These 12 Common Problems Threaten Even Happy Marriages

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couple arguing in the kitchen

Though marriage is often thought to be the “happily ever after” phase of relationships, don’t be fooled into believing that married couples don’t face their fair share of issues and challenges.

While some common marriage problems can easily be resolved, others may be tough to tackle — and could even signal the beginning of a marriage's end.

Since the future of most marriages depends largely on how couples deal with issues as they arise, if you want to protect your own marriage from the possibility of a divorce, it’s helpful to have a heads up on the most common issues that come with the territory known as married life.

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12 Common Marriage Problems and How to Solve Them

1. Overstepping boundaries.

Once couples are married, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to try and change their partner. Whether it’s their fashion sense or their fundamental beliefs, trying to change your spouse is a personal invasion, and when it happens, the victimized spouse will feel disrespected, hurt, or even angry.

Oftentimes, overstepping someone’s personal boundaries is done intentionally, with a mission in mind. This type of behavior stomps on the very idea of mutual respect, and the end result will likely be retaliation or withdrawal from the attacked spouse. In turn, it makes it hard for spouses to communicate, love, and be open with one another.

It’s also possible to unintentionally overstep personal boundaries, especially if this happens while genuinely trying to help your spouse.

What you can do about it: To avoid invasion, know where to draw the line when it comes to pushing for change.

2. Lacking complete communication.

Though the words “talking” and “communicating” are often used interchangeably, it’s important to understand that the two differ greatly from one another.

Talking is about giving information without the need for a response, and it leaves plenty of room for complaining and criticism. Communication, however, is a verbal and nonverbal exchange of information that requires a response. Because it takes more than one person to communicate, it’s focused on a connection between people where it’s safe to openly share ideas and information free of judgment.

When spouses fail to practice proper communication, it’s easy for them to fall into a habitual way of ineffectively speaking to one another. What’s worse is that if poor communication skills are not dealt with, it’s possible for more serious problems to arise.

What you can do about it: Couples should learn how to communicate with one another to keep their love life on track and also prevent these unnecessary issues.

3. Letting things go in the bedroom.

While there are many reasons why couples lose interest in sexual intimacy or struggle with physical affection, it’s important for spouses to find ways to keep their sex life fresh and fulfilling.

Sex may seem like a small piece of the marriage puzzle, but it’s actually rare to have a healthy relationship without it.

Unfortunately, there’s a vicious cycle when it comes to sex: It’s hard to want to have it when you feel emotionally detached, but it’s hard to feel emotionally attached without physical intimacy.

What you can do about it: To get past a dry spell, couples need to identify problem areas in their marriage and work through them to become physically comfortable with each other.

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4. Wandering focuses.

Another common issue couples face is a shift in focus after marriage. When either spouse redirects their attention from the relationship to other interests — be it a career, children, friends, or other social activities or hobbies — it’s common for their partner to feel the brunt of the situation, and for the relationship to suffer from a loss of attention.

In these types of situations, spouses may even begin to feel more like roommates than lovers, which is why it’s so important to find a balance between personal interests and being an attentive partner.

It’s perfectly acceptable (and even encouraged) for spouses to have their own separate interests and goals, so long as they manage their schedules to fit in quality time with one another.

A common mistake married people make when this happens is to overreact, because in doing so they’re more or less telling their spouse they cannot have a life without them.

What you can do about it: Instead of taking it personally, understand that your partner has won you and is now pursuing other challenges in life. Find a happy medium for your relationship to grow and support one another’s ambitions.

5. Emotional infidelity.

As unfortunate as it may be, once couples get married, it’s not uncommon for them to become emotionally disconnected from one another. When this happens, it’s likely that at least one spouse’s needs will become unmet, and so they may start looking elsewhere to feel fulfilled.

This is where emotional "infidelity" has the opportunity to slip into the marriage.

Some people feel that emotional infidelity is worse than physical cheating because it’s about more than just sex; it’s about connecting with another person on an intimate level.

What you can do about it: In order to prevent infidelity of any kind, couples must be clear on what they both consider cheating to be. Initially partners may not have the same feelings towards what does and doesn’t count as cheating, but getting on the same page will lessen the chances of them allowing it to happen. It’s also important that spouses remain supportive of one another’s emotional needs, because when these are met, they won’t have as much interested in looking elsewhere.

