Today, I want to share with you some common problems in relationships that could torpedo your marital relationship if you’re not careful…
Most of our marriage problems are bad habits we’ve developed, whether it’s lazy attempts at communication or we’ve simply forgotten how to have fun as a couple.
When you don’t address marital problems, though, here are some of the things that can happen within your relationship:
… Communication disconnect
… Emotional connection lapse
… Senseless affair
… Unbridled anger and resentment
… Divorce citing ‘irreconcilable differences’
The majority of couples really want their marriage to work.
So in this article I’m going to talk about some of the common problems in marriage relationships that couples face in the hopes that by being aware of them, you can take the necessary steps to fix what’s broken so that you can continue to experience the intimacy and fulfillment you crave within your marital relationship. Read on…
Common Marital Problems: Unmet Expectations
Too frequently we enter in to marriage with unrealistic expectations.
We watch the happily-ever-after television shows and movies that don’t get into the fights over…
… toothpaste dispensing
… toilet paper
… errant shoes
… no help in the house
… or piling dinner dishes
These shows set us up for the expectation that our partner will meet all our needs and our marriage will be a Cinderella story.
This is a sad story.
Becoming disappointed over and over again over unmet expectations will set up your marriage for failure.
What we expect from a marriage experience comes from a number of different places – media is not all to blame!
While you may want your life modeled after the newest sitcom, full of comedic interludes and love in the afternoon, the reality is probably much, much different.
You were exposed to your parent’s marriage 24 hour a day, 7 days a week – so likely you carry some expectations from watching their interactions. If you spent hours and hours at a friend’s house, the same can be of that marriage as well.
And, while you likely have a good handle on what YOU expect from a marital relationship, your partner can’t read your mind so it’s just as likely that he/she has no idea at all of what your expectations are.
How can your partner fulfill expectations that they have no idea exist?
Contrary to popular belief, your partner can’t read your mind!
And contrary to popular belief, your partner should not be expected to fulfill all your expectations – but they should be aware of them.
Your responsibility in a mature relationship is to be aware of your expectations in the relationship and share those with your partner. It is also your responsibility to fulfill your own expectations and bring a whole person to the relationship.
- Do you expect him to take out the garbage each week because your father did?
- Do you expect her to cook a meal every night because your mother did?
It’s important to remember that your relationship is separate and distinct from your parents. As partners you need to share your expectations and then commit to your own relationship that works for both of YOU.
If he works on Tuesday night and garbage day is Wednesday morning, it might fall to the woman to take out the garbage.
If she works the evening shift, then the man may have to learn to cook the evening meals.
How you negotiate the issues in your marriage is completely up to you as a couple. There are no right or wrong answers – except that the negotiations should be civil, kind, loving and without anger or abuse.
Common Marital Relationship Problems: Communication
Marriage is a life-time commitment, or at least it was designed to be. However, as evidenced by the 50% divorce rate in the US, not everyone sticks around till the end.
Unfortunately, the divorce rates for second and third marriages are even higher.
It appears that in seeking the perfect marriage people are overlooking perfectly great relationships.
One of the biggest problems that couples face is communication.
There is a lack of communication, miscommunication or poor communication skills; but one way or the other, there’s a problem with communicating.
As you can see, there are many different meanings to communication problems and several ways to address them. In each case, it’s important to be authentic and transparent with what you say and what you mean.
It’s a skill that requires some practice, especially if you are adept at hiding your feelings or lying about what you mean.
Many times the root cause of the communication problem is in the interpretation. In other words, you misunderstand what the other person is saying and spend too much time arguing a point your partner never intended.
With any conversation it’s important to take the time and energy to understand what your partner means to say. You want your partner to understand what you mean, so it’s time to start understanding what they mean.
You have to be willing to acknowledge that their point of view is different from yours.
Their background, perspectives and baggage is different from yours.
To see the world through their eyes means understanding them and connecting with them the way that you would take care of yourself.
Communication can be painful, especially when your partner doesn’t react or act the way that you would appreciate.
