Marriage problems are common and frequently lead to serious relationship issues. In this guide, we share proven tactics on how to avoid problems in marriage. These tips can save your marriage from serious relationship problems.
I recently ran across an article in Readers Digest on why you should put a dryer sheet in your mailbox.
It seems to be a well-known fact in the postal world. They even recommend it to the people on their route.
Apparently, it discourages wasps from building nests in a mailbox.
If you’ve ever been stung by a wasp you can understand why a postal worker would consider this a good safety precaution. Wasps love to find dark, closed-in spaces to nest. A mailbox can be a perfect place.
By putting a dryer sheet in your mailbox, wasps typically don’t like the smell so it discourages them from building a home there.
While I found this a helpful insight (I know of a few other places I will put dryer sheets to ward off wasps and other insects), there is a lesson we can learn about relationships.
What? you ask!
It’s really so obvious you might overlook it…
There are simple things we can do – common, everyday things that do not cost a lot of money – to keep marital issues from building a ‘nest of problems’ in our marriage.
Some are as simple as putting a dryer sheet in your mailbox to keep wasps away.
All Relationships Have Challenges
Before we take a look at these simple solutions that prevent problems, it is important to realize all relationships have challenges. The goal is to not wait until things get out of hand before you take measures to resolve conflict and deal with challenges.
Marriage is no different. It has challenges. Some are small, some are big. But at the end of the day, they all come down to one thing: how we handle those challenges.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Well, it applies here.
We need to start taking steps now to avoid problems later.
And what better way than to prepare for the inevitable challenges that arise in any relationship?
Keep this in mind: You will never create a relationship without problems. The goal is to resolve problems before they become major issues.
This takes skill, proper perception, and a healthy perspective of who you are as a person and what you want your marriage to be.
So let’s take a closer look at the top 5 ways to avoid problems in marriage.
This is important because if we fail to address these issues early on, we may find ourselves in a situation where we’re dealing with a problem that could potentially destroy our marriage.
The Top 3 Marriage Issues Couples Face
When I was a pastor I did a lot of premarital (and marital) counseling. From my experience, the top three issues couples need to confront is sex, communication, and money.
I realize there are more issues (and often deeper issues), but they generally manifest in one of these three areas. I intentionally use the word ‘generally.’ I’m confident you understand this is not always the case, but it is frequent enough that it deserves our attention.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at these three issues.
1) Money Matters
Money matters are always going to be a challenge in any relationship.
No matter how much you love each other or how committed you are to each other when it comes to finances, you’ll inevitably disagree.
When you first marry, you probably think you won’t cause too many arguments over money.
You’d be wrong.
In my experience, most couples argue about money within the first year of marriage.
Because money is an issue that affects every aspect of life, including sex.
For example, if you’re having trouble paying bills, you might feel less inclined to make time for intimacy.
Or maybe you’re struggling financially, which makes you feel more stressed.
That stress then leads to lower libido.
It’s just human nature.
But you can change that.
2) Communication Is Key
Communication is key to avoiding problems in marriage.
If you don’t communicate well, you run the risk of creating misunderstandings between you and your spouse.
Misunderstandings lead to problems.
They also lead to resentment and anger.
Resentment and anger lead to fights.
Fights lead to broken trust.
Broken trust leads to distance.
Distance leads to isolation.
Isolation leads to loneliness.
Loneliness leads to depression.
Depression leads to despair.
On and on the spiral goes. It’s important to notice that the beginning of the process is failed communication. Actually, trust is the major issue because we can’t communicate without trust, but communication is the open door to deal with issues surrounding trust.
3) Physical Intimacy
Physical intimacy is another area where problems can arise.
There are several reasons why physical intimacy becomes problematic.
Lack of physical intimacy and sex is a problem in marriage because it causes tension between spouses. If you want to keep your marriage healthy, it is important to resolve conflicts and solve problems. This requires talking things through and resolving differences.
Physical intimacy becomes problematic in marriage is the fact that, as humans, we all have different needs.
We need to talk about what those needs are so we can meet them together.
