There are a lot of big reasons a marriage can struggle. You’ll often see these big problems discussed in TV and movies, such as in the Black Love doc series, and sometimes it can be easier to know how to work on more obvious problems.
On the other hand, how do you work on marriage problems that you feel exist, but you aren’t sure what they are?
The following are some tips and things to keep in mind.
Work on Identifying the Problem
Even though might not be immediately aware of what it is, that doesn’t mean there’s isn’t an identifiable problem and if you can pinpoint what it is, it may make it easier to work on your marriage issues.
To find a starting point, start writing a list of the things you most frequently experience tension or disagreements about.
This isn’t a blame-game list, and it should be as neutral as possible. You should also include things you feel upset or frustrated about, even if you don’t necessarily speak out about those issues.
Start By Looking At Yourself
One of the biggest hurdles in most relationships is the fact that partners want to blame one another without ever looking at themselves. It’s important to be able to take an honest, realistic look at yourself and the role you might play in problematic parts of your relationship.
Consider Individual Therapy
We often immediately jump to the concept of couple’s therapy when we’re experiencing issues in our relationships, but that’s not the only option.
For example, maybe your spouse seems very unhappy and despite your best efforts, he or she doesn’t seem to be improving. In that case, there may be nothing wrong with your relationship, but instead, your partner may need to work on their mental health issues individually.
Many people don’t realize how much their relationship can benefit if they engage in therapy or another form of mental health care, even if that treatment doesn’t directly relate to their relationship.
When you’re in a relationship with another person who seems unhappy,and it’s not due to an underlying factor such as depression (or even if it is), you do have to realize that you can’t make that person happy. Only they can truly make themselves happy, and it can take work. You can support that work and encourage them, but you can’t change them.
It sounds cliché but when you’re in a relationship, and especially one that you’ve been in for years, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to put in any effort toward the person you’re sharing a life with.
Take time to do little things that will have meaning, even if you don’t necessarily feel like you’re the problem in your relationship (also keep in mind the tip above to look at yourself first and foremost).
Show appreciation, thank your partner or let them know you’re grateful, even if it’s for something small. These little bits of gratitude can have a big impact.
Identify Negative Patterns and Work on Shifting Them
We all have negative patterns not only in our relationships but in our individual lives that we continue returning to, despite negative outcomes. In your relationship it’s very easy to get into these patterns, but much harder to clearly identify them and find ways to change them.
For example, maybe your spouse always gets upset when you do one particular thing, such as throwing wet towels on the bed. Try to identify that pattern and change it. It’s a simple change,and by changing several negative patterns, you can shift your dynamic and eliminate pointless bickering. It may not solve the big problems, but it’s a start.
Finally, instead of just asking your spouse what’s wrong if they seem to be unhappy or you’re in a rough patch, ask how you can help. This reframes the question and the conversation because it can feel like the blame game if you’re asking your spouse what’s wrong. It implies they are flawed. Instead, when you see or feel something isn’t right, ask what you can do to help your spouse feel better or to change the situation.
When you ask someone how you can help them, even if they’re not unhappy with anything you can change, it lets them know you’re on their side, and that you’re a support system no matter what. That sense of unwavering support is one of the most important things in a marriage or relationship.