With conflict comes…
… hurt feelings
… and compromise
Most of the time compromise results in a lose/lose situation, where both of you give enough that you’re both unhappy with the results.
Instead, you can look for an alternative in which you are both happy with the result, which reduces your frustration with the situation.
Another aspect of communication is the issue of always being “right.”
No one person is always right.
At some point you’ll be right and at other times your partner will be.
It’s important that you both are willing to admit when you are wrong and let it go.
If one of you is always right, the other partner will eventually withdraw and you’ll lose the emotional connection that’s so important in a marriage.
If you have the same fights, arguments and conversations over and over again, it’s likely that you’ve fallen into a rut. It’s a bit like going through a dance that you’re both familiar with.
It’s painful but you know the steps and can’t seem to get away from the process. To resolve anything, one of you will have to step out of the vicious cycle and try something new.
Common Problems in Marriage: Love Tank
Love is one of the most important words in any language.
It describes our feelings for siblings, family, children, spouses and friends.
There is a large range of what type of love you can feel.
But above all, love is a choice.
We choose to love someone despite their flaws, hurts and pain.
How much love we give is how much love we have to give.
We each have a tank of emotions that must be filled to be able to use it.
You know the expression about being empty or ‘wiped out.’ People get ‘burned out’ when they don’t fill their tank with things they enjoy.
And the same is true for your love tank.
Your need to feel loved by your spouse and family is a primal need that fills you and gives you meaning in your life.
Any material thing you acquire will not replace the love you experience in relationship with other people.
And at the heart of all marital relationships is the desire to be loved by your spouse.
When each of you feels loved, the ability to compromise, communicate and engage in a strong relationship increases significantly. Without feeling loved and cared for, the relationship is often doomed to fail.
Filling the love tank of your spouse should be your primary goal in your marriage. When your tank is full, and their tank is full, communicating becomes easier, doing things for them becomes a pleasure and having things done for you becomes wonderful.
Deep inside most couples who are experiencing marital problems is a tank that’s empty or even less than empty.
We were made with a capacity to give and receive love.
And we are each unique in our needs and our abilities.
This means that what makes you feel loved may not fill your spouse’s love tank…
… You might enjoy and cherish words that boost you and compliment you.
… Your spouse may feel loved when you spend time with them.
… Your children may feel loved when you hug them.
There are at least five different languages of love as detailed by Gary Chapman in his book, “The Five Love Languages.”
Learning those languages, speaking them to the people you love and enjoying the response is what life is all about.
- It’s about giving and receiving love from people we love and care about.
- It’s about filling our own tank through the actions of our loved ones.
This is very possible when you learn to speak the language your spouse understands and they do the same for you.
Common Problems in Marriage: Love Languages
You can fill the hole in your spouse’s heart when you learn their language of love.
After decades of marriage counseling Gary Chapman identified five different love languages which fill your emotional love tank.
Having a full tank is important to the health of your relationships and the way to fill it is by receiving love in a way that you understand and believe. It is like learning to say, “I’m hungry” in Spanish, English and Chinese.
In each language you’re saying the same thing, but the language you say it in is so different than the one you normally speak that you may not understand what’s being said.
The same is true of love languages.
Our primary way of receiving love was either printed in your emotions when you were a child or you were born with a primary way of receiving love. In either case it is the way that we know and understand we are being loved by someone else.
Most of the time we do things for other people in the language that is our primary language. In other words, if we feel loved when we get gifts, we give gifts easily.
The problem is that our spouses don’t usually speak the same language. This is not always true. Sometimes you are married to someone whose primary love language is the same as yours.
But, most of the time that isn’t the case.
Although Dr. Chapman identified five different languages, he also acknowledges that each language has many different dialects. We’ll discuss the basics of the five different languages.
Let’s see if you can see yourself, your spouse or your children in these descriptions.
1. Words of Affirmation: This is more than a compliment or a kind word. Instead affirming words show appreciation for who your loved one is or what they’ve done.
If your loved one’s language is words of affirmation, praise and appreciation will fill their love tank. These are easy and simple to add to your relationship, unless you find expressing yourself difficult.