And finally, physical intimacy is a great place for us to express our emotions.
Emotions are powerful. They can be good or bad. We need to learn how to handle them appropriately.
While these three issues are not the only problems couples face, they do represent the most verbalized by couples.
Now that we have identified the three big issues, let’s look at a few simple solutions for these problems. These solutions will be the dryer sheets we can apply to our relationship to keep problems from growing.
Five Simple Solutions To Help You Prevent Problems In Your Marriage
Here are 5 ways to help prevent problems in your marriage:
1) Be Honest With Your Partner About What You Want From Him/Her And Yourself
You cannot expect someone else to change unless you first change yourself.
Your partner doesn’t know what you want unless you tell him/her.
How do you do that?
- By being honest with them.
- Tell them what you want from them.
- What does your partner mean to you?
- What do you want from your partner?
- What do you need from your partner?
- Be specific.
This means being honest with yourself and others about what you want from him/her and yourself.
When you are honest with yourself and your partner about what you want, you give yourself permission to make changes that will benefit both of you.
2) Don’t Expect Too Much Of Your Partner
Before we delve into this idea, let me give a disclaimer: It is normal and healthy to have some expectations. There is a difference in healthy and unhealthy expectations.
Healthy expectations are things like:
- I expect you to be faithful.
- I expect to be treated with respect
- I expect you to keep your word.
These are proper and good expectations.
Unhealthy expectations are a different story. They often come from a place of insecurity and lead to isolation and rejection.
Expecting too much of your partner is a recipe for disappointment.
He or she isn’t going to live up to your expectations.
Don’t hold your partner to unrealistic standards.
I recently heard a song with the lyrics – you are my universe. While it sounds romantic (and I’m all for romantic words), it presents an inflated view of romance and love. If your spouse is your universe, you are more than likely codependent. If they are not, you could possibly lead them down a false path where they are disillusioned and disappointed.
I say this ‘tongue in cheek.’ Again, I’m not opposed to ‘amplified’ words in a poem or song. My point is we cannot put our spouse in the role of God. We cannot expect them to offer us things that only God can give us (our sense of identity and purpose), or things we must provide for ourselves (healthy self-esteem, etc). I hope that makes sense.
Proper expectations keep your relationship in balance.
When you set realistic expectations, you don’t feel like you’re constantly disappointing your partner. You also avoid feeling resentful toward your partner.
3) Make a Habit Of Talking Daily
In a healthy marriage, there is always room for improvement. Both partners should strive to improve their communication skills.
If you are trying solve your marital problems, do not stop talking to your spouse. Discussing the issue openly will help you come up with a solution together. If you just ignore it, it will only grow worse in the long run.
One of my mentors told me, ‘As long as you are talking, you are moving. If you are moving, you can steer the ship to go in the right direction.’
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
Talking about your feelings is important because it helps you understand what is happening inside your heart. When you talk about your emotions, you are able to express yourself better and learn how to deal with difficult situations. This allows you to become closer to your partner and build trust.
Talking also gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification on something you didn’t quite understand.
In a healthy marriage, there is always room for improvement. Both partners should strive to improve their communication skills. This is not to say that they should be each other’s therapists, but they should find a way to communicate with each other.
If the relationship is not going well and the two partners are not willing to work on the marriage, then the relationship will suffer.In a healthy relationship, the two partners work together.In an unhealthy relationship, the two partners work against each other. It is a subtle difference, but a crucial one.
When you are working against someone, you have already given up hope that you will be able to work together. When you are working together, you still have a chance.I think that the biggest problem that I see with a lot of people is that they don’t realize that they are in an unhealthy relationship. They think that because they are still in a relationship, they are fine. This is not the case.
A relationship is like a shark, if it is not moving forward, it dies. Even if you are staying in the same place, you are not fine. If you are in a marriage and your partner is not trying to improve the relationship, then it is definitely time to get help. Even in a troubled marriage, the two partners have a responsibility to each other. They should help each other to be the best people that they can be.
