end-of-marriageAn infatuation can disappear overnight, but a marriage doesn’t fall apart that quickly. The disintegration of your relationship happens over time. Along the way, there are many opportunities to make your union more satisfying and healthy.

But, many people spend years and years doing nothing to fix their relationship. They are miserable and their marriage doesn’t add any satisfaction to their life. They just can not conceptualize what is happening in their life. Their thoughts are disorganized and confused. They just avoid thinking about their problems and hope for the best. But problems that don’t get worked on are never solved.

What tends to happen is that things get worse and worse. Both partners get upset over more and more things. Communication spirals downwards and sometimes ceases. Other times, the couple lives in the state of heated arguments and power struggles. One small statement can trigger an entire argument.

If you’ve gotten to this place in your marriage, you need some relationship medicine. And a spoonful of sugar can’t help sweeten a sour marriage.

A Healthy Marriage – Day by Day

healthy-marriageYou can never afford to stop paying attention to your relationship. If you do, it will stop functioning. Marriage is work, and you have to work at it every day. Just as a car needs regular maintenance, your relationship needs to be tuned up in order to keep running.

Some people spend more time keeping their car in good shape – gas, oil changes, and regular maintenance – than they do working with their spouse. The thing is, a car isn’t a relationship – your marriage is.

A car is a machine. But people have thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, and actions of their own. These complicate any interactions.

And remember – no matter how much money you spent on your car – your relationships are much more expensive!

happy-couple-relationshipWhen the two of you first got together, you spent time and emotional energy to become close. You shared your thoughts, feelings and experience with one another. You had secrets that you didn’t share with anyone else.

Over time, people become guilty of not nurturing their relationships because they have so many other pressing responsibilities. There’s a job, housework, and children to tend to. Oh yeah, and a car to take care of!

But you owe it to yourself and your spouse to give your relationship special care. While you need to take care of all of the adult responsibilities of life, you also need to be nourished as a person and live a balanced life. That’s where your relationship comes in; the things that keep you and your mate closely bonded keep you sane. If you fail to do this, you will spend a lot more time, emotion,energy, and money breaking up and starting over.

Get Into a Healthy Relationship Routine

good-relationship-routineI make no claims in this series of articles that I can prescribe a pill that will “fix it and forget it.” Indeed, a marriage must be tended to on a daily basis. So, you need to get into a healthy relationship routine rather than any quick fix. The bond between you and your partner must be strong. You’ll see problems when it deteriorates. Everything will seem like a big deal even if the issue at hand is minor.

That’s why you need to do frequent “checkups” to see how your relationship is working. It’s a good idea to take an inventory of your marriage at the end of every day as you are drifting off to sleep. As you review the events of the day, examine how your interactions with your partner went. If you are unsatisfied, figure out how you could have handled it differently and figure out what you can do to correct it tomorrow. When you do this daily, you will notice problems sooner than if you don’t and noticing a problem early is the first line of defense in correctly.

Problems that Can and Can’t be Fixed

Not every problem can be fixed, even with a “spoonful of sugar.” Recognizing which are which can help you determine the course of action you should take.

The five issues that couples tend to fight about are money, sex, kids, family and friends, and spare time. These are everyday topics that can be fixed when you develop good communication skills. If you are motivated to make the marriage work, you’ll find ways to compromise.

relationship-problems-resolvedUnfortunately, there are some problems that have no easy fixes. No matter how much you try, you won’t find a solution unless someone or something changes dramatically.

If your partner refuses to compromise on most issues, you have to decide whether you are willing to live on his or her terms. Doing so, generally, is not healthy. If you are the one always giving in, your partner is controlling you. You may have a naturally accepting nature, but your spouse is taking advantage of it and taking you for granted.

Next, you need to be aiming for the same things. If your partner doesn’t share the goal of the relationship, you are in for problems. For instance, if you want children and your spouse doesn’t, that can be a deal breaker. One of you is not going to get something deeply desired. There is no way to compromise or meet “half way” on this issue and no amount of talking is going to change the other person’s mind. If you have determined this is the case, you should end the relationship and move on.

Besides kids, there are other life goals that can split up a marriage. For instance, if you can’t compromise on when to buy a house, how to go back to school for a degree, or how to spend money you may need the help of a professional counselor. If counseling doesn’t work, a split may be in the works.

If your partner is mentally ill or has a personality disorder and refuses to get help or take medications, you have a justifiable reason to leave them. Some people stop taking their meds because they think they don’t need them or because they dislike the side effects. This means that they revert to their psychotic behaviors. Or, they cause grief to others but don’t get help because their disorder doesn’t make them uncomfortable. Keep in mind that when someone has a personality disorder, therapy can take years.

