Marriage and be exciting and fun, but often after the “honeymoon phase” has ended couples start noticing some problems within their marriage. Within any relationship or marriage when two different personality types come together as an entity, they have to learn to accept both their partner’s positive assets as well as their flaws and mannerisms. And here the saying “opposites’ attract” rings true with many personality traits not necessarily matching each other. It is therefore inevitable that at some point in the relationship, the couple will face some challenges or differences that require intervention. Many couples are unsure how to work through this effectively.
We are here to help you identify those “little foxes” that can turn into a full-fledged battle if left unresolved. Here are the four most common problems usually raised during my marriage counselling sessions.
1. Problem: Communication
Communication is usually the biggest culprit of common problems within a marriage and is often mentioned during marriage counselling. Communication forms the backbone of our daily lives and not surprisingly our marriages. From a noticeably young age each child will learn how to communicate by observing their parents or an individual which has an influence on their own personal development and growth.
Communication problems usually arise once the negatively taught communicative behavior has already instilled in a child and starts surfacing as he/she gets older. Consequently, this influences how these individuals would function within friendships as well as professional or romantic relationships as they mature into adults.
There are many examples of communication struggles within relationships. One of these might include lacking the ability to communicate your feelings to your partner. Many individuals struggle to express their true feelings and thoughts, they rather choose to avoid it in order to prevent the occurrence of fighting or arguing. Then there are those who do not have a problem expressing their concerns, but the way these feelings are communicated or expressed may not always be constructive. The communication may be done insensitivity, by way of tone of voice either through raising their voice or yelling at their partner. This can sometimes result in irreparable damage to the relationship or marriage if not resolved as soon as possible.
Another factor includes a lack of active listening. This can cause frustration and anger as both parties might feel like they are not being heard.
The first thing that should be done is to identify the trigger areas that cause misunderstandings. Once these key areas are identified, set aside some uninterrupted quality time to discuss these key areas. This involves using your body language to show that you are present and taking note of the conversation. Not only is it important to listen to your partner, but finding the right time to discuss more sensitive topics to avoid unnecessary fighting. The couple must also agree to always be honest about their feelings without fear of what their partner might think or how he/she will react.
Furthermore, never make assumptions during a discussion and always make sure to ask questions to avoid any miscommunication. Lastly, when a conversation gets heated, both parties must take the responsibility of making an end to the discussion and choose to rather talk about it once they have calmed down. This will prevent small arguments escalating to such a degree that it is almost unsolvable. It always helps if both partners can agree on regular alone time, especially in a busy household environment, where that time is dedicated to each other; whether it is celebrating achievements or resolving problems.
2. Problem: Household Chores
Dividing chores equally can be one of the main causes of unnecessary conflict within a marriage. Many married couples only realise the tremendous effect of taking responsibility for household chores after they move in together for the first time. If one partner is left taking responsibility for all the chores, frustration, anger and resentment towards the other partner will soon culminate. Many couples do not realise that they have unrealistic expectations when it comes to how much their partner will or should contribute in the household and often becomes a heated debate during marriage counselling sessions.
A good starting point to prevent conflict is allowing each partner to discuss his/her expectations around household chores. Once these expectations are disclosed openly, each partner will know what to expect from the other. This does not necessarily mean that these expectations are realistic, but the outcome is effective communication and clarity. The next step will then be to identify a few items that both partners ‘like’ on their chore list. For example: One partner might enjoy doing the laundry, while the other is more comfortable with washing dishes. The reason why this is important is to establish an effective chore chart that equally divides housework and at the same time allows it to be somewhat enjoyable for both.
This chart must also take into consideration both partners work schedule, it is of no use if a chart is established and there are items on the list that cannot be completed due to working hours. Being in a relationship will always require teamwork. Both partners must be willing to work together, the result of this is always very rewarding. Not only will it prevent unnecessary conflict, but it will allow both partners to take responsibility and enjoy each other even in the midst of doing household chores.
3. Problem: Finances
Everyone enjoys spending well-earned money. However, problems usually arises when couples do not always agree on how and when that money should be spent. If both partners have a full-time/ part-time job, they may contribute their income equally towards monthly expenses and necessities. Some enjoy spending their money on luxury items and have no concerns when it comes to making unnecessary debt. On the flip side of the coin there are those who prefer saving for the future. It is differences like these that need to be addressed and discussed for both marriage partners’ needs and concerns to be met when it comes to their finances. In other cases where partners prefer to keep their income separate, the non- disclosure of the state of their affairs may cause tension in their marriage.
It is important to determine your partner’s financial habits early in the relationship and if budget will be shared or kept separate. It is important to resolve who will be responsible for what and to get to know your partner’s spending habits. Recognising that your relationship with money may differ from your partners’ is key. Diverse and differing backgrounds will influence how we view financial gain and spend. A possible solution is to create a joint account with a pre-determined agreement in order to avoid unnecessary arguments. Once the budget has been created it is vital to have a monthly financial meeting which involves following up on the budget plan determining if it is being adhered to. A budget plan can help create clarity about both individual’s long-term goals.
Lastly, if couples find it difficult to find an equal midway on their own it is always beneficial to get a third party involved such as a marriage counsellor or a financial adviser.
4. Problem: Intimacy with Partner
Once intimacy no longer holds priority within a marriage relationship or a lack of sharing intimacy exists, feelings of rejection and frustration may start to surface within the marriage. Many individuals view intimacy as a time to connect with their partner and to build trust with each other and within the marriage. One of the biggest challenges for new parents is the misconception that the relationship between them will remain the same. Once children have joined the family circle, the husband often feels rejected as less quality time is spent with him consistent of both normal family activities and within the bedroom.
The first step usually consists of communicating sexual needs to one another. There should be a platform for honesty and openness when it comes to intimacy, creating a safe space to share thoughts and feelings. Being aware of what makes your partner feel comfortable and what he/she enjoys will only enhance the shared sexual experience and eliminate any “problem” areas. Once this has taken place, the couple can work towards a compromise that
will work for the needs of both. Intimacy involves being vulnerable and occasionally getting out of your comfort zone, but always respecting one another’s sexual boundaries. For example: If one partner choses to only be intimate once a week, the other might feel frustrated as their needs might not be met. Key factors to always consider is respect and love. Sexual intimacy will heighten once a couple tries to meet each other’s needs with compromise that both are comfortable with.
5. Problem: Infidelity
Infidelity is the biggest reason for divorce in South Africa and is probably one of the biggest problems many marriages face. Please have a look at our blogs dealing with this topic more in-depth.