Most failing marriages come down to a few common marriage problems:money, sex, quality time, and selfishness. If you looked at the rolls ofdivorce cases, most marriage issues debated in court tend to comedown to one of the first two problems listed: money and sexual issues. Ifthe truth were told, the last two (emotional distance, ego) are at the heartof most bad marriages. Most marriages break because people eithergrow apart over time, or because one or both of the marriage partners aretoo self-involved to be in a healthy partnership.
You’ll find micro-issues tend to irritate and exacerbate already-existingtroubles between spouses, though. These issues might be small at anygiven instant–they usually are–but small problems are usually a sign ofmuch larger issues in a marriage. Whether you have a great marriage oryou’re on the verge of separating, people living together tend to get annoywith one another. Heck, when my dogs spend most of the winter huddlingtogether for warmth, they tend to start barking and growling at each otherbecause little things each one does annoys the other, so familiarity reallydoes breed contempt.
Whenyou have marriage problems, you’ll eventually have to resolve the big issues(money, sex, time, ego). But fixing the little issues creates a sense oftrust and togetherness, and sets the table for the big issues to be tackled.At the very least, you no longer have those tiny irritants setting you off.Here are some common issues marriages have and how to resolve them.
Playing the Victim and Begging for Sympathy
In most marriages, each spouse has a friend or family member they vent towhen things aren’t going well. The problem is, this person only hears oneside of the story, and you know they only hear the one side of things.You’re more likely to play the victim in retelling the bad moments inyour domestic life, begging for sympathy from your mom, favorite sister, orbest friend.
Not only are you giving your amateur psychologist friend a distorted viewof the marriage, but you’re wallowing in self-pity and dwelling on thenegative. Don’t get me wrong. We all need to vent at times. We need ashoulder to cry on. But avoid venting too much in this way, because itcreates a quagmire of negative energy that starts to permeate therelationship. If anything, go out of your way to praise your partner andpoint out their good qualities. It’s impossible to do this all the time, butdo your best to dwell on the positive and downplay the negative. Attitudemeans a lot.
Share Your Feelings – Don’t Bottle Them Up
Any psychologist will tell you it isn’t healthy to bottle up negativethoughts and feelings. You’ll eventually have a whole mountain ofresentment that’s likely to burst forth at the worst possible times. It’sunhealthy to suffer in silence. So who do you talk to if you can’t talk toyour most trusted friends and family about these issues?
Your spouse, of course.
Discuss your feelings with your spouse and get the negativefeelings off your chest. Let them know how you feel about what they do andhow you feel. Don’t do this in an accusatory fashion, but try to be gentleand address real issues when you talk with them. You’re getting things offyour chest, but you’re doing so in a (hopefully) positive way. Perhaps thetwo of you get things resolved.
If your husband or wife shuts you don’t, tries to tune you out, or getsdefensive about what you’re complaining about, don’t press the matter. Thisisn’t about you being right and them being wrong. It’s about you gettingthese feelings out in the open. Back off and let them think about what yousaid. If you need to vent to a friend, now’s the time to get that negativeenergy out. Give your spouse time to ruminate and bring up the subject atsome later time. If the behavior continues and they don’t look like they’regoing to try to resolve things, you’ll need to bring it up again at a latertime.
Avoid His and Her Possessions Disputes
People tend to fight over things when fighting over deeper issues istoo dangerous. Maybe he spends too much time on his cars, or he thinksyou spend too much time on your garden. Maybe your stack of romance novelsand chick flick blu-rays get on his nerves, while his coffee bean grinderand stack of fantasy sports magazines gets in your way. Little householditems can turn into big arguments, often serving as proxies for largerissues you have with each other.
Don’t fight over possessions. These items sometimes are genuinelyimportant to the other person. Maybe the wife doesn’t get enough romance inthe marriage and the romance novels are a much healthier outlet than anaffair. Maybe working on his hot rod is the only time he can get away fromthe pressures of the office and the family and just unwind with something heloves. Whatever the case, it’s more important to the possessor than it is tothe other spouse. Let them have their foibles and your spouse will let youhave yours.
Find common ground instead. Maybe the two of you agree thatthere’s too much clutter in the house. If so, have a garage sell where hecan sell his excess clothes, that laptop he never used, or maybe his oldvideo game console, while she can get rid of the clothes she never wore andall the things she keeps packing in the attic. Find things each of you canpart with, have a sell together, and use it to buy something both of you canuse (a new entertainment system, a weekend away at a nearby resort).
Arrange Quality Time
Most people can’t get enough quality time in their lives. Betweenwork and kids activities and visits with the family, there’s not a whole lotof time for just the two of you. But if you don’t make time to reconnect,people begin to grow apart.
This is when people start to take each other for granted and just assumethings don’t need to be worked on, but it’s a dangerous time. The two of yougot into this marriage because you needed and wanted companionship. If yougrow distant, there’s something essential missing in the relationship. It’sonly a matter of time before one or both of you start looking outside of themarriage for that something.
It’s pivotal for the two of you to make time for one another. Turnoff the tv and do something together, even if it’s for just a half-hour anight. Maintain little rituals in your life, such as kissing one another thelast thing before you part in the morning, and going to the first place youhad a date on the anniversary of your first date every year. Have in-jokesthat are only between the two of you–anything to reestablish that bond oflove and mutual rapport. The two of you are a couple–you have a mutual bondunlike any other you’ll have in your whole life–so do things to put thefocus back on your relationship.
Putting a little romance back into the relationship helps, too. Whether it comes naturally or you have to schedule a time (or two) in theweek for it, maintain a sex life. Do what it takes to make this work,because study after study shows that intimacy makes the marriage better.Many little issues fade away.
Do little things, if you don’t have time for big things. Remind yourspouse why they married you in the first place, and try to remember why youmarried them.
Maintain Separate Lives
While we’re on the subject, moderation is a good thing in most aspects oflife. When I tell you to arrange quality time with each other, this doesn’tmean you should take away time with friends and away from each other. Bothpartners in a marriage need time apart and need separate identities. Thisstrengthens the marriage, too, because it keeps things fresh. Have livesaway from the marriage and you’ll have plenty to talk about.
Do Things for Your Spouse
At least once a week, make a special effort to do something on behalfof your spouse. Put their interests, concerns, feelings, and needs aheadof your own. A marriage requires you to set aside your selfish needs forsomething greater sometimes, so put this in practice often. Make an effortand your spouse will appreciate it. This might be something small likecooking her breakfast in bed, or it might be something painful, like drivingher mother in from the airport, or it might be something you detest, likebuying new mulch for that garden you hate so much.