When your spouse has character problems and refuses to seek help, the marriage may be doomed. There are some core issues essential to a relationship including trust, honesty, loyalty, empathy and monogamy. These characteristics are deeply engrained and learned as a young child. That means that they are difficult to change. While therapy can help some people with character problems, you need to be prepared to move on if that doesn’t work.

If your spouse is too immature to handle the marriage, it can be hard to make the relationship work. Young and immature couples can sometimes grow into the marriage, but if your husband or wife is over 30 and still immature, the situation may not be fixable.

Finally, if your partner is sexually or physically abusive toward children or adults, don’t even think about working things out – just get out of there. If you care about the other people in your life, you will move on and be safe.

Having Said All That…

The last section was something of a downer. This article is supposed to be about how to fix a marriage. But, letting you know what’s not fixable will allow me to focus on how you can fix things that can be fixed.

Sexual Dysfunction

sexual-dysfunction-relationshipThere are some problems that lend themselves to therapy. For instance, sexual problems are annoying and frustrating, but they can be relatively easy to fix with the help of a psychologist. For instance, premature ejaculation, difficulty with orgasm, ejaculatory dysfunction, difficulty maintaining erections and painful sex are all fairly mechanical and treatment is usually short term and successful.

Not all sexual problems are sexual in nature. Many times they are a result of other problems in the relations. Do you think you can have great sex if you’re always arguing with each other? When the problems are based on deficits in the relationship rather than in the mechanics, couples counseling becomes the solution rather than sex therapy.

Communication Issues

Therapy can also be useful for communications problems. You can learn how to use healthy communication skills to amicably resolve disagreements. You should solve your current problems and learn the process for solving future problems before terminating therapy.

couple-having-disputeSome problems are one sided but can be dealt with in therapy. For instance, a person who has a neurosis is in touch with reality but is uncomfortable. Anxiety and depression are two examples. You or your spouse should commit to a therapy regime to help deal with the issues. Not only will this make your marriage better, it will also make the suffering person feel better.

Some problems require more than short term therapy. Overcoming them takes a lot more work. But, through long term therapy and hard work, you can solve these problems if you want to.

Cheating

For instance, cheating is a serious problem. It involves betrayal and weakens the couple’s sexual and emotional bonds. Many marriages don’t survive an episode of cheating.

cheating-in-relationshipA marriage depends on the assumption that one’s partner is an honest, loyal and trustworthy person. Cheating demonstrates the opposite. Once the unfaithfulness has happened, it throws the relationship off. The faithful partner may never feel like they know if they can ever trust the other one again. The other person put his or her own needs first and destroyed the trust in the relationship.

If there has been infidelity, you must consult with a psychologist together for couple’s therapy. The cheating spouse must take responsibility for his or her transgression and the pain it caused. The cheated on spouse will need to be able to express their feelings including hurt, anger, resentment, embarrassment, humiliation, betrayal, and low self esteem.

Both parties contributed to the problem, and this needs to be addressed. Often, the person who cheats is dissatisfied with something in the marriage and doesn’t have any way to communicate it. Studies have shown that men who cheat are frequently dissatisfied with the quality or frequency of sex with their wives. Women who cheat frequently crave romance and feel underappreciate by their husbands. There are also communication problems within the marriage and a spouse may be acting out in a passive aggressive way.

Jealousy

Another common problem that can be overcome, but with difficulty, is jealousy. A jealous person is chronically suspicious that their spouse is cheating or taking attention away from him or her and giving it to someone else instead. A jealous person watches every move their partner makes for a sign that he or she is cheating. While it may be rational if the spouse is really cheating, when the other is not violating any promise then the jealousy is irrational.

jealousy-couple-marriageOften the jealous partner thinks their intense feelings are a sign of love. But jealousy is not love. It is a long-term chronic problem that is fueled by low self esteem. It leads to a possessive and controlling relationship.

Jealousy damages the trust in a marriage. The jealous person is accusing his or her mate of lying and cheating. Instead of being emotionally supportive of their partner, the jealous person is being critical and accusatory.

A jealous person should see a psychological for individual sessions to deal with the irrational feelings they are having. They can delve into the lessons they learned growing up or deal with events in the history of the partnership that may have lead to being jealous.

A partner of a jealous person is going to have to figure out whether they want to stick with the relationship. Some of the considerations revolve around how serious the jealousy is, how much they love their partner and whether the positives outweigh the negatives. You can ask your mate to have individual therapy or suggest you go to joint therapy in order to work things out.