Every marriage has its problems. When two lives are merged into one, and shared finances and parenting become complicated, arguments tend to increase and this becomes problematic. The truth is, though, that most of these arguments happen about very certain and predictable issues.
If more couples would take the time to address many of these issues prior to marriage, or at least communicate about them and address them on an ongoing basis in an honest and respectful way, I truly believe there would be less discourse and even less divorce amongst us.
Couples should be equipped with the knowledge about what the most important issues to discuss are, and need to know how to effectively communicate and compromise to resolve differences surrounding them. If couples address these issues head on, before they become huge problems in the marriage, everyone wins.
It’s not always easy, but it can be done, and actually makes a marriage stronger as partners learn how to share thoughts and feelings, respect and resolve their differences, and work together as a united force.
Here are some of the most common issues couple fight about, and some tips for how to approach and settle them.
Partners come together as two individuals from two separate backgrounds with different values, ideals and habits. Some come with debt, while others have never owed anyone anything. Some live beyond their means; some are frugal. Some spend lavishly while others save every penny. This can get very tricky when two people with very different pasts and very different beliefs and habits come together and build a life together. It must be talked about and addressed.
The best way to handle this is to start discussing finances long before you are even married. If that didn’t happen, then at least it’s a topic that you should constantly be talking about. Talk about the debts each partner or the couple may have. Develop a plan to attack these debts. Create a budget that you both can live with. Just like any company or even the government, nobody gets everything they want when creating a budget. Work together to do your best, but be realistic and respectful of each other.
If one likes to spend like crazy, and the other likes to save, figure out a way that you both can get some of what you want. Perhaps a certain amount of a free-spending budget to satisfy the spender, and a savings plan to satisfy the saver. It’s a win-win.
Like any issue, money can be discussed and handled with understanding. There is room for differences, but they must be addressed.
The worst possible thing you can do in a marriage, is just assume and expect your partner to treat money the same way you do.
This can have catastrophic results for your marriage. Don’t let it happen. Talk, talk, talk a lot. Get help from a financial advisor if necessary. Don’t be complacent.
First and foremost, couples must discuss whether or not they want children. Assuming they agree to have children, many potential problems can arise around the issue of parenting. Again, remember that each partner comes from a different family, has different values, different life experiences, and was raised by parents that might differ greatly from each other’s.
We bring to our relationships all of our past experiences and beliefs.
Issues tend to arise around education, religious upbringing, and discipline, to say the least. Partners often undermine each other because they have such differing views of parenting, and have not resolved them.
It is imperative that you talk about these things before you have children, and continue the conversation throughout the years. What type of school do want your children to go to? How strict of lax do you want to be? Who will do the bulk of the parenting? How will you resolve differences without undermining one another?
You must learn how to parent with respect, despite your differences of opinion. It is imperative that you form a united front so that you are not always fighting and undermining one another in front of the children.
When you do disagree, it is incredibly important to maintain respect and discuss and resolve your differences behind closed doors, away from the children.
Children thrive when they see that their parents are on the same page. You will need to choose your battles. Recognize that you cannot have your way on every issue or every decision. Only fight for the ones that matter most to you.
DIVISION OF LABOR
The issues of how divide household and child-rearing responsibilities can creep up out of nowhere. Most couples don’t think to address this at all, and rather just go about things assuming it will all be as they’d like.
As the years go on and you build a family, each partner typically falls into certain roles, taking on certain tasks, and before you know it, this becomes the norm or status quo in your family.
You need to discuss if both partners will work outside the home. What about after you have children? Will that stay the same? Are your values traditional or more progressive when it comes to who does what? Does the wife shop, cook, clean and take care of the children while the husband works outside the home, or do you share all of the responsibilities and both work outside of the home?
There are numerous other possibilities, but the key here is to talk about it and figure out what works for your family.
Maybe one partner goes back to work after staying home with the children for years. Then what? Is he or she still expected to continue doing the bulk of the house work and dealing with children? Or do you renegotiate who does what in order to balance things out a bit?
The worst thing you can do is ignore or be too afraid to bring the issue up, so you take on more than you can handle, while allowing resentment to build and build. This isn’t healthy for you, nor is it good for the marriage.
When you are newlyweds, it seems so impossible that sex will ever become an issue in your marriage. But fast forward a few years, throw in a couple of children, a mortgage, and lots of stress…and you will likely find yourself in the same place that many, if not most, couples find themselves in regarding sex.
You are simply exhausted all of time, and finding time and having desire become distant memories.
This is worthy of discussing, both ahead of time and on an ongoing basis. Sex and intimacy are crucial in successful marriages; it is literally what defines the difference between friendship and romantic relationships.
Make each other priorities in your marriage, and be creative about how to do this.
Don’t be afraid to express what you like and don’t like in the bedroom. Talk about how often you feel is desirable or reasonable to have sex. Figure out how to make time to do this.
Will you hire babysitters so you can have date nights regularly and come home to sleeping children? Maybe send the kids to Grandma’s house or a friend’s house once in a while? Early morning sex before the kids are up? Or any number of other possibilities?
It doesn’t really matter how you figure this out, as long as you actually make it a priority and a commitment. Many couples actually find it helpful to schedule their time together ahead of time.
As unromantic as that may sound, a lot of people learn to find it quite sexy and arousing to have something like that to look forward to. Making comments and innuendoes about an impending scheduled rendezvous can be very healthy for your sex life.
Families can be wonderful and huge sources of joy. They can also be annoying and problematic and cause a lot of arguments in any marriage. There are so many different sets of issues that can arise here. You need to discuss these ahead of time, and figure out how to navigate things moving forward.
Some of the areas where families can be problematic lie in the roles we each believe they ought to play in our lives. What will the boundaries be? Do you consult your family regarding every important decision you and your spouse must make, or do you simply make these decisions alone. What happens when your parents and your spouse have different positions on important issues?
Remember, we all come from different families, with different beliefs and values. Sometimes, our families might be from different parts of the nation, or even from other countries. This makes them very different from one another. Be aware of this, and work hard to avoid the potential problems that may arise from this.
Will family be allowed to visit whenever they want? What if family members live nearby? Do they have an open invitation? Can relatives that live farther away come and stay for as long as they want?
These are conversations you must have with one another, and you must discuss and figure out how to resolve them in a respectful and empathic way. Nothing is closer to one’s heart than their own family, so this is not always easy.
Take a breath, stay calm, and try really hard to talk about these difficult issues whenever you can. If done properly, it really can bring you closer together and unite you as a couple.
If it becomes too difficult to navigate on your own, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. It is a far better alternative than harboring resentment against one another. Resentment turns to anger, and anger destroys marriages.
Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT