In our final installment of this series, we’ll examine three more problems that can mean catastrophe for your marriage – IF they are allowed to continue unchecked.
These are the types of issues that many couples simply accept as “normal,” and allow them to chip away at the quality of the relationship without taking steps to fix them. The reason for pointing these things out is simple: they only get worse over time, and in the long run, can push you and your spouse further and further apart.
As you read through these, reflect on your own relationship. Even if they don’t seem like a big deal now, the problems here are worth tackling immediately. To maintain a healthy relationship and build the strongest marriage possible, you can’t let this stuff go.
1. You Aren’t Communicating
Think about the conversations you have with your spouse. Are they “surface level” small talk? Are you simply talking about the things you have to (like planning rides for the kids or who’s going to get groceries), or are you actually communicating?
Do you talk about how you feel? How the marriage is going? Your goals? Personal problems you’re trying to overcome? Are you sharing deep thoughts or big questions? Are you able to easily slip into meaningful conversation?
If not, you’re probably struggling to communicate in a general way – and that spells trouble for the marriage! Not everyone is comfortable opening up, but with your spouse, there should be enough trust and intimacy to speak freely… And you also have to LISTEN. Being an attentive, patient listener is an equally (if not more) important part of communication as speaking.
To solve this problem, well… You have to communicate about it! If you feel like the two of you haven’t really been talking (beyond the basic, mundane needs of life), say something to your spouse about it! Tell them that you would like to work on communicating more openly and effectively, and start from there. Hopefully, this will start a conversation you can both learn from, and help you both make the effort in the future to open up, to listen, to and embrace the connecting power of communication.
Without it, you can begin to exist too separately, unaware of how each other might be feeling – which is often the path to misunderstanding, fights, and the kind of drifting apart that turns a marriage into disconnected cohabitation.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being able to rely on each other – to discover your own strengths and weaknesses and see your marriage as a team effort that helps you both…
However, there’s some very real danger in codependency. It’s one thing to have a marriage that’s greater than the sum of its parts – it’s another thing entirely if you can’t function without the other person. This could mean basic things like managing money or household duties, or as extreme as enabling substance abuse – when one of you is acting like a crutch to support the other person’s bad habits (or if you’re both doing it for each other), your marriage is on thin ice.
If, for example, you aren’t there for your spouse to depend on, they may lash out or become angry – simply because they’ve grown so accustomed to relying on you. Similarly, if your spouse is taking you for granted (or vice versa), it can breed resentment as you grow frustrated with their dependence.
This can be a tough situation to break away from, but it is possible – even if it has to be done gradually. This is definitely a place marriage counseling can help. The first step is acknowledging that the issue exists, even if it’s hard for you or your spouse to face up to.
Healthy marriages are cooperative, and it’s certainly ok to rely on each other for some support – but if it’s become too codependent, you’re likely asking for long-term trouble.
3. A Major Rough Patch
We wanted to end this series with a very, very common problem that many couples simply handle the wrong way. It’s natural and normal to through “rough patches” in your marriage. After all, people are always growing and changing, and plenty of outside factors – like work stress, extended family, personal challenges, kids, and so many others – can have an affect on the relationship.
Regardless of the reason, there may be stretches of time where you aren’t feeling very close, you’re fighting more than usual, and just not very satisfied with the relationship. Again, this is normal…
However, if you just let it slide, assuming things will get back on track on their own, you risk this “rough patch” becoming the new dynamic of your marriage – and that’s not sustainable. You can accept that things aren’t their best right now, but you’ve also got to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Address the problem head on, even if you’re not exactly sure what the problem is. Sit down with your spouse and acknowledge that things have been rough, and make an agreement to uncover the problems and deal with them one by one. Far too many couples think these rough patches will resolve themselves – and sometimes they do, but not often. It’s going to take effort to get things back on track, so don’t just settle for “rough” when you could be working to make the marriage better.
As we’ve been saying throughout the series, these problems do NOT mean your marriage is doomed. You have to understand, though, that if left unaddressed, these problems will chip away at the connection you share, make things worse and worse, and ultimately compound until they’ve destroyed the marriage. The good news is that you can resolve each and every issue we’ve talked about.
If you don’t settle for a problematic marriage, and instead have the courage to face up to problems, be honest with yourself and each other, and work toward a better, stronger relationship… Nothing can stop you!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com