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Many people have asked me this question, “is marriage supposed to be this hard?” I have spent some time thinking about it and I have come to this conclusion. Marriage requires work, work requires time and effort. A wise man once said, “work is work, if it was something else they would call it something else”. Perhaps this principle holds true in marriage. Marriage is work, if it doesn't take our time and energy what are we doing in it.
My second thought is that we must know the good from the bad in order to grow. In marriage we learn about what is good and bad. We have good times and we have bad times. It is during the trials that we learn about our true colors. We learn who we are and who our spouse is. I have found that if individuals will take the time and effort to improve themselves in developing healthy relationship skills they will find much more joy and satisfaction than they do in simply giving up and quitting. However, as in all relationships it always takes two to make a marriage work.
There are some bad reasons for marrying. Below is a short list of those reasons. Marriages that start this way have more difficulties. These couples can survive, but they may have more challenges.
1) premarital pregnancy
2) rebellion against parents
3) seeking independence
4) rebounding from another relationship
5) family or social pressure
6) economic security
What can I do if I have done all I know how to in order to save my marriage, but my spouse isn't responding?
I think the best thing to do is to seek professional counseling if your spouse is willing to. If he is not, then I would have an open discussion of how you don't know what else to do to make the marriage work. I would identify the most important things that you need in the marriage and ask your partner if he can respond or not. I would also try to let him know how much you want the marriage to work, but that you cannot carry the load by yourself. Marriage takes two people. One person carrying the whole load will eventually run out of gas.
Many couples have problems with their in-laws or maybe I should say out-laws. Extended family has created many problems in marriages throughout time. My recommendation is to create boundaries between you as a couple and your families. This isn't easy as some extended families really push to keep in control of their children's life. Nevertheless, couples should plan a strategy for maintaining their relationship and keeping it strong if extended families are hurting the marriage. This doesn't have to be a ending of contact, but it may need to be an open discussion with extended family about what type of influence they can be in your lives.
Recently I have been contemplating a problem that many of my clients are having. The problem is connecting to their spouse and in some instances with anyone at all. These individuals feel like their spouse doesn't care about them. As a result they become angry and agitated at their spouse. This often furthers the distance between the couple because this increases the conflict. Connection with a spouse requires two people who are willing to affirm the worth of each other. This takes a sincere effort of identifying individual needs and then discussing them with your spouse. It also requires that you understand your spouses needs. A deep connection takes time, understanding, affirmation of worth, a willingness to sacrifice, commitment and more. It can be obtained!
Question: I JUST RECENTLY GOT MARRIED AND I WANT TO KNOW IF THERES ANYWAY THAT I CAN KEEP MY HUSBAND INTERESTED IN ME SEXUALLY ALL THE TIME. YOU KNOW SO HE DOESNT GET THE `WANDERING EYE`. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP.
Answer: There are many things that you can do to help strengthen your marriage. For example, researchers have found that people who are friends are more likely to stay together. To this finding I ask what are the characteristics of couples who are friends. I believe the characteristics of people who are friends include: 1) communication with empathy, 2)resolving problems without criticism of each other, 3) sharing similar religious values, 4)being patient, 5) creating good and fun rituals together, 6) spending time together, and finally 7) enjoying each other sexually (talking about preferences and constantly working to make sex enjoyable for each other). These are a few ideas. You will notice that sex is only one of the things that can keep your spouse's eyes from wandering. If you two can do these things throughout your marriage I believe you will have a better chance of making your marriage last. However, remember it takes two people, you cannot do it by yourself. I wish you the best!
Having a child is a big committment and should be taken seriously. There are a few good guidelines that I recommend to people.
1st) Do both spouses want to have a child now?
2nd) Are you ready for the responsibility of being a parent?
3rd) Do you feel comfortable with your spouse? In having a child you are inviting a child into your home. Every child deserves a loving home.
4th) Are you ready to give up some of your personal time?
5th) Do you have any unresolved fears?
6th) Are you financially capable of taking care of a child?
7th) Can you give the child the love that it deserves?
8th) Do you feel good about having a child?
If couples can answer these questions with a yes, having a child is a good idea.
Many couples tell me that they cannot communicate anymore. Often they indicate that they try to talk but they seem to end up arguing instead of solving their problems. Have you ever wondered why this occurs? I believe that this occurs because we either become defensive or we avoid talking about the problem because we know the outcome anyway. When couples ask me how to solve this problem I begin by asking them if they want to break this pattern. Most people say of course. Then I make the following suggestions. First, when you are discussing a problem take time to evaluate what you want to communicate before you respond. It is important to tell your spouse your real feelings, rather than what you think they want to hear or using a statement that is hurtful to them. Second, in your communication try communicating to your spouse that you care for them regardless of what the problem is that you are trying to solve. It is important for your spouse to know that you care for them. I have found that this is one of the valuable ways to solve problems. In summary, many couples cannot communicate because they aren't honest in what they want to say and second they don't let their spouse know that they really care for them.
Often depression requires so much time and effort that those treating depression do not look at how it impacts a marriage or an entire family. If you or your spouse suffers from depression I recommend that you discuss with your spouse how the depression is impacting your relationship. If this is too difficult to do together seek help from a marital therapist. Depression can impact your marriage.
I am often asked whether is it possible for couples who have "fallen-out of love" to rekindle their love again. My response is that it REALLY DEPENDS. If someone has fallen out of love with their spouse, that individual should search within to find out why. Often I find in situations like this there is someone else involved, or that they no longer find their spouse to be attractive. Such responses appear to me as "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" statements. Nevertheless, such feelings must be dealt with or the marriage will not make it. Therefore, I recommend that individuals who feel like they no longer love their spouse look within and identify the issues of why they have fallen out of love. This requires complete honesty and truthfulness. If you cannot find it to give your spouse the love they deserve ask yourself what makes you think you could love someone else more?
Recently I received a question from a woman whose husband is having an affair, but he still wants to kiss and have sex with his wife. Also, she felt a lot of pain that he didn't say he loved her anymore. Here is my response to her.
Moving on for people who are having affairs seems to take little effort. In most instances the reality is that they have just shifted one set of problems for a new set (the new set of problems just hasn't arrived in the mail yet.) Your husband may appear happy and content and he may actually be happy, but overtime he will come to realize that his actions have been inappropriate. He will probably never tell you that he is wrong and consequently you will assume that he is okay with his actions. I firmly believe that we cannot hurt other people and feel good about ourselves. If you assume that he is happy, just realize that you don't have to live in his mind (thank goodness). Furthermore, if he doesn't feel bad about his actions of cheating on you--he is has given up his ability to feel the pain of those he hurts. Once this has occurred such individuals have no problem hurting others. The result is that they throw social responsibility of giving respect to all people away. Such individuals struggle to connect with others in deep and meaningful ways. Your husband may think that kissing and sex brings him closer to other women, when in reality he will end up feeling alone and empty.
While this doesn't make your hurt go away, just understand that to assume he is happy and content doesn't take into account that he is attempting to hide his problems and is self-medicating by turning his attention to someone else whose problems he doesn't know about yet.
Many couples looking for a marriage therapist don't know how to find a good marital therapist. Regardless of where you are I have two recommendations. First, find a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT's). I am biased in this because my training was in marriage and family therapy. Neverthless, MFT's are trained specifically in helping couples and their families. In graduate school one half of their hours are required to be marital and family therapy. If you want to find a licensed MFT you can go to http://www.aamft.org. Once at this site you can look up a local therapist in your area. This listing is of American Association of Marital and Family Therapists (AAMFT) approved therapists. This means that they have been through MFT training and they have applied to become licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|