Every marriage has a few bumps along the way, if it survives any length of time at all. Once you get past the honeymoon stage, you discover he isn’t perfect and he learns you aren’t either. Kids, finances, expectations, jobs, in-laws, poor health and negative habits can all cause conflict until you work it out. Various tools will help smooth the road and help your marriage be all it can be.
Few couples enter a marriage with a conscious mindset that they will divorce if things get bumpy, but that is the experience of many. Take your vows seriously -- “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” (This doesn’t mean you should kill him if it doesn’t work!) Decide that divorce isn’t an option and you will find ways to work through the bumps; when divorce is always an option, it’s easier to walk out. Divorce coach Sue Brans says the end of the road is different for everyone, but could be when staying in the marriage alters who you are at a core level where you can no longer respect yourself. If the changes you need to make work for you and improve the relationship, then decide it’s a bump and not a washed-out road.
Communication is the key to a successful marriage, according to Anthony J. Garascia, licensed social worker and clinical director at Samaritan Counseling Center. Dr. Gary Smalley, relationship expert and author of “Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships," suggests you use "LUVR" communication: Listen, understand, validate and respond to ensure that you understand what each of you is trying to get across. He also suggests that you use emotional word pictures to reach into your spouse and connect with his heart and mind. Examples of emotional word pictures include, “When I’m around you I feel treasured and safe,” or, “When you leave your clothes on the floor, I feel like Cinderella living with her wicked stepfamily.” Each word picture has a purpose you want to accomplish, is wrapped around a familiar concept that often is drawn from the other person’s interest and can lead to questions and more pictures that clarify the situation.
Nurturing a Marriage
It is necessary to nurture your marriage if you want to get past bumps in the road, according to the Save My Marriage website. Give each other respect and appreciation on a daily basis. Avoid negative habits like calling names, screaming at each other, threats, violence or silent treatments. Date each other to maintain a sense of romance and meet each other’s five basic emotional needs including affection, affirmative words, communication, economical and domestic support, family time, physical attraction, sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship and honesty and openness, according to Dr. Willard Harley, Jr., in “His Needs, Her Needs."
When you can’t get over the bumps on your own, seek assistance from mentoring couples or a marriage and family professional, suggests Garascia. Signs that your marriage could use outside help include repeatedly going over the issues without resolving anything, negative communication patterns, life transitions and problems with your children that cause frustration and anger, substance abuse and mental illness. There is no shame in seeking outside help and it can make a big difference if you take the step while the problem is small and less critical.