Ask anyone who’s been married more than a few years and they will tell you it is difficult. Love is easy in the early years – you almost effortlessly tend to your partner’s every need, and they to yours. You feel fulfilled in nearly every way. Your married friends joke that ‘things will change’ but you feel your relationship is different, special in a way that will withstand the test of time. This is how most people feel when first married.
People Change, So Must Your Relationship
It seems very cliche to say marriage is hard work, but it is. People change over time, and the marriage will begin to break down if you don’t adapt. When you or your partner start doing something new, or stop doing something from before – the dynamic of the relationship changes. Many couples simply are not equipped with the communication skills to cope with the situation. When needs stop being met, it often results in sadness, anger and arguments, and feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
One of the goals of a marriage therapist is to create a safe space where both partners feel they can have an open discussion. Getting to the root cause of a problem can be difficult at home where partners can almost immediately feel flooded when approaching a difficult subject, retreating into an emotional state or defending their position. A safe space, with the assistance of a professional therapist, can break through into the core issues causing friction in the marriage.
Common causes of marital problems are:
Traditionally the most common cause of problems in a marriage. The lack of money causes stress in nearly all aspects of a person’s life – putting a strain on any marriage. But sometimes it’s more than just lack of money, it can be one partner managing money in a way the other does not agree with, resentment from one partner earning more money, retirement saving… any number of potential issues.
Children change a person’s focus in life. Where once your husband or wife focused their entire attention on you, it is now shared with another small human. And a once fulfilling sex life will almost always be upended by a baby – from lack of sleep, to help and visitors always in the house, to the emotional and hormonal changes both the male and female will experience. Getting back on track can be difficult, even if both partners are on the same page.
Among the most difficult factors to ‘fix.’ You do not only marry your partner, you marry their family. The classic difficult mother-in-law, or brother-in-law always asking for money, or visiting cousins overstaying their welcome… This can wear down a marriage as quickly as any other stressor. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to change how your in-laws behave, but with a little help you can take steps to change how you and your spouse feel when it happens.
Marriage therapy should be one of the first steps you and your spouse consider when you begin to feel you are drifting apart. Marriage therapy works best when issues are addressed early – don’t wait until resentment and other emotions have driven deep wedges between you.