Relationships offer wonderful benefits, but none are without their challenges. These challenges can put a strain on a couple, but working through them can either strengthen their bond or push them apart, depending on how they handle the challenges they face. Working through marriage problems in a healthy way can be very challenging, especially because stressors in a marriage can come from many different sources. The following are some of the most common sources of marital stress and marriage problems.
Stress and fighting over money constitute one of the most oft-cited marriage problems that couples face. Generally speaking, when couples fight about money, their dispute is really symbolic of something different—power struggles, different values, or other issues that surround money. However, in tough economic times, financial stress can actually cause more general stress, and more conflict over things unrelated to money, as well as money-centered arguments. (For example, when one partner is extremely stressed about money, they may be less patient and more stressed in general; they may then pick fights with the other partner about unrelated things without even realizing it!
The advent of children brings another potential source of marriage problems. Children are wonderful, and can bring wonderful and meaningful gifts into our lives. However, having children can bring additional stress into a marriage because the caretaking of children requires more responsibility as well as a change in roles, provides more fodder for disagreement and strain, and reduces the amount of time available to bond as a couple. This combination can test even the strongest of bonds.
Daily stressors don’t need to equal marriage problems, but they can exacerbate problems that already exist. As with financial stress, general daily stress can test patience and optimism, leaving couples with less to give to one another emotionally.
Marriage problems can result from overly-busy schedules for a few reasons. First, couples who are very busy may find themselves generally stressed as well, especially if they’re not taking care of themselves with quality sleep and good nutrition. Additionally, they may find themselves less connected because they have less time to spend together, and more separateness in their lives. Finally, if they don’t work together as a team (even if their responsibilities are completely separate, if they don’t coordinate to cover all responsibilities well), they may find themselves fighting over who’s taking care of which household and social responsibilities. Again, while busy schedules don’t automatically lead to marriage problems, they don present a challenge that needs to be worked through.
Perhaps the biggest predictor of marriage problems is poor communication, or negative communication that belies damaging attitudes and dynamics within the relationship. Negative communication is so damaging, in fact, that researcher John Gottman and his team have been able to predict with a very high degree of certainty which newlywed couples would later divorce, based on watching their communication dynamics for a few minutes! Healthy communication is key; unhealthy communication can lead to major marriage problems.
Sometimes couples experience marriage problems that could be solved if the two could notice their habits and change 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. People just get into negative patterns of relating, fall into lazy personal habits, or get into a rut that they perpetuate out of habit.