Marriage can offer wonderful benefits for well-being, life satisfaction, and stress management, but no relationship is without its challenges. The common problems of marriage can put a strain on a couple, but there’s a choice in how to handle these issues. The following are some of the most common sources of marital stress and marriage problems, as well as insights on how to address them.
Disagreements about money are one of the most common marriage problems couples face. Almost a third of adults with partners in the United States reported money as a source of conflict in their relationships.
The following may become money problems in a marriage:
- Disagreements over financial decisions (i.e., investments, household spending, etc.)
- Having different beliefs about money (how much to spend vs. save)
- Not talking about finances before getting married
- One person in the marriage makes more money
- One person in the marriage spends more money
Generally speaking, when couples engage in conflicts about money, their dispute is really symbolic of something different—such as power struggles, or different values and needs.
When one partner is extremely stressed about money, they may be less patient or more irritable; they may then pick fights with the other partner about unrelated things without even realizing it.
Finding a Solution
Try having an honest conversation with your partner. What are each of your expectations when it comes to spending and saving every month? Remember, it’s about reaching a compromise (within your financial means) so that both of you feel comfortable, but not restricted.
Try dividing the labor. Maybe one partner focuses on household spending and the other on saving money one month, and the next month, you switch.
You can even make it more fun by having a monthly “money date” where you pay bills and set up budgets. Remember to budget regular date nights with each other, too—that can help make the financial conversations lighter and less stressful.
Having children can be a wonderful experience that brings with it feelings of well-being and purpose.
However, it can also be challenging and may put extra strain on a marriage.
Some marriage problems that can arise after having children include:
- Couples have less time (and less energy) to spend with each other
- Each parent has less alone time to de-stress or engage in self-care
- Financial strain as a result of supporting a child
- If one parent feels they’re doing more of “the work,” they may become resentful of their spouse
- Lack of support from family and friends
Finding a Solution
Though it may take time to adjust, especially for first-time parents, try to develop a support network. This may include family and friends, or if you’re financially able, a babysitter who can watch your child for an evening.
Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, try to take a break from your roles as “parents” to remember your roles as “spouses.” This will give you time to reconnect with each other.
While many parents make their child’s happiness a priority, it’s important to keep in mind that happiness between parents and in the home plays a significant role in the development of a child’s personality, intelligence, creativity, and emotional health.5
In other words, happier parents often equals happier kids.
Delegating household tasks is important as well. You and your spouse can come up with a schedule where you both take on a fair amount of childcare duties, so they don’t all fall on one parent.
Daily stressors don’t need to become marriage problems, but sometimes, they do.
We all deal with annoyances like getting stuck in traffic, being late to work, or getting nervous about a big deadline coming up. But in a marriage, these stressors can create a “spillover” effect, especially if one person comes home after a hard day and projects onto their partner, perhaps getting angry or being impatient.
When one partner has had a stressful day, they may have less emotional energy to devote to nurturing their relationship. When both partners have had a difficult day, this, of course, is only exacerbated.
As with financial stress, general daily stress can test patience and optimism, leaving couples with less energy to give to one another.
Does your partner come home and vent about their problems—but that makes you feel stressed, too? Or do they shut down completely and emotionally withdraw?
Finding a Solution
This is all about knowing and respecting boundaries. Maybe you both set a rule that venting can only last 10 minutes so that it doesn’t increase the stress levels at home. Or, maybe you learn to respect each other’s alone time when either of you needs a chance to cool off.
It’s important that both of you have your own ways of de-stressing so you can bring your best selves to the relationship.
Marriage problems can result from overly busy schedules for a few reasons:
- Couples who are busy are often stressed, especially if they’re not taking care of themselves with quality sleep and good nutrition.
- Busy couples may feel less connected because they have less time to spend together and more separateness in their lives.
- Couples may not work together as a team and might find themselves fighting over who’s taking care of which household and social responsibilities.
While busy schedules don’t automatically lead to marriage problems, they do present a challenge that needs to be worked through.
