A Marriage Made In Heaven?
Ah, love. In its early stages it's wonderful. You've found a soul mate to laugh with, cry with, share with and spend the rest of your life with. But as the old saying goes "Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener!" Living day-to-day with someone can be extremely difficult, but in the midst of work, bills and children it can be hard to tell things aren't going well. Pay attention to these six warning signs that you and your spouse might need help getting your marriage back on track.
Have Things Cooled Off in the Bedroom?
Remember the early days when you could barely keep your hands off your partner? Now, you can barely keep your eyes open past ten p.m.! Sexual intimacy is an important part of a successful marriage. If one or both of you are always making excuses as to why "tonight isn't a good time", this is often a big red flag that the marriage is in trouble.
Most couples are hesitant to talk about sex, either out of embarrassment, fear of rejection or the head-in-the-sand philosophy of "if we don't talk about it, there isn't a problem". If your spouse complains of headaches or being tired all the time, find out the nature of the problem. Maybe your partner is just working harder than usual, or maybe they are angry or stressed about something in the relationship. Often loss of respect or affection for your partner reveals itself as loss of sexual desire. Make sure there aren't hidden resentments your partner is harboring. Allowed to fester, these can lead to infidelity and divorce.
The Almighty Dollar
Recent statistics suggest that somewhere between 60 and 85% of all divorces are precipitated by financial issues. Whether you are rolling in it or are as broke as a joke, most couples will have arguments about money. Often these are normal; it always seems there is never enough in the bank, and frequent disagreements about how to spend what little is left over are completely normal.
But if you find yourself hiding financial mistakes from your spouse, or discover that they have money secrets from you, this is a warning sign of potential problems. Ideally, all couples should make all financial decisions together. If one spouse is secretly spending as fast as it's coming in and the other spouse is blissfully unaware that foreclosure is on the horizon, the eventual outcome is pretty obvious. Sit down and talk about money. Most people are more embarrassed to discuss money than sex, but it's very important. If you didn't have the all-important "how to handle our finances" discussion during your engagement, have it today. It's cheaper than a divorce!
The Green Eyed Monster
Jealousy is the downfall of many couples. Listed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins of the Bible, it's one of the deadliest of a happy marriage as well. Jealousy is closely tied with ones' feeling of self-worth. It then becomes the partner without the jealous bone's job to make the other constantly feel secure and good about themself. This is not something that most people are willing (or should be required) to do for someone for the rest of their lives.
If you or your spouse suffers from unreasonable and unwarranted jealousy, talk about it. Find out where the root of your insecurity lies. Therapy is a great forum for self-esteem issues, and the work will only help your marriage as well.
Having in-laws is one of the great joys of extending your family. Another set of parents to help you and your spouse through difficult times is a great gift. Until it isn't anymore. Over involvement between married couples and the in-laws is a rocky road of trouble waiting to happen.
Perhaps it's you, perhaps it's your spouse. When you argue does one of you rush to the phone to spill the beans to your parents about how "evil" your spouse has become? This is a big no-no. Remember that asking their opinion or for them to "take sides" is dangerous territory. Long after you've forgotten the spat, your parents (or your spouses) will remember all and will usually continue to hold a grudge. Inviting them into your marital problems is akin to inviting them into your marital bed; you wouldn't do that, now would you? Remember, don't tell your in-laws (or your parents) anything negative about your partner. You will usually be sorry that you did, often while in the middle of a nasty separation.
The arrival of children in a marriage is a great blessing. It is also one of the biggest stressors on a marriage. Going from a couple to a family of three requires a period of adjustment that some couples have a difficult time weathering. But if you've developed a parenting game-plan before the kids arrive, you can still have harmony in the home.
Parallel parenting, as opposed to parenting in-tandem, is a leading cause of separation and divorce. Parents must present a united front to their children; when a couple argues about how to discipline, what rules are non-negotiable, even what music or movies you'll allow your children to experience, this can cause a chasm in your partnership that might not heal with time. The preferable time to discuss the ins and outs of each of your parenting styles is before you have kids, but if you are already parents and you find that you are spending more time fighting over parenting than you are enjoying it, you need to have a long talk.
Verbal or Physical Abuse
This warning sign is the big one. In fact, if you have reached a point in your marriage where you feel threatened physically or demeaned verbally, you must get out. This does not mean that the marriage is beyond saving; it does however mean that you and your spouse need to get some intensive therapy and assistance. There is never an excuse for displays of abusive behavior, whether physical, verbal, mental or emotional.
Help Is Out There
If you are experiencing any of these warning signs, and you still value your marriage, there is help available. Find a licensed marriage and family therapist in your area; look online or in the yellow pages, or ask trusted friends for a referral. Everyone deserves to have a fulfilling marriage. Remember, it is worth the work!