6. Fighting about money.

When couples bond, it’s common for their bank accounts to follow suit. While this may not always be the case, even married couples that decide to keep their finances separate still face issues when it comes to money.

Discussing finances with your spouse can be stressful and tense, especially if the couple has different spending habits or ways of managing money. In these types of edgy situations, it’s common for the conversation to become less about money and more about personal values and habits. For example, when one spouse is stressed about money they may be less patient and more irritated in general. They may even pick fights with their partner about unrelated things without realizing it.

What you can do about it: To avoid this issue, be sure that you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to dollars and cents. Make a financial plan together and skip any unnecessary disagreements by staying focused on the situation at hand.

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7. Waning appreciation for one another.

When appreciation between married partners decreases, conflict tends to rise.

Since both men and women crave positive recognition, when spouses stop acknowledging one another’s efforts or fail to express gratitude for loving gestures, it’s likely their partner will stop doing those once appreciated actions. When this happens, couples tend to become bitter or agitated with one another.

What you can do about it: When those once small, yet loving unexpected gestures become expected, they lose their magic and become a chore rather than a choice. Whether you’ve been with your spouse for 12 months or 12 years, it’s important to keep appreciating one another for the things you both do.

8. Technology interference.

In a world that’s largely run by technology, it can be tough not to get caught up with electronic gadgets. This is why more and more couples are reporting that their spouse’s obsession with technology is interfering with their marriages.

Let’s say, for example, a wife becomes so wrapped up with her smartphone that she’s texting her pals at the dinner table instead of engaging in conversation with her husband. Or, perhaps a husband is so fixed on his tablet that all he wants to do after dinner is play games on it and browse Facebook.

These situations can replace healthy communication and even intimacy. It may sound bizarre, but they’re real-life issues.

What you can do about it: Take an honest look at your technology habits. If technology is taking priority over your marriage, it’s time to snap yourself back to reality.

9. Selfishness.

If one spouse acts selfishly and consistently places their own needs and desires ahead of their spouse’s, then it’ll only be a matter of time until the neglected spouse feels unworthy and unloved.

When couples get married, they’re promising to love one another for better or worse, and part of that promise means not acting selfishly. While this may sound easy enough, the green-eyed monster comes in many sneaky shapes and forms.

At its worse, selfishness is controlling, manipulative, jealous, possessive, and abusive. In milder forms, it can be seen in a lack of consideration and respect.

What you can do about it: In order to prevent issues of selfishness in marriage, spouses must learn how to act with empathy and create a balance between both their own and their spouses needs.

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10. Lack of trust.

Trust is the very basis of love, and without it a healthy marriage cannot exist. When a spouse cheats, lies, or breaks a promise, it can really hurt the relationship.

What you can do about it: Restoring trust in a marriage where someone has been betrayed is no easy task, and both spouses must be committed to fixing the relationship in order to have any success on moving past the issue. If the issues are not dealt with, the betrayed spouse will continue to feel hurt, anger, and suspicious.

11. Uncontrolled anger.

While it’s normal for married couples to get angry with each other from time to time, it’s important that both spouses act appropriately when these types of situations arise.

What you can do about it: Instead of reacting explosively with outburst or fits of rage, couples need to address the issue at hand (stay on topic), keep calm, and consider one another’s feelings. It’s also important that couples listen, openly express their opinions, and avoid defensive behaviors.

12. Changing ambitions.

Most of the time, when couples decide to get married they’re on the same path and have discussed their wants for the future. That said, a common issue between spouses is when one or both partners change their minds and come up with new plans or ambitions as time passes.

Take, for example, a couple who has agreed to get married, buy a house, and start their family. If after the honeymoon either partner decides that they would rather travel for a year, go back to school, or aren’t ready for kids, then the couple could have some major issues on their hands.

What you can do about it: While there’s no reason to harass your spouse or worry that they will change their mind down the road, it’s important to keep communication lines open to avoid shocking surprises of this kind.

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Brad Browning is a relationship coach and breakup expert from Vancouver, Canada, who works with couples to repair and improve their relationships.