“My marriage is a mess. It’s not like it used to be when we were dating and first married. I don’t know what to do to make it better.”
These words have been echoed by many couples.
Some even say there is a ten year mark where things change in the relationship. I personally believe this is false. But let’s assume there is a ‘mythical point’ where marriage takes on a new dynamic.
Does this mean it has to be bad? Of course not.
Fact is, all relationships change over time. There is nothing magical or ‘evil’ about the 10 year mark.
Ten years does give us time to really get to know each other. But this doesn’t mean we ‘must love each other less.’
I can (and should) mean we love each other more BECAUSE we know each other better.
Marriage doesn’t have to get boring, old and tired. But for some it does.
In this article we’ll talk about the major areas (I’ve identified four) that suffer the most. We’ll cover why these areas make us vulnerable, then I’ll conclude with some practical tips on how to ‘keep love alive.’
In This Article
- #1 Romance Issues
- #2 Career Issues
- #3 Tolerance Issues
- #4 Financial Issues
- Wrapping It Up
How This Article is Structured
I mentioned earlier this article will deal with the Top 4 areas of marital conflict that couples face after 10 years.
I’ve put them into the categories because regardless of how they are stated, marriage issues roughly fall under these four topics.
- Romance Issues
- Career Issues
- Tolerance Issues
- Financial Issues
Each one will be covered briefly with an explanation of why these issues tend to crop up after ten years.
At the end of the article I’ll list a few tips on how to combat these issues.
Let’s dig in.
#1 Romance Issues
I mention this first because of an article I recently ran across. (Source)
Hayden Aulds asks the question: What’s the number one rule of intimacy…?
Most people respond to that question with things like:
- Be best friends
- Talk about everything
- Have shared values
- Listen to your partner
Makes sense, right?
Not according to Alex Allman (relationship expert and coach). Hayden quotes Alex who says the number one rule is…
Be lovers first.
His research leads him to believe the ‘thing’ that keeps couples happy in their relationship is that they are lovers first and foremost.
If you want to know more about his research and findings, plow through this page. Fair warning: It is unconventional and controversial.
Here’s a few symptoms that you are out of sync and ‘lost that loving feeling.’ (apologies to the Righteous Brothers)
The Roommate Syndrome
This is a classic sign that things are out of order.
You feel and act like roommates rather than husband and wife.
Marriage feels like an arrangement rather than a mission with purpose.
You are bored with your sex life. Bored with talking to each other. Bored with the things you used to do together.
Many people think boredom is something they can’t control. They are wrong.
Boredom is a symptom of a problem. It is NOT the problem. Only a symptom of the problem.
This is also why many couples never recover.
- They think it is hopeless
- They treat the symptom rather than the issue
Fading Sex Life
I’ll address this more in Part 2, but it’s vital to realize that your sex life is important.
If it isn’t important it wouldn’t be such a hot topic.
When the sex fades, it’s time to re-evaluate what’s going on in the relationship.
One other important aspect to this:
Many couples chalk their dwindling sex life up to aging, hormonal issues, or ‘natural biological’ reasons.
While this might (I stress ‘might’) play a role, do yourself a favor and challenge this perception. Too many people have forfeited their sex life when they didn’t have to.
Do your best to work through those issues and reclaim your sex life.
As mentioned, we will deal with this more in the next installment (Part 2).
#2 Career Issues
This is more prevalent today than ever. At this writing we’ve been quarantined for over a month.
Many people have seen their businesses close, company layoffs, and drastic decrease in income.
This can be very stressful. Not only because of the financial strain it puts on a family (see below), but also because of ‘forced career’ decisions.
I got a call from a close friend who has been in the food industry all his working career. He is successful and has climbed the corporate ladder to create a great career for himself.
Not long into the ‘shutdown’ over the Coronovirus, his company closed their doors (expecting to reopen once the mandated shutdown was over).
He recently received word that the company (not just the individual restaurant, but the entire company) was not reopening. Period. End of story.
This has forced him to consider his next move. He’s 55 and trying to figure it all out.
Can you say ‘stressful’?
You may be in the same situation. Times are tough. And demanding.
Making a career move at 55 not easy. Making one in this economic climate only adds to the stress.
Dissatisfied with where you are
Your job may not be in jeopardy. But you still feel the pinch.
Quarantine has allowed you to slow down enough to consider where you are. And you are not happy about it.
This is especially significant if you’ve invested years in a career that you find yourself unhappy in.
This can cause a disruption in your marriage.
Overly Busy Schedules
We are all busy. Too busy.
Sometimes our busy schedules keep us from connecting on a deep, intimate level.
I remember the days of driving my son to baseball practice, games and other other events.
He was also in a band that played in ‘Battle of the Band’ competitions.
My daughter was in dance, gymnastics and played in the school band.
All of this is added to my already crazy work schedule.
Scenarios like this can damage a marriage. We get so busy that overlook the thing that matters most – connecting.
On top of all the above, there is plain-ole daily stress.
It’s the stuff of life.
- Things break. You have to repair them.
- Things go wrong. You have to right them.
- You are misunderstood. You have to seek clarity.
This list is endless.
And each one of the things stretches us to the limit.
The final toll is often seen in our marriage.
We are exhausted because our lives are interupted with unforeseen things like the coronavirus. They are upended because of career crisis and the daily stress of life.
If we do not manage our emotions (and time) right, we will neglect focus on our marriage. Only to feel the sting of it later.If we do not manage our emotions (and time) right, we will neglect focus on our marriage. Only to feel the sting of it later. Click To Tweet
#3 Tolerance Issues
This is one of the biggest little issues in marriage.
