Note: for purposes of brevity, the words "marriage" will be used interchangeably to refer both to marriage as well as other long-term romantic partnerships.
No relationship is immune to problems.
For every year of happily wedded bliss, there will be years in a marriage that you can barely stand to breathe near one another. People grow and change over the years, and during those growing periods, your relationship may become quite stressed. This is both common and normal, as noted by the divorce rate in the US continuing to hover around 50%.
Read more about divorce.
There have been volumes of research done about marriage, long-term relationships and partnerships. Out of that research comes a body of knowledge about common marital problems as well as some solutions to these marital issues.
What Are Common Marital Problems?
There are a number of common reasons that couples fight. They are described in greater detail below:
Sometimes two people who are beyond compatible while communicating, child rearing, and excellent partners can be sexually incompatible. Sexual activity is one of the best ways for two people to bond and continue to reaffirm the bond. What happens when sex goes by the wayside? What happens when the sexual divide becomes a chasm? What if you and your partner don't have the same sexual drive or preferences?
How To Manage Sexual Problems In A Marriage:
Here are some simple guidelines to manage sexual problems in a marriage. If these solutions do not work, don't hesitate to contact a marriage counselor.
- Make time - even if it means making appointments with each other - every week for some intimate time in the bedroom.
- Learn what really turns your partner on.
- Talk openly about sex and sexuality with your partner.
- Find ways to be physically intimate when not having sex - snuggling, kissing
- Don't hesitate to talk to a professional marriage counselor if your sexual problems are a big part of marital discord.
Money, Money, Money and Marriage:
Many couples spend an inordinate amount of time fighting about money - often well before the wedding vows are said. Weddings, after all, are a huge money suck. Those couples who have financial woes that keep them bickering need to know that they are not alone and that financial problems can be solved if the couple is open and honest with one and other.
How To Manage Financial Difficulties Within A Marriage:
Here are some tips for how to manage constructive conversation about financial problems within a marriage. Do not hesitate to seek professional help if the problems seem insurmountable.
- Be HONEST about your current financial situation and, if things have taken a downward turn, remember that it's unrealistic to continue the lifestyle you may be accustomed to.
- Rather than start a battle while you're both (or one of you) is fired up, schedule a time to sit down and discuss finances in a non-threatening manner.
- Don't hide income or debt - while discussing finances, bring all financial documents to the table so that you both can see where the other is coming from.
- Agree to learn from the other - if one of you is a spender while the other is a saver, remember that there is a middle ground to be found.
- Do not place blame onto the other. It defeats the purpose of trying to work through the problem.
- Acknowledge that you each had a hand in putting yourself into this financial situation, and work together toward a solution to fix it.
- Put together a budget that includes saving money from every paycheck.
- Decide who will be the one to handle monthly bills.
- Make sure that your budget includes some "fun money" for each of you.
- Come up with some short and long-term financial goals for your family.
Lack of - or difficulty with - communication is one of the most common relationship problems, and it has different meanings for each couple. Generally, a communication breakdown occurs when a couple is unable to see eye-to-eye about important problems as well as the simpler things in life.
While being unable to see eye-to-eye is not the end of the world on a small scale (you don't, for example, have to find football as fascinating as your partner), the difficulty arises when the other party absolutely refuses to consider that there might be a side that is different than what he/she believes. Communication breakdown is, boiled down to bare bones, an unwillingness to take the time or energy to listen to your partner and try to understand his or her perspective; to refuse to attempt to walk around in the others' shoes once in awhile.
How To Manage Communication Breakdown:
Make time to visit with one another. Write it on a calendar, if you must. During this time, do not allow the presence of cellphones or other electronic devices. Focus entirely upon talking with each other - each taking turns while the other partner listens.
Set up ground rules for these visits (some ideas below):
- No always/never statements,
- Do not blame the other
- Keeping to problems/issues less than six months old
- Do not bring up the past.
- Keep discussions of any issues on one topic, not use the time to bring up every old problem that has ever happened.
- Repeat and rephrase what your partner is saying: "So what you're saying is that you dislike it that I do not clean the kitchen after dinner."
