When people first get married, they may have an optimistic expectation that nothing will ever go wrong in their relationship or that the existing problems in the relationship will disappear. “Until death do us part” is a common marriage vow. Many people go into this commitment fully believing their marriage will be lifelong, with both partners fulfilling this promise.
Jennifer V. Abrams examines the pressures that can affect marriage in the 21st century and offers helpful suggestions for partners that want to keep their relationship current and harmonious as the years go by.
The Complexity of Modern Marriage
Newlyweds often go into marriage with rose-colored glasses. They may not be aware of potential conflicts that they could have with their new spouse, or they may believe that they can change their spouse over time. Some people enter into marriage at a young age before their decision-making faculties are fully formed, usually at about 25.
In reality, marriage is highly complex. Managing the needs and wants of two different people is difficult and can change over time. Personal growth and development cause people to change over time, meaning that spouses need to re-acquaint with each other on a regular basis. This can be accomplished on a weekly “date night.”
Some stressors that may interfere with a couple’s marriage include work problems, health problems, division of labor within the home, and overall compatibility issues. Problems dealing with in-laws can also add tension to a marriage.
When children are added to a marriage, household dynamics become even more complicated. Child-rearing techniques, discipline, and the parental division of labor can cause conflict and strife. Parents generally do not have as much time to spend together as a couple after children arrive, and this can cause stress on a relationship because parents feel that they have “grown apart.”
A lack of respect between the partners is one of the most insidious problems that could eventually lead to divorce. When spouses do not respect one another, they treat each other with disdain and ignore their spouse’s contributions to the relationship. Such lack of respect leads to long-lasting resentment.
Married people should learn how to argue. The most successful marriages are not those in which conflict is swept under the rug and suppressed until it comes bursting out in the heat of the moment. Instead, spouses should learn to problem-solve with one another with respect and consideration. Conflicts are unavoidable in a marriage, and they can be handled well or poorly.
One of the most important things that spouses need to do in an argument is to maintain control of their emotions. The natural “fight or flight” state frequently kicks in when there is conflict, meaning that a person’s physical and emotional reactions to stress are distorted.
As much as possible, spouses must make sure that they react calmly and rationally to the disagreement. Lashing out at a partner will only worsen the problem and cause irrevocable damage to the relationship. Taking a problem-solving approach to disagreements can help in avoiding such damage.
Bringing up past issues or being overly critical can also cause fights to turn into relationship-ending events. Above all, both partners should learn to apologize rather than become defensive. In most arguments, both parties contribute to a bad outcome.
Take Care to Protect Children
Couples may need to clear the air, but children should never be drawn into a parental argument. Getting children on one side or another can lead to divided loyalties, confusion, and lack of stability as children wonder whether their parents will always be there for them.
Rather than hiding arguments from children, it can be positive to model respectful disagreement. Children learn a great deal about how to behave in a relationship from their parents, and they should not always be shielded from healthy conflict and positive resolutions.
Avoid Complaining to Others
Couples should promise to communicate with each other first, rather than drawing outside parties into their marriage issues. It may feel natural to complain about a spouse to a parent or friend but doing so won’t fix the problem. Couples who want to succeed in marriage need to communicate with each other clearly and directly with a goal toward positive resolution of the problem.
According to Jennifer V. Abrams, couples should be honest, even when it is uncomfortable. This not only means that spouses should not lie to one another, but it also means that spouses should not hide information from one another. Distrust between spouses can corrupt the foundation of the relationship.
Preserving Your Marriage for the Long Term
In today’s world, it is not enough to say, “until death do us part” and ignore the presence of problems that could break up a marriage. Marriage is an ever- evolving agreement between two people to spend their lives together. Choices are made every day that either strengthen the marriage bond or cause it to deteriorate. If differences cannot be resolved in any other way, there is no shame in ending a marriage.
Family Law Attorneys like Jennifer Abrams can help you decide how to proceed when you believe it is time for your marriage to end.