Ever say to yourself, “I’m having problems in my marriage! What do I do?”
No one gets married believing that they will face serious marital issues that could potentially drive them apart. Most couples believe that they will live in love and that they will have a mutually satisfying and fulfilling marriage that will carry on into their twilight years. Maybe that was your perspective, but lately that has been challenged and your marriage has become a battlefield. You feel that your partner has become your enemy and you aren’t sure that this marriage can work. Often times couples can get the marriage help they need at a marriage retreat.
How to deal with marriage issues
Before going any further, stop and consider the main causes of marital issues and strife and determine if you are dealing with any of them:
- A Communication Gap. When a couple stops communicating, their marriage is on shaky ground. Everything in marriage depends upon communication. In reality, many couples have never learned this vital relationship skill and therefore have never had a solid relationship. This is a learned skill, so there is always hope to bridge the gap if a couple is willing to learn and grow.
- Infidelity. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. About 75 percent of marriages survive if the male is cheating, and about 65 percent survive if the female is having an affair. To repair the relationship after an affair can be done, but it takes time and effort and often requires marriage help from a professional.
- Lack of Affection and Care. As the speed of life accelerates with raising children and establishing a career, couples can find themselves not doing the little things that express love and affection to their partner. This can result in one or both partners feeling unloved and taken for granted, which in turn causes hurt and conflict.
- A Crisis. A crisis can either drive a couple apart or pull them together. The difference is in how the couple navigates the crisis. The choices that they make during this time can determine the fate of their relationship.
How to work on marriage problems
It is entirely possible that you and your mate are dealing with one or more of these causes. These are the more common causes of relationship dissatisfaction or turmoil. Others, such as addiction or extreme anger issues, are best addressed with the assistance of a helping professional. Below are some practical tips that you can implement on your own to deal with these more common issues constructively and improve your marriage. Think of it as your Marriage DIY!
Self help for marriage problems – 15 tips to use today
The operative word is “work”! It takes being intentional and a willingness to work on your relationship if you want to see improvement and build the marriage of your dreams. Each of the tips below have proven to be effective tools in working on a relationship.
- Don’t complain to family or friends about your relationship issues. This can be very tempting, especially when you need support or validation, but it will backfire. First of all, marriage issues are personal and your spouse may feel that you have violated the privacy and intimacy of your relationship by bringing others into it without their permission. Secondly, when you have worked through the issues of your marriage and your relationship has been restored, the people that you confided in will still remember your complaints and may continue to have a negative opinion of your spouse… or you!
- Do surround yourself with people in healthy relationships. These are people who value marriage and are positive in their outlook and attitudes about relationships. Both you and your spouse can be encouraged, supported and validated as you work through your issues.
- Make solving your marriage problems a priority. Too many couples in conflict adopt a “when-then” attitude. “When things slow down at work, then we will work on our marriage. When the kids are a little older, then we will be able to think about us.” Unfortunately, you can’t put a relationship on hold. It is either growing or it is dying. If you value your marriage, then make it a priority. How do you do this? Do the things that you did when you were dating before you got married or “settled down” with each other.
- Envision the marriage that you want. What does your ideal marriage look like? Describe it. Include how you will communicate with each other, what your intimacy will be like, how you will play together, what your shared spiritual life will look like, your financial goals and dreams, your dreams for your family, and anything else that you can think of. Having a clearer picture of what you want will motivate you to work through the issues to realize your dream marriage.
- Give up your right to be right. In other words, give up the need to be the “winner” and have things your way. Nobody wins an argument in a relationship. If you both don’t win, then you both lose!
- Don’t allow your wounds to fester. Forgiveness is not the same as condoning or excusing hurtful words or actions. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is acknowledging your pain and then choosing to let it go and move past it. It enables you to be free of anger, bitterness and resentment. It frees you to move forward instead of living in the past. So, forgive your mate and yourself for the benefit of your relationship.
- Begin again with a clean slate. Sometime it is too complicated and difficult to untangle the past the events that brought you to this point. Be willing not only to forgive, but to put the past in the past and refuse to bring it up again. Wipe the slate clean!
- Presence makes the heart grow fonder. The old axiom, “Absence make the heart grow fonder,” is not true! it is being present that helps two people reconnect. Separations, except when necessary because of abuse, tend to only drive a wedge deeper between spouses.
- Spend time with your partner. There is no quality time without a quantity of time. Even if it is just 20-30 minutes per day and you focus on and connect with each other, it will create the environment for growth and change. A walk around the block sharing highs and lows of your day, a drink and conversation before bedtime, shopping for groceries together, etc. can help you reconnect. A weekly date and a vacation at least once a year with just the two of you can rekindle the spark and make your differences seem much less threatening and ominous.
- Choose to love. Love isn’t just a feeling. It is a choice. If you choose to act in loving ways toward your mate, even when you don’t feel like it, the feelings of love, over time, will return. Whether or not they are loving toward you, choose to do the loving thing for them.
- Meet their needs. Learn all that you can about your mate. What is their Love Language? What makes them happy? What are their biggest concerns, fears or challenges? When you begin to meet the needs and desires of your mate, chances are they will begin to do the same for you!
- Talk to each other. Learn basic communication skills. Listen without interruption, judgement or rebuttal. Repeat back what you heard your mate say so that they will know that you have heard them. You don’t have to agree with your mate. The point is to let them know that you value them and their perspective. Speak in calm and gentle tones so that they don’t feel attacked.
- Touch each other. Be affectionate with your mate. Studies have shown that the bonding hormone, oxytocin, is released when you hold hands, snuggle, give each other a back rub or have sex. You will feel closer and more loving toward your mate if you are affectionate. The calming effect from physical touch also reduces the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body. It all results in a more peaceful atmosphere.
- Pray for your mate. Prayer and meditation can calm you and help you to see your mate, the situation and even yourself in a new light. Praying for your mate prevents you from developing bitterness and building walls between them and you. It can also center you so that you do not do or say something that you will regret.
- Remember your wedding vows. The chances are that, when you got married, you vowed to faithfully love each other, no matter what the circumstances, “as long as you both shall live.” Couples who remain true to their vows, even as they row through the rapids of a raging river of conflict, will find that the river will become calm again and they will be able to celebrate the fact that they successfully navigated it together!
Of course, there may be times when outside help is required to help couples resolve their issues or get unstuck in their relationship. Marriage coaching, marriage seminars and other forms of marriage help are a good resource. Don’t wait until it’s too late or until Facebook has it’s toll to renew or restore your relationship. Everybody needs a little help sometimes. You are worth it. Your marriage is worth it!