- Make your needs known and articulate your partner's needs.
- Find common ground.
- Body language matters almost as much as the words coming from your mouth, make sure that your body is also "listening." Turn toward your partner, make eye contact as you speak. Do not doodle, check your email, or otherwise indicate that you are not listening.
Read more about Body Language.
Division of Household Chores:
Most couples today work outside the home, which means that there is no longer one person who is solely dedicated to maintaining the house. It's important to divide labor equally, but what happens when one partner does not (despite all pleas) pull his or her weight?
How To Manage Division Of Household Chores:
Here are some tips for managing the division of household chores. If these do not help, don't hesitate to talk to a professional marriage counselor.
- Make a weekly list of chores and sit down together to decide who does what.
- Look for other solutions as well. If you both hate to clean bathrooms, consider hiring a cleaning service for that job alone.
- Be clear about what needs to get done on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Assign chores respectively.
- Remind one another that you are partners, which means that you work together to solve this problem.
We're Fighting All The Time:
Fighting with your partner is a part of life - conflicts happen. Marital strife only becomes problematic when every time you forget to change the toilet paper roll, World War III erupts in your house.
How To Manage Conflicts in Your Marriage:
It's important to both you and your marriage to develop some good conflict resolution skills. These skills are very important to hone, not only in your marriage but in your relationships with other people. Here are some tips for managing conflicts:
- Remember that you are no victim - you get to choose how you (and if you should) react to a situation.
- While you're arguing, be honest - are you saying things to simply get back at the other person or are you making strides toward resolution?
- Don't go placing blame - it's unfair and it's hurtful. In the end, it doesn't matter who is as fault - it matters that the situation is resolved.
- Apologize and own it when you're wrong.
- You cannot control your partner's behavior - you can only control your own.
- Try a different strategy during arguments. Don't continue to respond to the situation in the same way you always have - the outcome won't change.
- Take a step back - sometimes you may not be able to control your emotions well, so take a step back, table the conversation, and return to it when you both have cooled down.
- Don't avoid the issue - hot-button issues will continue to arise if you don't deal with them. Be honest about your concerns, make your needs known, and clear the air about the issue.
- Make sure to use I statements instead of you statements. Instead of "You always..." start with "I feel."
This is a biggie - when dating, the relationship is glamorized, romanticized, and we are often on our best behavior. After marriage, things often change. Society has strongly stereotyped visions of what "role" a husband or wife plays, and all of a sudden the vows are done and you find that your partner is sitting around in pajamas, not helping out. Additionally, growing up, your parents modeled your idea of what marriage is like. How do you get past these expectations?
- Articulate your expectations as well as your partner's expectations.
- Remain open-minded - there are often multiple ways to get things done.
- Don't blame! It's just as likely that your partner sees your way just as oddly as you see your partner's way.
Resentment is one of the top things that ruins a good marriage. Usually based upon situations in which we've been hurt in the past, resentment may build as issues are not resolved. Resentment drives a loss of respect for your partner. This often stems from communication breakdowns and lack of responsibility.
- If you have a concern, bring it up to your partner and give him or her a fair chance to hear you out and change behavior.
- Examine your expectations - are you hurt about the present situation, or is the hurt driven by something in the past that has not been put to rest?
- Be honest with yourself about your needs.
- It's okay to express what you need.
- Don't attack your partner - he or she may not know how you're feeling.
Trust can be a huge make-it-or-break-it for the relationship. Your partner depends on you, just as you depend on your partner. Here are some things you can do to manage trust in the relationship:
- Be consistent - this includes being on time and following through on what you say you can or will do.
- Don't like - be honest.
- Don't attack, twist, or blame in an argument.
- Be aware of your partner's feelings.
- Check in.
- Don't overextend what you can do.
- Be responsible for your share.
Remember that you are not alone in your marriage - many people experience many of these issues at some point in their marriage. Be patient, honest, and open about it, and work through them one step at a time. If it is too much for you to manage or you don't know where to go next, seek out the help of a family and marriage counselor who is specially trained in relationship issues.