Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: stages

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    4 Tips for Handling a Ho-Hum Stage in Marriage

    Is your marriage unexciting and dull? Have the feelings you had for each other on your wedding day become a distant memory? Do you ever look at other people and envy the spontaneity and freedom they seem to have? If so, you aren’t alone.

    According to marriage experts, many couples enter into marriage with the expectation that it will always be exciting and romantic. Then careers, children, in-laws, and other demands come along and often throw couples for a loop. They begin asking themselves questions like, “Did I marry the wrong person? Why should I stay in a relationship when I am not happy? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons?”

    “Love is an interesting emotion,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It begins with what I refer to as the 'tingles.' You are emotionally obsessed with someone. You go to bed and wake up thinking about him, and have a hard time getting anything done because you can’t get him off your mind. This is accompanied by irrational thinking, believing that this person is perfect and there is nothing more important in life than being with him/her. Some people tell themselves that they will never be happy without this person in their life.

    “This is accompanied by an illusion of intimacy. When you encourage couples to attend a marriage education class, they look at you like you are crazy to suggest working on the relationship since they believe their relationship doesn’t need any work. The illusion of intimacy blinds people to their differences in things like taste, values, music, priorities, etc.”

    Emotional obsession, irrational thinking and illusion of intimacy lead to faulty conclusions such as, “I will never be happy unless we are married.” According to research, these feelings are not always permanent. The average lifespan of an obsession is two years - then people come off their high.

    How does this relate to a ho-hum marriage, you might ask?

    When the “in love obsession” subsides in marriage, people begin to see what they didn’t see before. All those things that were so cute when you were dating now get on your last nerve.

    “Many couples are shocked by their loss of feelings for each other and are traumatized by conflicts,” Chapman says. “In many instances, they have no idea how to deal with the conflicts. The conflicts lead to fights. Then they think things like, ‘I wish I had married the other person.’ Walls go up and there is a loss of intimacy. Each person can give volumes of evidence as to why their spouse is at fault for the failing marriage.”

    Then it happens. In the midst of your marital struggles, someone else comes along. The person is funny, spontaneous, full of life, neat, etc. He/she seems much more exciting than your current spouse. This person seems to have all the qualities you love in a person and you get the tingles all over again.

    “This is when people start thinking ‘I never did love her’ or ‘I got married for all the wrong reasons,’ to convince themselves that their marriage was not right from the beginning and to somehow justify divorce,” Chapman says. “The problem is, they don’t understand that in two years they could potentially be in the very same place. Some people marry multiple times because every time they get the tingles they think they've finally found the right person.”

    So, what do you do?

    • Recognize the tingles for what they are - they aren’t always trustworthy.

    • Keep your guard up – when there are troubles at home, you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the attention of others.

    • Seek out professional help from someone who is marriage-friendly.

    • Be leery of those who want to give you advice - even people with the best intentions can give you BAD advice.

    Understand that it is normal to experience ho-hum stages in your marriage. Even the healthiest of marriages go through this. The key is to recognize it and do something about it. The ho-hum phase should be temporary. You really can feel the tingles again for your spouse.


    Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!


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    Secrets of Long-Term Marital Bliss

    In this culture of throw-away everything, many young people are shocked to meet a couple who has been married for more than 20 years. They often claim to have never met someone who has been married that long. Then they ask, “How did you do that, and why?”

    What helps couples experience long-term marriage?

    Lead researcher Dr. Robert Levenson at the University of California, Berkeley, along with Drs. John Gottman and Laura Carstensen, launched a longitudinal study of 156 middle-aged and older couples to gain a better understanding of the emotional quality of long-term marriages. Every five years, the couples came to the Berkeley campus to talk about their marriage. They specifically focused on areas of conflict in their relationship.

    Twenty-five years later, Levenson believes the research shows some significant findings.

    • The first 15 years of marriage can be challenging. But, the next stage of marriage gets better. Couples stop trying to do extreme makeovers on each other. They take pride in each other’s accomplishments. And, they learn to value and genuinely respect each other.
    • Many couples believe the absence of conflict is a positive thing for marriage. However, the research showed the best indicator of enjoying a long marriage isn’t the absence of conflict, but the way couples handle it.
    • Believe it or not, the wife’s ability to calm down quickly after an intense argument positively impacted the long-term happiness of the couple. Interestingly, the husband calming down quickly did not have the same impact. The research revealed that couples who say “we” stand a greater chance of resolving conflict.

