"Relationships take nurturing. Taking things for granted gets people in trouble over the long-term" says Mary Ann Majchrzak Rombach, therapist and founding director of the Assiniboine Family Therapy Institute in Invermere, B.C.
Has your marriage lost some of its wow factor? It's never too late to give it a makeover. Here are some common problems and therapist-approved fixes.
Problem area: Crazy misunderstandings.
Example: "People make assumptions about what others are thinking, act on those assumptions, and go off on wild tangents," says Rombach. Misunderstandings are the number one cause of strife in the couples Rombach counsels.
How to fix it: Stop assuming. Keep lines of communication open, give your partner the benefit of the doubt and use your words to raise concerns of ask for clarification.
Problem area: Putting work – or kids – above the relationship.
Example: You head to work at dawn and aren’t back 'til nighttime because work takes precedence. Or your "date nights" are filled with discussions of the baby because that’s the most compelling thing in your life right now. (Your relationship, meanwhile, comes in a distant third in priority, slightly above "tackle kitchen reno.")
How to fix it: Re-examining your priorities and acting accordingly.
Rombach suggests couples "keep each other as the priority." While this advice may not sit well with all parents, the premise – that your most important relationship or relationships come before work – is sound. Make a priority pyramid and place your spouse – or your spouse and kids – on top. Either way, separate "couples time" from "parenting time," and be sure you and your partner recognize each other for the individuals you are, not just as co-parents.
"Couples that make each other the king and the queen of their universe are the happiest," says Rombach.
Page 1 of 2 - Learn how to deal with infidelity on page 2.
Problem area: Infidelity.
Example: One or both of you cheated. Adultery is one of the top reasons why couples see Rombach for help.
How to fix it: "This is very painful and difficult to work through," says Rombach. If you're committed to salvaging your marriage, get help from a marriage counselor. This is one marital hurdle couples shouldn't take a DIY approach to fixing.
Problem area: Financial squabbles.
Example: The last major recession has magnified money-related marital strife for many couples, says the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project.
According to the project's 2009 report, the recession has hit working-class men a lot harder than women (with mass layoffs in manufacturing) – and men are 61 per cent less happy in a marriage when they work fewer hours than their wives.
Also, couples with significant consumer debt – regardless of income – report more marital strife than those without. And couples who disagree over finances once a week are more than 30 per cent more likely to divorce than those who disagree less often.
How to fix it: Sitting down together to plan a budget and debt-reduction goals. Will this be romantic and fun? No. But it could save your marriage.
If your husband loses his job, be sensitive to his bruised ego. At the same time, brainstorm ways he can meaningfully contribute to the household. The National Marriage Project found that men are thriftier shoppers than women, so if he takes over shopping for groceries and kids’ clothes, he can save your household money – while you both adjust to a changing division of family labour.
Problem area: You don't feel desired.
Example: You put on a sexy new negligee – and he laughed…at the My Name Is Earl re-run he was transfixed by on your bedroom TV.
How to fix it: Start by letting him know how you feel. Don't berate, though. A simple, "Sweetie, did you notice my new nightie?" may be all he needs to move his gaze from TV to you.
If he needs more motivation, says Rombach, ''let him know you like to feel appreciated and beautiful, and that this nurtures a healthy relationship," she says.
"Being honest about how we feel, and having respect for each others feelings is the meat and potatoes of a healthy relationship," says Rombach.
Finally, don't forget that even if he’s more macho than metrosexual, he'd probably love to hear how attractive you still find him, too. A simple "You look handsome today!" every so often can help spiff up your sex life – and marriage.
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