However, as a spouse or parent, it’s important that you make the effort to fill the tank of your loved ones so you don’t deplete their emotions and leave your relationship high and dry.
2. Acts of Service: For some people, actions will always speak louder than words. You can tell someone you love them as often as you want, but if ‘acts of service’ is their primary language of love, they won’t really understand or appreciate what you’re saying.
It might feel odd to say you love someone and then they don’t “understand.”
If ‘acts of service’ is your spouse’s love language, then it’s time to clear the dishes from the table, fix the bed or vacuum the floors. A ten minute activity once a day can fill your spouse’s tank.
3. Gifts: This is a stereotypical love language that’s been overused in sitcoms and abused by commercialization. But, gift giving is a sign of love in most any language and for centuries.
If this is your spouse’s primary language they’ll feel loved and appreciated when they get gifts on birthdays, anniversaries and just for no reason at all.
Expensive and elaborate gifts are not necessary – but thoughtful is good.
4. Quality Time: Time spent together is the fourth love language. When you give the spouse whose love language is quality time, your undivided attention, you show them just how much you really love them.
Listening to your wife and watching the game is not quality time…
… turn off the television
… put down the smart phone
… and look into your spouse’s eyes
You’re scoring points you can’t get any other way.
5. Physical Touch: Most women assume that the primary love language of men is physical touch and they assume that physical touch ultimately leads to sex. But this is another type of touch.
Babies who aren’t touched don’t thrive, eight hugs a day is enough to help stave off depression . . . there is something powerful about physical touch.
If your spouse enjoys touch then holding hands, touching their shoulder or holding on their arm will communicate love more clearly than saying “I love you.”
Common Problems in Relationships: Infidelity
This is probably the number one killer of marriages and trust. Without trust you don’t have an intimate relationship. And, once trust has been broken, it’s darned hard to get it back.
There are a number of different types of infidelity, although the common definition is an extra-marital affair.
However, infidelity is any time one partner is unfaithful. That unfaithful behavior can be in the form of using pornography to fulfill a need, an extra marital affair or investing their time and energy into another person or work/job that should be invested in the marriage.
This is a deadly behavior that is often the result of a breakdown in the marital relationship first. One difference is when a partner has an addiction. That addiction can be to work or to pornography – but it’s often present before the marriage.
Unfortunately, infidelity is often the cause of the breakup of a marriage but the breakdown in the relationship probably came before the unfaithfulness.
Most of the time, people who are content and fulfilled inside of a relationship don’t go looking for extra-marital affairs.
This is a significant reason to keep your partners love tank full, instead of depleting it consistently. To escape from problems at home, some people will turn to the excitement of starting another relationship.
However, all relationships have cycles and once the new one has become familiar, you’ll find the same problems happening again. That’s because you didn’t need a new relationship, you probably needed to address the problems in both the first relationship and in yourself.
If your connection with your partner is missing the intimacy you crave or is fraught with pain and disagreements, then it’s time to start by looking at what you’re bringing to the relationship.
You might feel your partner is taking you for granted or fighting with you more than he/she should – but are you taking them for granted also?
Look to your own behavior first, because that’s what you can change.
You can’t ask your partner to change before you’re ready to change yourself.
And often, when you make changes to your behavior it prompts your partner to make changes too.
By going outside your relationship – to another person, work or porn – you aren’t going to find the fulfillment you are seeking. Instead, you’ll find feelings of guilt, anger and even more problems than you started with in the first place.
By breaking trust in a relationship that already is suffering you are increasing the potential that you’ll lose the very thing you are desperately looking for.
By putting your energy into the relationship you already have you’ll end up with the relationship you want.
If your marriage has already experienced the pain of infidelity, it can heal.
But, it requires real responsibility from both parties to their part in the situation, real remorse and a true commitment to developing a strong relationship between just the two of you as you move forward to the future.
Marriage Life Problems: Separate Lives
Living together in one home doesn’t mean that you’re living the same life together.
Living separate lives is just one of the challenges that couples face in a society that is fast paced and going faster all the time.
