Despite constant reminders and decades of failed marriages to use as examples, the divorce rate in America still hovers above 50%. While 2:1 odds may be great in Vegas, they aren’t so fantastic when you are betting on your life. Getting married is a major commitment that doesn’t end when you say “I do”, it involves constant work, routine reconnecting, and deep self-examination.
While there are certainly times when getting a divorce is the best option for all parties involved, working throughout your marriage to avoid common problems and fix them before they lead to something bigger make a lot more sense.
Remember, if you love someone enough to get married, you should love them enough to work on that marriage every single day for the rest of your life. Luckily, that isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, most common marital problems are easy to correct with a little self-awareness and more than a little communication.
Problem #1: Splitting the Household Duties
Once upon a time, the roles of partners in marriage were well-established. Women stayed at home and ran the house while men went out and worked to provide a living for their wives and children. However, that is not the case anymore. Not only are marriages more about equal partnership, they are not always male/female.
How to Avoid it:
In relationships where both partners work, equally distributing household chores is essential for balance and reducing stress. However, many couples fall into traditional roles, leaving wives feeling underappreciated and ignored. It is easy to avoid this trap by setting realistic expectations about household chores from the start. It’s okay to label some jobs “mine” and others “yours” so long as both parties feel that the work is split evenly. Also, make sure to check in with one another routinely about the running of the home. If you have an issue with how often he cleans the toilet, for example, say something rather than just doing yourself.
Problem #2: Distance
From the demands of a rising career to the needs of young children, there are a lot of responsibilities on the plate of every couple. However, especially in the early years of marriage, it is important not to allow those demands to take you away from each other, physically or emotionally, too often. Otherwise, you run the risk of waking up 20 years from now and sharing your bed with a stranger.
How to Avoid it:
Though it may seem impossible, you can take time to connect in the midst of a busy life. When getting dinner alone is out of the question, opt instead for a shared picnic in the stands of your child’s sports game. Sit next to each other, talk about something other than the kids, even if just for 5 minutes. Try to take time each night to have a real conversation as well. Turn off the tv, put away the smart devices and look into one another’s eyes. Talk about current events, a strange dream you had, or a crazy driver on the way to work. As little as a 20 minute conversation each night is enough to remind you of your friendship, which is the real foundation of your marriage.
We all have them. From leaving the toilet seat up to snapping gum in the car, over time, little annoyances can become unbearable. Plus, when we allow the annoying habits of our spouses to fester, we create more problems where they wouldn’t be otherwise. The resulting stress, annoyance, and general ill feelings that pop up every time we nag, criticize, or argue adds up to big problems over time.
How to Avoid it:
Not surprisingly, communication is again the key to dealing with small issues that build into real problems. Most people are unaware that they are even doing something that annoys or irritates others unless it is pointed out. Once that happens, if someone cares, he or she will make a conscious effort to fix that problem. But only if they know it exists.
Building a Strong Marriage
Building a strong marriage is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. Like a tree that starts as a sapling, puts down roots, and goes deeper, thicker, and stronger over time, you cannot become a great oak without nourishment. In a marriage, that means communication, altruism, commitment, and friendship. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. Love each other and avoid problems before they start. [Related: Determining When It’s Time to Seek Outside Help]
For more tips on how to save your marriage and/or improve it, read Mend the Marriage by Brad Browning. It’s a comprehensive guide to walk you through the daily nuances and how to cope as well as the challenges presented and how to resolve them.