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5 Common Marital Crises and Ways to Solve Them

Edited By: Natalie Smith

 Writer and poet Robert Louis Stevenson once said: "Marriage is one long conversation, chequered by disputes." Indeed, sooner or later, each couple undergoes one crisis or another that is inevitable. The good news is that when a couple manages to deal with these crises, they grow out of them and reach a new level in their relationship, eventually finding their own unique ways of being happy with each other.

 

You have nothing to fear from a marital crisis, since it will probably happen whether you want it or not, and it's a sign that your relationship is developing. The most important thing is not to give up and to overcome all the difficulties, because you promised that you would, for better or worse. So how do we get through these crises that all couples experience? Here are 5 different stages of marriage and the crises that arise in each, along with the ways to solve them and some tips that each couple needs to know in order to improve and strengthen their marriage.

The first year of marriage: the stage of realization

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Rita DeMaria, a marriage and family counselor from Philadelphia, calls for the first stage of marriage "the realization stage". It usually takes place after the couple has lived together for 6-12 months, during which time the "magic" of falling in love dissipates and the couple begins to see and understand each other's weaknesses as well as their less desirable habits. "This is the time to learn teamwork," says Rita.

How to strengthen the relationship at this stage

"Though you should have done this before you wed, if you haven't, it's not too late to discuss hot-button subjects like children, money, how often you'll see your families, religion, etc.” says psychologist Dr. Beverly Hyman. You need to have an honest and open conversation about these topics and if needed, make some compromises. It's very important that you agree on them because with time these are the things that will put the most pressure on your relationship.

3-4 years of marriage: the dangerous "comfort zone"

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A study of 2,000 British couples showed that within three and a half years the couple started to take each other for granted, preferring sleep over sex and stopping saying "I love you" to each other. In fact, at this point, the couples come to what is called the dangerous "comfort zone" of the marriage. On the one hand, there is a sense of security and relaxation, but on the other hand, things that bother you start taking place in the relationship, such as using the bathroom with an open door. Although 82% of the study participants reported being happy with their marriage, nearly 50% of them said they wanted their partner to be more romantic.

How to strengthen the relationship at this stage

You must maintain a certain level of emotion in your married life. Complement each other more often and praise each other for achievements, even the smallest ones. If you have a specific problem with your relationship, start a conversation about it gently and without pointing fingers - first look at yourself, suggests Dr. John Guttmann, a family psychologist. The growth and development of your relationship will only be possible if you can look at yourself objectively, from the outside. That’s how you will understand how much your spouse contributes (or doesn’t contribute) to your relationship.

5-7 years of marriage: "The 7-year itch"

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There is a certain term in psychology called "The 7-Year Itch", and it comes at the most critical stage in marriage. At this stage in marital life, couples tend to settle into a routine and start to conduct themselves as if they were on autopilot, and this is a huge mistake, according to Beverly Hyman.

Couples experience a lag in sexual relations with each other and seem to feel as if they know everything they can know about their partner. Sometimes couples decide to bring their first or second child during this period to save the marriage, but it is important for each parent to remember that the child is first and foremost a person in their own right and not a tool to be used to achieve certain goals.

How to strengthen the relationship at this stage

Robert Taibbi, a consultant and family therapist from Virginia, offers the following tips:

  • Keep communication open. You need to be less formal and avoid routine conversations along the lines of: "How are you?" "OK". Make sure to incorporate feelings and honesty in your communication.
  • Solve problems as they arise, and do not let them settle in.
  • Refresh your list of desires and aspirations for the future from time to time, and share your thoughts with your partners.
  • Talk to each other about your relationship’s future - what are your plans for the next 5 years? How about the next 10 years? The key here is openness and honesty.

10-15 years of marriage: "The difficult period"

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According to a recent study, the 10-year mark is the most difficult for most couples. Some 2,000 married women from the United States were interviewed, most of whom claimed that their eleventh year of marriage was the most challenging. The reason for this is that over time women accumulate a large variety of household and familial responsibilities, as well as more responsibilities in the workplace, and since they always lack time, the quality of the relationship slowly withers when over time the husband stops seeing his wife as an attractive woman.

These feelings occur not only among married couples in the United States but also in Europe. According to statistics, the average marriage in London lasts 11 years, and in Paris, they last an average of 13 years.

How to strengthen the relationship at this stage

The good news is that those who manage to get through this difficult period will experience satisfaction from their marriage that will increase over the next 20 years. Dana Fillmore, a family therapist, recommends treating the relationship at this stage with a little humor, including self-humor.

Laugh together more often and let go of the expectations you have for each other. Your marriage may not be perfect, but think about it: is it really that bad? Try to concentrate on the positive aspects of your marriage and that of your spouse.

 

20-30 Years of Marriage: Midlife Crisis and "Gray Divorce"

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The crisis of 20 years of marriage usually occurs in the wake of a spouse's midlife crisis. The relationship crisis is exacerbated by the "empty nest syndrome," when children grow up and leave the house, while the spouses themselves remain in a state similar to the beginning of their relationship - they are together and alone.

The couple sometimes begins to feel that their marriage is exhausting because their main goal has been completed and there are no major shared long-term goals, such as having children and raising them. Psychologists in America call divorce at this stage "gray divorce" because the couple is already beginning to gray at the same time, and in recent years there has been an increase in the incidence of such cases.

How to strengthen the relationship at this stage

Don’t distance yourself from one another and try to seek another meaning for your existence as a couple. If, as a couple, you ignored your marital problems while raising your kids, once you’re alone in the house they will only become more intense.

On the other hand, now you have more time to solve all the problems that exist between you, and this is a great opportunity to rebuild your marriage. Steve Seabold, a relationship consultant from the United States, recommends exercising together and creating new common goals, such as traveling the world, starting a business, learning a new language or anything else that will help you give meaning to your relationship.

6 Extra Surprising Tips That Can Save Your Marriage

Mort Fertel, a marital counselor and founder of the Marriage Fitness Program method, thinks that common recommendations for marital success, such as sharing feelings or visiting a marital counselor, are not always effective because they do not define exactly what needs to be done to overcome the crisis. Therefore, he compiled a list of tips that could help:

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1. Save your marriage even if have to pull the weight yourself
It is often believed that both partners need to be on board when trying to save a marriage, however, even if only one spouse is determined to save the marriage - eventually the stubborn spouse will slowly join them.
2. Don’t ask the wrong questions
Don’t ask yourself "Is he/she the right person for me?" The secret to a successful marriage is not to find the right person but to learn how to love the person you chose, because love is not a matter of luck, rather a choice that you have made and that you must follow through.
3. Separation only drives a wedge between you
Many people believe that temporary separation can refresh one’s feelings and bring partners closer together, however, separation usually drives people further apart.
4. Talk less about problems
Talking to your partner about marital problems usually doesn’t solve them, but only makes them more troublesome for both of you, leading in many cases to conflict and anger. Speak less and do more.
5. Don’t think that counselors and therapists will give you all the answers
Couple’s therapy helps partners talk to each other and understand each other's points of view, but it doesn’t provide answers to what needs to be done to save the marriage. As a result, many couples are disappointed with such treatments.
6. Don’t tell family or friends about marital problems
One of the most important values in marriage is privacy and mutual confidentiality. No one wants to tell their family or friends that they feel they chose the wrong partner and then experience backlash when choosing to work on the marriage. Exposing such details is a betrayal of your spouse's trust - a huge mistake that too many people make in a relationship.
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