Although digital communication should keep us in touch more frequently, instead it appears to be driving a wedge between couples as each attempts to keep up with their social network and jobs, leaving little time for spouses.
Living too independently can take away the connection and joy that you experience from a strong relationship.
Married couples are intended to function as a team, each having their own interests and jobs but coming together to manage parenting, the home and relatives.
Coordinating schedules and making important decisions together are just two simple ways of staying connected while job and friends continue to pull you outside the home.
Couples should also take the time to schedule time together for conversations and enjoying common interests. Sharing experiences are the things that make memories and keep us happy as people.
Researchers have found that money spent on things and gifts are not nearly as powerful in making people happy as going through experiences together.
It is the experience that generates a memory and bonds two people further.
Living separate lives means not spending quality time together.
When you eliminate that time from your marriage, you risk getting casual and taking for granted the relationship you have with your spouse. If you assume that because you’re married you don’t have to work on the relationship any further, you would be completely wrong.
Unfortunately, too many people believe that working on the relationship is not a priority and it results in too many ended marriages.
When you pull back from the marriage by putting your priorities outside the relationship, your partner will do the same. Most will interpret this as a lack of love or care and the first response will be to withdraw.
From that point on, the relationship is on a slippery slope, heading downhill fast.
It is time to cut out the distractions from your life outside the home and spend time with your spouse and children.
- Rent a movie
- play a board game
- play cards
- build a snowman
- get hot chocolate
- make dinner together
- or go for a walk together
- go to a ball game and share popcorn or pizza
- sneak away from work and lunch together
- sit down to do a puzzle.
- Before going to bed each night, shut off the television and spend 20 minutes just connecting over what happened in your day or what you have planned for the next day or work.
Taking the time to make this happen in your relationship will only make the relationship stronger and develop deeper bonds between you.
If you allow the relationship to stagnate or for you both to grow apart, it’s not long before one or both are considering finding the intimacy they desire outside of the marital vows.
Common Marriage Problems: Setting Boundaries
Although you might think of setting boundaries in order to keep people out, one of the more powerful things you can do in your marriage is to set boundaries that both of you are able to live with.
Setting boundaries between you is an act of love and not anger.
These boundaries are not meant to control the other person but it is to strive for self-control so that you might both love each other.
Knowing how to treat each other responsibly and knowing how to protect yourself gives you the ability to love others in a healthy way. Having boundaries gives you the way to live free and responsibly with people you love.
Here are several principles Dr. Townsend proposes in his book, “Boundaries in Marriage.”
1. Couples will set active boundaries in their relationships. This means speaking the truth to solve your problems without anger or animosity. It’s important to set the boundaries without making it worse for the both of you.
The goal is for your relationship to work better, not head down the road to divorce. And, divorce should not be the first boundary you both set.
2. You shouldn’t pay the price for your spouse’s behavior. We pay the price for our own behavior and misbehavior, but paying the price for someone else’s means treating them like a child.
When you allow someone to be responsible for their behavior you encourage them to mature, much like you would do for your son or daughter growing through their teen years.
3. As much as you don’t like someone trying to change you, your spouse doesn’t like it and will resist you trying to change them. Very rarely is the responsibility for damage to a relationship the result of one person’s actions.
It’s time to take responsibility for the things you have done to both yourself and your spouse and change your own behavior.
Sometimes making the changes yourself will be enough to encourage your spouse to make change.
But, you will never be able to make anyone do something they don’t truly want to do them self.
Setting boundaries is really all about protecting yourself and your relationship…
… You can’t control how your spouse acts, but you can control how you behave when he does.
… You determine what you will and will not accept in your life instead of just accepting what others throw at you.
… You can set boundaries with your spouse or children by saying that you will speak with them when they are kind and treat you with respect.
You should also set a few boundaries for yourself. Your actions should not be dictated by the actions of others. In other words, if your wife is unable to control her eating habits, this doesn’t give you permission to overeat as well.
If your husband starts yelling and throwing things when he’s angry, it doesn’t give you permission to do the same. The boundaries you set for yourself are the lines in the sand that define your character.
How do you and your spouse respond to your marriage problems? Please share your comments below.