Finding a Solution
Research shows that quality time often improves the well-being of a relationship. Regular activities—like watching a favorite TV show together or going out to dinner—can make you feel more bonded to one another.
It’s also helpful to try new things together. Embarking in novel experiences has many positive effects. The excitement causes us to rate the experience more favorably. You can also displace the familiar and worn-out roles you occupy with your partner.
I also recommend exercising together, if possible. The rise in endorphin levels after exercise creates neural pathways that link these behaviors with positive emotions and each other.
Perhaps the biggest predictor of marriage problems is poor communication or negative communication that belies damaging attitudes and dynamics within the relationship.
Finding a Solution
So, how do you improve communication in your marriage? Try out the following:
- Make small talk: Simply asking, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” can be a friendly reminder that you both care about and support each other.
- Show signs of affection: Try exploring each other’s love languages. Maybe you show your partner affection by giving them hugs regularly or buying them a small gift on occasion to show you’re thinking about them.
- Use the speaker-listener technique: This method has one person speak at a time, and the other listen. The listener must engage in active listening, repeating back what they’ve heard.10
- Use “I” statements: You might say, “I feel sad when we don’t spend time together,” instead of, “You never spend time with me.”11 This technique may help remove the blame and defensiveness from a conversation and, instead, shift the focus to feelings.
Some marriage problems could be solved if each partner pays more attention to their unproductive habits and works toward changing them.
People don’t always make a conscious decision to argue over petty things, nag and be critical, or leave messes for the other to clean, for example. They get busy, stress builds, and they go on autopilot. Then, they find themselves following the same patterns they hadn’t realized they were choosing in the first place.
Some habits you or your partner might’ve developed that actually take a toll on the relationship could be:
Changing Yourself to Please Your Partner
Of course, if your partner encourages you to quit smoking or take advantage of new opportunities, change can be good. But if you feel like you have to be an entirely different person for your partner, chances are you need to reevaluate the relationship.
Making personal changes should always be a net positive. This means changes in one aspect of the self or relationship should ultimately create more positive collectively in the relationship and for each person.
You should never change yourself in ways that are hurting you or exclusively for the happiness of your partner because this isn’t sustainable. Either the change can’t be maintained or you will become so resentful that it will manifest in additional problems.
Disrespecting Your Partner
Married couples often get in the habit of nagging, criticizing, or even name-calling or yelling at each other. If this is the case, it’s time to set boundaries regarding how you communicate with each other.
Neglecting Your Own Life
Being in a marriage sometimes means we get complacent—but you should still be able to have your own sense of self—hobbies, friends, and routines—that will bring joy to your own life and allow you to be an even better partner.
We need a little healthy insecurity in our relationships to revitalize them. That comes from investing in situations and experiences outside of your relationship. Cultivate your own passions, and bring that energy back into your relationship.
Projecting Your Emotions
Your partner shouldn’t be your punching bag. Though we might get used to yelling at them when we’re angry about something else entirely, behavior like this is often a sign we need to work on our own emotional regulation and develop healthy outlets instead.
Seeking Constant Reassurance
Though it’s OK to want reassurance from your partner from time to time, constantly needing them to tell you they love you or that you are great at your job could be a sign that you should address the deeper insecurities within yourself.
Snooping on Your Partner
Trust is one of the most important parts of marriage. Your marriage may have underlying problems if you find that you’re checking your partner’s texts or emails. If you are suspicious that they’re cheating, for instance, it’s best to address this directly with your partner or in therapy.
Fortunately, many marriage problems can be worked on—even if only one partner is consciously trying to change, any change can bring a shift in the dynamic of the relationship, which can bring positive results.
However, some relationship problems are more complex. For instance, it may help to address issues like substance use, loss of trust, violence, or simply growing apart in couples therapy or marriage counseling.
A therapist can help you and your partner navigate these problems; therapy can also help you decide whether or not to end a problematic relationship. Either way, the help of a mental health professional can give you the emotional support you need.