Welcome to the the wonderful world of marriage. Hopefully, you have survived the excitement and expectations of your wedding with your love for each other and sense of adventure still intact. You’re going to need both as you settle into marital bliss. what you do to build your relationship from here on out is going to determine how soon you can claim your happily ever after.
As you are probably discovering, marriage is a unique relationship. It has probably met your expectations in some ways and been a complete surprise in others. Your flexibility in the way you think about marriage can be of great help as you make the transition from living two separate lives into one conjoined one.
One helpful way to think about marriage is likening it to the two of you being in a boat on a river. If you want to get somewhere, both of you need to be rowing together in the same direction. If the boat springs a leak, the goal of both partners becomes keeping that boat afloat. How it’s kept afloat isn’t as important as whether or not you, as a couple, are successful.
There are some common challenges marriages face that can poke holes in the bottom of any couple’s boat of bliss. These most common problems that occur in marriage deal with difficulties in the following areas: finances, intimacy, communication, raising children, and managing extended family. They each involve delicate negotiation around fundamental and deep-seated beliefs and values you both bring to the table. The impact of how each person was raised, and how these issues played out in the couples’ families of origin, set the stage for future disagreements.
These problems are common sources of difficulty because it is here that your beliefs and values get challenged by your partner. How well you both manage the transition from thinking as an individual to thinking as part of a couple will determine the success of your marriage. Negotiating through each of these areas requires each of you to test your own level of comfort and make room for your partner. All marriages have these common matters to manage, having children being the exception, and facing them head on, with intention, is the key.
Let’s take a look at each of them, one at a time:
Some say money is the root of all evil. It certainly can present serious difficulties in a marriage. Who earns what, who handles bill paying and managing accounts, what kind of accounts (joint, separate, or both), how money is spent and who sets the priorities are all potential sources for conflict. It is important to understand what you learned about money growing up and what it’s deeper meaning is for each of you. Both of you have responsibility participate in establishing and supporting your financial goals. Opting out because you don’t understand, your partner is better at managing money, or it just makes you uncomfortable are not options if wedded bliss is your goal.
One of the basic reasons you and your partner got together, but also one of the most personal aspects of your lives. Intimacy involves more than just your physical relationship; it’s also how connected you are emotionally. When, how, frequency, who initiates, the role of affection, and how loved and cared for each partner feels set the stage for disagreements in this important area. The overall health of your relationship frequently plays out in the bedroom. Problems in other areas of the marriage frequently are reflected in the level of intimacy, both physical and emotional. Understanding the biological differences between men and women is important if you are to develop real and lasting intimacy.
You and your partner are always communicating, even if you’re not talking. How productive that communication is becomes critical to being able to resolve differences guaranteed to arise in your marriage. How you disagree, when and whether consensus is reached, and the ability to manage your own emotions when conflict occurs, all influence how honest partners are and how effectively they communicate. Disagreements are inevitable, but fighting is always a choice. Differences in fighting style and conflict management, as well as the ability to deal with uncertainty, drive the timing of conversations and their overall productivity. Misunderstandings about intent, purpose, and level of conversations are additional sources of difficulty. Assuming what your partner is thinking or feeling adds another dimension to the ability for the two of you to clearly communicate.
4. Friends and Family:
It is true that one marries not just the person, but their family as well. Not making a clean break from your family and aligning with your spouse is a huge source of conflict for some couples. How often you talk or visit, where you celebrate holidays and other special events, and amount of in-law influence all create tensions couples have to intentionally navigate. The influence of friends can also create challenges for marriages. Balancing time with your friends and how supportive they are of your relationship can make a huge difference. Studies show divorce is contagious so hanging out with successfully married couples can provide a certain amount of protection for your relationship.
One of the reasons people get married is to provide a stable environment for the children they want. How many, when, lack of agreement on rules, consequences, appropriate activities, and time spent with the children are common sources of tension. Marriages take a precipitous dip in satisfaction when children appear on the scene. Even when highly desired and planned for, if you aren’t ready for the added stress on your time and attention, your relationship can take a big hit when a baby is born.
Having a plan for how to manage these potential problems before they arise will give your marriage a good head start. Keeping the focus on your relationship, and what works for it, can guide you and your partner through difficulties as they crop up. It’s impossible to foresee any and all difficulties in these areas, but having a plan and working together as a team certainly will load the dice in your favor.
None of these issues alone should be deal breakers for a happy marriage but they certainly can cause unnecessary stress in your relationship. Look at each issue separately, take the time to identify current challenges, and brainstorm on potential future ones. Then discuss alternative approaches until a solution is reached that both of you can willingly embrace. Neither of you should agree to a solution that doesn’t feel right.
These collective solutions are not written in stone but will provide a blueprint to guide you as you navigate the future. Having a productive way to deal with both predictable, as well as unexpected, relationship bumps will keep you and your partner on the road to your happily ever after.