Many people worry about the future. Financial security and physical health are top concerns along with fears of marriage problems and even divorce. There’s no denying that this is a frightening time for couples. More than half of all first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages fail. There is no way to avoid conflict in our marriages but there is a lot that we can do to prevent divorce. It is what we do when trouble comes that determines the outcome positively or negatively. I believe that most people want a positive outcome. So what makes marriage work? I wish I had that answer. I do know that it takes communication, honesty, awareness, determination, forgiveness, wisdom, faith, perseverance and…yes, more forgiveness. That is just the start!
George Bernard Shaw said: “Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can’t sleep with the window shut, and a woman who can’t sleep with the window open.” Doug Larson on marriage is quoted: “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.”
Conflict is growth trying to happen. It can lead you to a better relationship – if are aware of it and know how to work with it. Lets take a look at some red flags that may crop up that indicate trouble in the marriage that needs to be addressed. Awareness of these crisis points give opportunity to make positive change for the benefit of the marriage relationship.
Marriage Red Flags
- One spouse cares more about keeping the kids happy than keeping his/her spouse happy
- Conversations only revolve around the kids
- One spouse expects to get his or her way almost all the time
- One spouse makes public jokes at the other spouse’s expense.
- One spouse takes the other for granted
- One spouse is not interested in spiritual growth
- One spouse is not interested in meeting the other’s sexual needs
- One spouse is excessively jealous or is controlling
- One spouse tries to manipulate the other with guilt or threats
- One spouse is addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or pornography
(This is not a comprehensive list, please feel free to comment and add your thoughts at the end of the article)
EXERCISE: HOW DO WE COMPARE?
John Gottman suggests an exercise for married couples in his article in Psychology Today. “What makes marriage work? It’s how you resolve conflict that matters most,” published on March 1994. This exercise gives you a chance to see the strengths of your marriage by comparing yourselves to other couples in your lives.
1. Each of you jot down the names of four different couples you both know. Two should be examples of “bad” marriages; two of “good” marriages.
2. Now share the names with one another and tell why you feel the good marriages work and the bad marriages don’t. Perhaps you admire how one couple is raising their children, or you disapprove of the way another couple berates one another in front of company.
3. Talk about your own marriage in relation to these good and bad marriages. Compare the way you and your spouse manage to get through difficult times with the way each of these couples handle their challenges. Can you identify behaviors you want to avoid? Are there things you’d like to emulate?
4. Talk about your own ability as a couple to overcome hardship. Have you weathered episodes or incidents of which you’re particularly proud? If so, how did you do it?
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