    In case you're wondering about the major sources of conflict in marriage, the research demonstrated that communication or lack thereof often is the culprit. Husbands believe their wives don’t think they can do anything right and wives often feel emotionally alone. The other big bone of contention is children.

    Couples typically spend a lot of time taking childbirth classes and preparing the nursery. But, they usually spend little time preparing their marriage for parenthood. Issues arise concerning how to raise the child, division of the home workload and the husband feeling neglected.

    Here's another interesting find: Some portion of happy marriage has to do with our DNA.

    A gene that helps to regulate serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships. All humans inherit a copy of this gene variant. Some have a long version and others have a short version. Those with the short variant were more prone to unhappiness in marriage when negativity was present and happier when more positive emotions were present. Conversely, marital satisfaction of those with the long variant was less impacted by the emotional state of their marriage.

    The findings of this study give great information for couples. It's useful whether you're preparing for marriage, already in the midst of the first 15 or leaping into the second half of marriage. Even though people can’t change their DNA, everyone can learn communication and conflict management skills. With that said, the key to building a healthy long-term marriage is committing to be a lifelong learner.

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    Seasons of a Marriage

    Marriage expert and creator of divorcebusting.com, Michele Weiner-Davis, and her husband Jim have been married for more than 30 years. Since Weiner-Davis is an expert, you might assume that marriage would be easy.

    “Expert or not, marriage is hard work,” says Weiner-Davis. “At times you consider quitting. Creating a lasting marriage is a humbling experience. It is part skill, part luck, elbow grease and blind determination.”

    Having devoted her life work to helping couples, Weiner-Davis knows that all marriages go through stages and predictable crises.

    “All couples experience hills and valleys, yet predictable transitional periods are often misunderstood, causing overreactions,” Weiner-Davis says. “Those who weather these universal stormy periods usually end up with greater love and commitment to their spouses.”

    Though all marriages are unique, most marriages experience five predictable stages.

    Passion typically fills the first stage of marriage. Starry-eyed in love with your mate, you finish each other’s sentences and usually overlook annoying things. At no other time in your relationship is your feeling of well-being and physical desire for each other as intense. The newness and excitement of the relationship stimulates production of chemicals in your bodies that increase energy, positive attitudes, heighten sexuality and sensuality.

    Joy ultimately gives way to an awakening; marriage isn't what you expected.

    Enter stage two. This is when reality sets in. Little things start to bother you like stinky breath in the morning, toilet seats left up, stuff strewn on the counter and forgetting to pay bills. You argue a lot. Reminding yourself you made a life-long commitment, you start to understand the real meaning of eternity.

    “While feeling at odds with your once-kindred spirit, you are faced with making life-altering decisions,” Weiner-Davis shares. “Should we have children, where to live, who will support the family, who pays the bills and who will do the cooking? Spouses often start to feel like members of opposing teams.”

    Then comes stage three. At this point, most people believe there are two ways of looking at things, your spouse's way and your way. Couples battle to get their partner to admit they are wrong. Every disagreement is an opportunity to define the marriage. Both partners dig in their heels. 

    “Convinced they've tried everything, many couples give up, telling themselves they've fallen out of love or married the wrong person. Other people resign themselves to the situation and lead separate lives together. Still others decide it's time to investigate healthier and more satisfying ways of interacting. Requiring a major leap of faith, those who take it are the fortunate ones because the best of marriage is yet to come.”

    During stage four, couples realize seeing eye-to-eye on everything is unlikely. They work to live more peaceably. They seek wise counsel from close friends and family, and marriage seminars or counseling. Hardheadedness is easier to forgive as each person recognizes that neither party is exactly easy to live with. When disagreements occur, couples try to put themselves in each other’s shoes more often. They recognize they have to accept the good and the bad. Fights happen less frequently and are not as intense or emotional as before.

    Finally, stage five.

    “Many couples never get to this stage,” Weiner-Davis states. “No longer struggling to define what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony. You start 'liking' your spouse again. While both agree marriage hasn't been easy, there is shared history and you feel proud you've weathered the storms. You appreciate your partner's sense of commitment to making your marriage last. You begin to appreciate differences between you and your spouse. What you don't appreciate, you find greater acceptance for. You realize you have come full circle.”