I see lots of marital problems in my office on a daily basis. Sometimes people come in for couples counseling. At other times, people come in for treatment of depression, anxiety or some other condition and their marriage becomes a frequent topic of discussion.
Most of the marital problems that come into my office are similar. Whether couples have been married for a few months or over 50 years, their concerns and problems are often the same. The good news is, most of the problems couples present with can be changed if a couple chooses to address them.
1. Division of Labor- Although it might seem like who does the dishes is a small matter, disagreements over the division of labor can cause some serious marital problems. When one person feels the other isn’t doing their fair share, it can lead to feelings of anger and resentment. It’s important to talk openly about who is going to do what in terms of cooking, cleaning, maintaining the house and vehicles and caring for the children. Feeling as though the labor is divided into a mutually agreed upon manner can go a long way to help ensure each person feels their contribution is valued.
2. Not Listening- Communication is the key to a good marriage. And listening is the biggest part of communication. When one person doesn’t feel heard by the other it can be nearly impossible to accomplish much within the marriage. Simply knowing your spouse cares enough to listen can be helpful, even if the problem isn’t resolved.
3. Lack of Empathy- If your spouse responds by saying something such as, “It’s not a big deal,” or “Don’t turn a mountain into a molehill,” when you are genuinely upset, you know what it is like to feel as though your spouse lacks empathy. Trying to understand how your spouse feels is very important. When a person’s feelings are disregarded it can certainly create a major rift in the marriage.
4. Difficulty Communicating Directly- Direct communication requires that both partners be willing to honestly discuss what they are feeling and what they need from the other person. However, fear, pride, or hopelessness often get in the way of direct communication. When people don’t communicate directly, they sometimes suffer in silence or other times they take a less direct route to communicate. For example, telling your spouse’s mother about your marital problems in hopes that she will talk to your spouse about it is an indirect way to communicate.
5. Sexual Problems- When a couple isn’t on the same page with sexual intimacy it can mean big problems. Sexual problems can be a symptom of a bigger problem or can be a problem within itself. Most sexual problems are treatable if a couple is willing to seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
6. Anger Problems- A bad temper can quickly create a lot of hurt in a relationship. When one or both partners aren’t able to successfully deal with their anger it can create a lot of damage. It’s important to learn how to deal with anger successfully so that it doesn’t build up or become a weapon that hurts the other person.
7. Disagreements About Boundaries- Disagreements about boundaries refers to the invisible fence you build around your marriage and what sorts of things you allow to come inside the fence. For example, do you set limits with how often people can borrow money, visit your home, or expect favors from you? When people have poor boundaries, they sometimes give too much to others and don’t do enough to protect their marriage.
8. Parenting Problems- Parenting disagreements sometimes results from different parenting philosophies. For example, when one partner prefers to allow kids to make mistakes and face natural consequences but the other partner prefers a more proactive approach to preventing a child from making mistakes, it can lead to conflict. If it isn’t dealt with appropriately, it can create problems for children as well.
9. Difficulty Problem-Solving Together- Creative problem-solving is a wonderful skill. When couples lack the ability to effectively solve problems together, it can make small problems become very big problems fast. The good news is, problem-solving is a skill and couples can certainly learn how to work together as a team to tackle life’s big and little problems together.
10. Financial Disagreements- No matter how much money a couple makes, it seems like financial disagreements are often a big problem. Whether a couple is in debt, doesn’t have a budget or can’t agree on what to spend their money on, financial problems can lead to a lot of conflict.