For as many reasons that bring people together, there are just as many that can tear them apart. Only the toughest of couples (or perhaps the luckiest) survive all the stressors that life throws at them. We don't all have the exact same issues, but depending on your combination of problems, it's very difficult to survive all of the stressors all of the time.
Can your marriage survive the top 5 stressors?
1. COMMUNICATION: To quote an old song by 10cc, “Communication is the problem to the answer.” No matter the problem, if you can’t communicate, then you have a larger problem than you thought. Over the course of our marriages, we forget that our spouses started off as our friends, the closest of our confidants, and they, above all others, should be on our side. Is it our ego that makes us desire to “win”? If we feel that we are right, does that mean that our spouse has to be wrong?
- There isn’t a single marital problem that can be solved by pouting, wishing it away, or ignoring it.
- Any of the problems you face with your spouse will eventually have to be discussed with him.
- My pastor used to say, “You can be married or you can be right.” I prefer to think that if you can communicate from a place of truth and safety, then you can both win.
2. MONEY: So much can be said about MONEY. In our society, it represents Power and Status. It’s also been called a “Necessary Evil” and the “Root of All Evil.” So, it is not surprising that couples fight so much about money. Couples who have money are not immune to money woes. They just fight over larger amounts of money.
My mother always says, “Money doesn’t solve money problems.” Communication and planning are keys to getting over money hurdles. It’s one thing if you aren’t good with money, but it's way worse if you are BOTH bad. However, money management is not the only challenge money causes. Other conflicts occur when couples place different values on money.
- Do you agree on how to spend your money? Do “possessions” hold the same value to each of you? Are exotic vacations important? Home renovations? New gadgets?
- For each disagreement about money, be prepared to talk it out!
- If you are both bad with money, seek financial counseling. Together. It will be a base of learning and growth that you achieved together!
3. GROWING APART: If you married young like I did, it’s not uncommon to grow apart. It doesn’t HAVE to be that way!We all develop and grow as we get older. It’s perfectly normal and natural to have different interests, but sharing some interests other than the house or children is the key to remaining close. Some of the things we did together when we were younger fell by the wayside as we got older. No longer did we socialize with friends together, go to movies, or have dinner parties. Over time, we lost a sense of who we were as a couple.
- Finding ways to remain friends is the key to a long term healthy relationship.
- Reinstating date nights can be good for you as well as fun.
- Don’t forget to keep planning and dreaming together!
4. INFIDELITY: Thinking back to when you were first married, it probably seemed impossible that couples could overcome infidelity. Now that you are older and wiser, you probably know that some couples are not willing to give up a lifetime with someone over an indiscretion. However, others feel so deceived that a sacred trust has been broken beyond repair. I have to say that I have known both types of couples.
- If you are going to save your relationship, remember the number one rule… communication.
- Know that in many cases, sex is not the reason people cheat. The root cause of the problem is likely something else.
- Our desire to be understood, accepted and loved is normal. We want to be accepted and understood by those closest to us, our co-workers, our friends, our family, etc. However, it should not cross the boundaries of our marriages.
- If you are going to forgive, forgive completely.
5. SUBSTANCE ABUSE/PHYSICAL ABUSE/ MENTAL HEALTH: I left this topic for last because it can be so crushing. There are a lot of resources available to help you deal with the emotional scars and many issues associated with these abuses. There is hope to overcome the pain of substance abuse and mental health issues. However, you won’t be able to succeed on your own. If the relationship is to survive, it will take both of you, along with a lot of patience, forgiveness, love, and counseling and /or medical treatment.
I am an advocate in most ways for trying to save marriages and relationships. However, if the abuse is physical, that isn’t a relationship that you need to save. Think SAFETY first. So many times we base our decisions on what would be best for our children. Your children need the security of knowing their home is safe. They need to feel it and live it. If you are experiencing abuse that makes you feel unsafe, please reach out to someone for help.
In case of emergency: If you live in the U.S. and the situation is violent, and children are involved, please call for Emergency Help 911; National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800 799-7233 (SAFE) 1 800 787-3224 (TDD)
Other Domestic Abuse Resources: