason you should.

In doing so, you may create confrontation with each that can lead to resolving the difficult aspects of your relationship that you’ve been too comfortable avoiding up until now.


in marital distressI have found from working with hundreds of people that just because someone is miserable does not mean they are ready to change. 

In the book he calls this “comfortable/miserable.”

I always give people the option – you can be comfortable or you can have a create relationship. 

I ask, “What is more important to you?”

If they are serious they will cut back or stop altogether anything that emotionally removes them from the reality that they are in.

I challenge them to stop with their diversions and instead turn towards their partners and deal!

Ready To Deal?

If you are ready to stop avoiding and ready to turn your relationship around I would love to talk to you.

Click on the graphic below to set up a complimentary clarity session today.




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