If one of the partners is not willing to do this, then they should be prepared to get help to save the marriage.
Always keep the lines of communication open.
4) Eliminate Stress To Keep Your Marriage Strong
In a recent study, researchers looked at daily stressors in couples and found that when one partner had a stressful day, the other was more likely to be impatient, handle conflict poorly, and have less emotional energy to spend on nurturing the relationship. When both partners had a stressful day, this was only exacerbated.
Stress affects our bodies and minds. It causes us to feel tense, anxious, irritable, depressed, or angry. We may even experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, backaches, muscle aches, insomnia, and fatigue.
Many psychologists and counselors believe stress is the number one cause of divorce in America today.
Ironically, it is not the stressful event that negatively impacts a relationship, but our perception and response to the event.
Rosie Shrout in a discussion on her doctoral dissertation says this:
Experiencing stress doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is going to suffer. Rather, your perception of stress – such as seeing it as a challenge that you can overcome – is important.
While it is impossible to eliminate stress from your life, it is possible to manage it.
For starters, you might want to read our article on how to deal with arguments in a healthy way.
5) Get Physical
Getting physical is not just about sexual contact; it’s about taking care of your body. It should be no secret that your emotional well-being is connected to your physical condition. If you feel bad physically, it is usually reflected in your attitude and emotions.
One of the best preventative measures couples can make to ensure their relationship stays on track is to take care of their physical condition.
Here are a few ways to put this into play in your marriage
- Get plenty of rest
- Move your body; don’t stay sedentary. Exercise
- Eat healthy foods. Lay off sweets and processed food that drains you of energy.
- Practice physical touch
Mary Jo Fay says: “Sex brings us closer together, releases hormones that help our bodies both physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a healthy couple healthy.”
For further study, read our series on physical intimacy.
6) Take A Time Out
I’m not suggesting taking a time out AWAY from each other, but a time out FOR each other.
Taking a ‘time out’ (in this case) is about setting aside time to spend concentrated time together.
You can schedule it for an hour every week, or even every day.
This will allow you to reconnect with each other and rekindle some of the passion you once shared.
It is easy to let things get in the way of your relationship. The two biggest are:
- Busy work schedule
- Raising children
Keeping these in balance will help you build a better marriage.
I realize not everyone is in ultimate control of their work schedule. The point is to control it as much as possible. There may be times to work overtime in order to accomplish goals, but keep it in check.
If work outweighs your relationship, the potential for problems increase.
I know we all want to do the right thing by our children, but if we put them first, we may end up sacrificing our marriage. We need to make sure our marriages are strong enough to withstand the demands of raising children.
Remember, balance is the key to a happy marriage.
7) Evaluate Your Relationship Regularly
A study done by ‘Psychological Research’ revealed that couples who did a 7 minute written evaluation of their relationship every 4 months showed no decline in their relationship satisfaction.
Here is how the study worked:
120 couples we asked to participate. Half of them were not given any requirements. The other half was asked to do the following:
- The study lasted two years
- Every four months couples were asked to fill out a simple online marriage satisfaction report
- They were asked to write a fact-based summary of the most significant disagreement they had. This assignment was to be written from the perspective of a third party who wanted the best for both parties. And it only took 7 minutes to do all assignements.
As mentioned above, the results were surprising. That simple exercise (called ‘an intervention) eliminated marriage dissatisfaction in those who participated in the exercise.
According to Eli Finkel (author of the study), this exercise not only decreased dissatisfaction; it increased marital satisfaction in several areas.
Not only did this effect emerge for marital satisfaction, it also emerged for other relationship processes — like passion and sexual desire — that are especially vulnerable to the ravages of time. – Eli Finkel
The point is regular evaluation of your relationship helps you avoid escalating issues and gives you a balanced perspective of your relationship.
Final Thoughts on How To Avoid Marriage Problems
Every relationship has challenges. But those challenges can be minimized by putting a few basic practices into your marriage.
Much like a dryer sheet in the mailbox wards off wasps, the things we covered in this article will help you minimize trouble and keep your marriage protected.