To help you start exploring, I’m answering 10 of the most common questions that women ask about marriage. In each answer, you’ll find links to past blog articles where you can get more in-depth information.
1. Do My Husband and I Fight Too Much?
How often you argue with your husband is much less important than the way you fight. The goal isn’t having a conflict-free marriage. Instead, it’s moving through these bumps in the road in a constructive way that clears the air and strengthens your bond. So if you argue frequently, but you still behave lovingly and respectfully with each other when you do, then your conflicts probably are not a problem.
2. What Should I Do If I Want Sex More (or Less) Than My Husband Does?
There’s no right, or wrong, answer to the amount of sex you should be having in your marriage. It’s all about finding the frequency that meets both of your needs. If you’re not in sync in the bedroom, look for possible causes. For example, maybe one of you is having a physical issue or is feeling particularly stressed lately.
Our lives often revolve around our
kids. We do this because we want what’s best for them. But making them the
center of the universe really isn’t best for them or for you.
More than endless activities, kids need parents who are relaxed, emotionally attuned to them and involved in a loving, respectful marriage. So think about some ways you can free up more time for your relationship. This might mean simplifying life or asking for extra support.
4. Can I Put the Spark Back in My Boring Marriage?
Absolutely! If you’re feeling bored with your husband, the underlying reason might be that you have lost touch with important parts of yourself. As busy partners and parents, it’s all too easy to neglect all the other things that used to light us up.
Think about some ways to rediscover your old passions. This doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Revive your yoga practice. Take an online class. Reconnect with a friend you love spending time with. Whatever you choose, you’ll bring new energy into your relationship.
5. Why Has My Husband Changed So Much?
What happened to the great guy you fell in love with? He’s still there — trust me. When it seems like your husband has changed, what’s probably actually happening is that the stress of your day-to-day life is making it harder to see his good qualities. This is just how our brains are wired. To bring your “good” husband back, tackle some of your top sources of stress (like overscheduling). Soon you’ll be seeing him through different eyes.
6. How Can I Get My Husband to Help More Around the House?
If you feel that your husband isn’t doing his fair share of housework, don’t just stew silently. That’s a recipe for resentment. Let your husband know you feel overburdened and ask directly for him to do specific tasks. Then give him a chance to step up.
I can hear what you’re saying: I shouldn’t have to ask! And I understand your frustration. But keep in mind that you are two unique people who came into the marriage with different life experiences, priorities and skills. It’s unrealistic to expect you to coordinate your complicated lives without clear, direct and respectful communication.
7. My Husband Is Cheating — Can Our Marriage Be Saved?
It’s not easy to heal your marriage after an affair, but it can be done. If you want to try to repair your relationship, he must be willing to admit what he has done, acknowledge the hurt it has caused and help you work through that pain.
At the same time, you have to be open to these repair attempts. And both of you must look at what made your relationship vulnerable to the affair.
8. What Should I Do If My Husband Wants to Separate?
If your husband has asked for a separation, it’s perfectly normal to feel lost and panicky. But resist the urge to tearfully plead for him to stay. Instead, deal with him from a place of confidence. You want your message to be more like this: “If you want to leave, I can’t stop you. I’m still committed to this marriage and would like for you to stay so we fix it. But you’re an adult, and I know I can’t tie you here.”
Don’t pressure him to come back. Allow him to experience the reality of what divorce would mean. Give him space to understand your importance in his life. It’s possible he will eventually want a divorce. It’s also possible that he’ll start missing you and the life you have built together.
9. Should I (Gulp) Leave My Husband?
Ending your marriage is a wrenching decision — and a deeply personal one. To guide your choice, ask yourself these questions:
Did I ask for what I need?
Did I address any serious issues present (like addiction or abuse)?
What went wrong?
And what role did each of you play?
10. Will My Marriage Last?
The best way to predict the future of your marriage is to take a look at what’s going on in your relationship right now. Do you both fight fair? Manage your ongoing issues? Know how to apologize? Then it’s likely that your marriage will last. (Learn more signs of a great marriage.)
On the other hand, your behaviors can also reveal whether your marriage is headed for trouble. Researcher John Gottman identified the four behaviors that predict divorce: defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling and contempt. If you and your husband engage in these behaviors frequently, it’s time to get serious about saving your marriage.
Back before Thanksgiving, you gave yourself an ultimatum: I’m just going to get through the holidays, and then I’m telling him it’s over. Now here we are in the new year, and it’s your moment of truth. You have to make the final call: Should you leave your husband?
This is one of the most wrenching decisions a woman can face. As you consider ending your marriage, know that you’re far from alone. Women are thought to initiate between 70 percent and 80 percent of divorces.
Some of those marriages, of course, are irretrievably broken. Others, though, could be saved. Without counseling you in person, I can’t know which category your own marriage falls into. But what can I do is give you some final questions to consider before you leave so that you can be at peace with your decision, whatever it turns out to be.
Did You Ask For What You Need?
I’m not talking about complaining. That’s all too common among women in unhappy relationships. And at some point, husbands just check out and stop hearing them. What works instead is speaking up clearly and kindly for what you need. Maybe that means negotiating a shift in the domestic workload. Or it could mean learning to be more clear about what you expect from your husband.