Confused? Don’t be. Here’s what I mean.
Intolerance plays a big role in why marriages slowly erode. It’s a big issue.
It’s a little issue because it is petty.
I’m sure I’ll get some blow-back on this, but here me out.
How selfish is it to expect someone to change something that you suddenly (or slowly) find irritating.
Think about it:
They have done nothing wrong
You are the one who changed, not them
Your expectations are unrealistic
We are not talking about character flaws, but idiosyncrasies
It usually takes this form.How selfish is it to expect someone to change something that you suddenly (or slowly) find irritating. Click To Tweet
The Cute Is Now Annoying
When you were dating your partner did things you found adorable. They way they sneezed made you laugh.
Maybe the way they cocked their head when they were listening to you…
Perhaps it was how they snored when they fell asleep.
Now you find those things irritating. Intolerable.
Who’s fault is that? Not theirs. It’s how they’ve always been.
So if blame is to be placed, it falls on you for a lack of understanding and acceptance.
I don’t mean to be so bold, BUT if these issues are tearing your love apart, they must be addressed. The only way to fix them is to get to the heart of the issue. Which is intolerance on your part.
Disclaimer: I’m addressing issues of habits, personality traits and idiosyncrasies, not character issues.
Bad character needs to be addressed. Problems occur when you accept bad character during the dating or pre-marriage stage, it is almost impossible to stop once you are married.
Disclaimer #2: If you are in an abusive relationship, whether you tolerated it in the past or not, get out. Period.
Why It’s Deadly To Be Intolerant
I’m not talking about compromising your convictions about ‘real’ issues. I’m talking about failing to accept someone because you find their habits ‘unlovely’ and not so cute any more.
1. Acceptance is a foundational part of a strong relationship.
When you express displeasure in something your spouse does (something you once thought cute), you send the message they are no longer accepted.When you express displeasure in something your spouse does (something you once thought cute), you send the message they are no longer accepted. Click To Tweet
2. It breads insecurity.
When you fail to accept someone, you not only send the signal that they are ‘less than before,’ it also produces insecurity in your spouse.
It begs the question, ‘If they no longer find me acceptable about this, what else do they dislike?’
Can you see how this breads insecurity?
3. It destroys the true essence of love, which is trust.
We (usually) get married because we have found someone we want to spend our life with and we trust they will love us unconditionally, in spite of our faults.
The message of intolerance over small habits erodes that confidence.We (usually) get married because we have found someone we want to spend our life with and we trust they will love us unconditionally, in spite of our faults. The message of intolerance over small habits erodes that confidence. Click To Tweet
4. It’s one sided.
Failure to accept our spouse because of those little quirks in personality indicates you are judging your spouse without taking a clear perspective on your own faults.Failure to accept our spouse because of those little quirks in personality indicates you are judging your spouse without taking a clear perspective on your own faults. Click To Tweet
If we want unconditional love, we have to give unconditional love. This means accepting those little things that bug us.
I hope you can see the the big picture. I haven’t meant to be harsh. But it’s painful to see marriages crumble over such petty issues.
This is why I call it the biggest little issue in marriage.
Those little traits are not moral failures. They are personality traits that make your spouse who they are (traits you once accepted).
#4 Financial Issues
If the previous point was a big little issue, this one is the real big issue.
I discovered from years of pastoral counseling that the three biggest issues I dealt with were sex, communication and money.
Financial issues one of the big three.
This is especially significant during our current ‘Coronavirus Quarantine.’
According to recent stats, there have been over 701,000 jobs lost. (Source)
It’s no wonder financial pressure is causing major marital issues.
Even without the current financial situation, money issues often wreck households.
There are several reasons finances become a problem:
1. Living Above Your Means
Too many households over extend their lifestyle.
When they get a raise (or increase in income) they automatically change their lifestyle to reflect the increase.
James Clear calls this ‘lifestyle creep.’ Your lifestyle keeps creeping upwards even if you can’t afford it.
This often happens because of…
2. Keeping Up with the Jones
This is a phrase that is based off a 1913 comic strip by the same name.
Some believe it is connected to the late George Frederic Jones who was a wealthy real estate magnate in the 19th Century.
Whatever the source, it has come to mean striving to maintain the same lifestyle as your neighbors or social circle.
It becomes a never ending upward spiral eventually causing us to live far above our means.
3. Failure to live on plan.
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old maxim. It’s true.
Fitzhug Dodson once said:
Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.
Research shows that planning helps us stay on target AND know what to do when situations come up.
There is no better place to see this than finances in marriage.
Those who have a plan – know where their money comes from and where it goes – do better than those who don’t.
Living with a budget eliminates most of the money issues in marriage.Living with a budget eliminates most of the money issues in marriage. Click To Tweet
Here’s how to put a plan in place.
Wrapping It Up
The 10 Year Myth usually manifests in marriage because of a failure to do the things that keep love (and marriage) a priority.
I call this the 10 Year Myth, not because it doesn’t happen in some couples, but because the belief that IT WILL happen is false. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In this article we covered 4 areas where couples run into issues after the ten year mark.
Here’s a quick review:
- #1 Romance Issues
- #2 Career Issues
- #3 Tolerance Issues
- #4 Financial Issues
Resources Mentioned or Referred to in this Article
Sexual Communication by Alex Allman
Born to Win by Zig Ziglar
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.