Much as we’d like to believe otherwise, every couple—even the most loving—will have problems crop up in their relationship as they move forward together in life. A couple who states “we never have any problems” is either hiding something or not communicating with each other enough. Learning the life skills necessary to identify, address and resolve problems is a critical task that healthy and loving couples need to master in order to keep their relationship on the right track. When couples learn to meet problems head-on, they acquire techniques that are transferable to other parts of their lives, enhancing their problem-solving skills both in the household as well as outside of it.
What are some common problems that couples can be faced with during the span of their relationship?
Differing styles of communication is a very common problem between men and women, and this can lead to conflict until each person learns the unique communicative style of the other. It’s a bit like learning a foreign language!
To get on the road to good communication, make a policy about screen time when you are together. Couples who constantly check their cell phones, tablets or laptops while at the same time trying to have a conversation are setting themselves up for frustration. Set house rules for use of these extremely distracting objects. From the hard line (turn off all electronic devices as soon as you enter the front door) to a softer stance (no checking devices between the time you come home in the evening until just before bed), make sure the rule is reasonable and enforceable and that you both agree with it.
With screens off, you can be entirely present for your partner. This is essential for good communication.
How do you manage differing communication styles? You might be a person who is quite verbal, sharing everything that is in your head. Your partner might be someone of little words, communicating only what he feels needs to be said to move the conversation forward. Some couples get used to this back-and-forth and it causes no friction. But other couples want to see a more aligned way of sharing. If this is your case, there are many ways you can learn to be better communicators. From some short sessions with a marriage counselor who will help you better learn the communication needs of your partner, to self-help books or internet articles, there is a wealth of resources out there to help you better share your wants, needs, and desires with your partner and hear theirs, too.
2. Sex and intimacy
Every honeymoon period will have an endpoint. Lucky couples can count on years of great sex, but even the luckiest will encounter outside forces, especially as they age, that can create problems in the bedroom. The most common are menopause, which will naturally affect the woman’s libido, and aging which will naturally affect the man’s sexual function, drive and stamina. It is important to recognize that these two occurrences are entirely normal and not a sign that things are going wrong in the relationship. A visit to the doctor can help both partners find appropriate solutions to help them get back to almost-honeymoon-stage again.
Not all sexual problems are related to aging, however. Feeling emotionally distant from your partner can prevent you from wanting to be physically intimate. If you find yourself in this situation, it is worth it to try and identify why you are feeling like you are drifting apart from your spouse. Are they working long hours and not present enough? Are they present in the house but spending too much time on their computer or watching television? Are you taking each other for granted, making each other feel invisible? It’s hard to want to make love with someone with whom you don’t feel emotionally close so if you find that your moments between the sheets are far and few, address this with your partner. They might be feeling exactly the same thing. Communication will be important in this situation to get you back to enjoying the loving physical relationship that is one of the benefits of married life.
Money and how it is spent is a common relationship problem and one that should be addressed early on, as it can predict the success or failure of a marriage. Couples who have a similar view toward saving and spending are one step ahead of those who cannot agree on how to manage the household budget. Money is an area that needs to be addressed as soon as you are certain that you want to move forward with your partner. It is not an easy subject for some people to discuss, but it is an important one as you both need to be on the same page should you wish to pool your funds together, as is common for most married couples, with the intent to buy a home, take nice vacations, start college funds for your children, and so on. If you cannot seem to agree on these large ticket items, you are setting yourselves up for friction-filled conversations every time you look at your bank account. Do the work necessary to communicate respectfully about how you spend your money so that this does not become a huge issue in your marriage.
4. How to raise the kids
Childrearing—from table manners to how much screen time to allow a toddler—this is often a problem for couples and one that they can’t know until they are actually living it. How you envision raising your children is a conversation that you should be having before you commit to a lifetime together. Coherent, aligned parenting is important not only for keeping the peace in the household but for the mental health of the children. It is destabilizing for a child to hear two different messages from their parents. Make every effort to communicate your viewpoints and listen to your partner’s before you get into the trenches of raising children. There are so many great resources out there that can help you come up with mutually-agreed upon strategies and rules, so do your homework before the little ones arrive. It will make your life as parents much easier.
All couples will be faced with problems and challenges over the course of their lives together. Don’t shy away from them. Problems should not be seen as roadblocks to avoid, but rather as opportunities for growth and relationship-strengthening.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.