Did You Address the Serious Issues?
If you are leaving your husband because his addiction, abuse or mental impairment, have the two of you sought help for these specific issues? If you haven’t, is he willing to? (Please, please keep your own safety front and center as you consider this question.)
What Have You Learned?
Whether you decide to leave your husband or stay and work on your marriage, it’s important to understand what went wrong in your relationship, and the role that both of you have played in creating the current situation. It may seem like everything is all his fault, but most relationships are more complex than that. Working to better understand yourself, your husband and how you relate to each other could save your marriage. But even if you go through with leaving your husband, you still need to do this difficult inner work. If you don’t, you could be setting yourself up for another failed relationship.
Your answers to these questions might affirm that divorce is right choice for you, or they could encourage you to give your marriage another shot. If you opt to stay for now, I encourage you to seek relationship counseling. You and your husband can also use the practical strategies in my book Strong Women, Strong Loveto start to repair your relationship.
You might be worried about the flu and other physical ailments that start circulating this time of year. But a contagion of a very different kind was the subject of a recent story in the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune took a look at how divorce can spread through social circles. It cites a study that found you’re 75 percent more likely to get a divorce yourself if a friend has divorced. Even a friend of a friend getting a divorce raises your own chance of divorcing by 33 percent.
Why does this happen? In the article, relationship expert Helen Fisher says friends’ divorces prompt us to reassess the condition of our own marriages.
Just as physically ill people are hit harder by sicknesses like the flu, your marriage can also suffer from a weakened “immune system.” When your marriage is compromised, you may find yourself fantasizing about leaving, especially if a close friend has already taken that step.
Here are a few tips so you won’t unintentionally fall victim to the divorce contagion. It’s all about strengthening the health of the emotional connection between you and your spouse.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s hard to emotionally connect with anyone when you are running yourself ragged. Sleeping enough, eating well and managing stress make it more likely you will have the bandwidth to connect with your partner. Don’t forget to also make space for the people and activities you deeply enjoy. If you’ve been neglecting hobbies and interests, take some time to renew your passions. Have you lost touch with a dear friend? Reach out today. This can keep you from feeling that you’ve “lost yourself” — and that you need to leave your marriage to find yourself again.
Get Deliberate About Being Positive
Research shows that marriages stay strong when spouses share far more positive interactions than negative ones. But when we’re busy and stressed (which, for most of us, is always!), it’s easier to notice all the negatives. This week, try to intentionally look for and tell your husband how much you appreciate his good qualities. Be affectionate, playful, and compassionate to increase the positive even more. Keeping your “emotional bank account” full with positives prevents it from being overdrawn in difficult times.
Seize Every Moment
Juggling the responsibilities of adulthood can make it hard for you and your husband to even “se” each other. When we focus exclusively on what we need to get done, and not on our partners, that intimate connection frays, little by little. You don’t need a two-week romantic vacation to rekindle your intimacy. (Although I’m very much in favor of taking one if you can!) Instead, take advantage of the small moments in your day — like when you both come home after work — to connect. Investing even a little bit of time each day strengthens your relationship. Check out the Gottman Institute blog for a great resource on this topic: “6 Hours a Week to a Better Relationship.”
The reality of contagious divorce is alarming, but it also serves as a powerful reminder to take care of your relationship. If you’d like a total “wellness guide” for your marriage, I invite you to check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
He’s talking a lot about his new co-worker. What if they’re having an affair? He always gets so mad when I ask him to do things at home. What if I push him too hard and he leaves? He isn’t taking care of himself like the doctor told him to. What if he gets really sick and I’m left to deal with things by myself?
Do you ever get scared and then lose yourself in doubts about your husband? Sometimes “what ifs” can be a sign that there are some trust issues in your marriage. But the person you mistrust may not be the one you think.
Is This Really Something to Worry About?
If you’re often troubled by worries like the ones above, a good first step is to investigate how valid your fears are.
Let’s take the example of that new co-worker your husband is chatting about. If you feel like this is part of a bigger pattern (he’s had an emotional affair before, there are other issues in your relationship), then there might indeed be reason for concern. But if he’s loyal, reliable and generally happy in your marriage, it’s a good sign that he is talking to you about her. He is probably worthy of your trust. Similarly, an irritated husband may be trustworthy, but simply overwhelmed by the pressures of work and just needing some breathing room, not a divorce.
If you can’t quell your anxieties even though you know on a rational level that they’re baseless, then it’s time to ask yourself another question.
Instead of pondering whether you trust him, consider whether you trust yourself.
The Root of Your Fears
When you’re constantly plagued by irrational fears about your husband, that insecurity may come from lack of trust in your own ability to handle life. On some level, you might literally believe you won’t be able to cope if he really is cheating (or if whatever other scenario you’re worried about turns out to be true).
It’s important to remember that everyone will let you down sometimes, in big or small ways. You can’t keep that from happening. But you can cultivate your own resilience and confidence in yourself. Without self-trust, you risk becoming clingy, needy, or jealous, making it much more likely your husband would need to get some distance from you. Desperation and mistrust are good ways to drive off even the best of men.
As psychotherapist and author Cynthia Wall writes, you have to trust yourself before you can develop trusting connections with others. Learning to take care of your own needs — something busy wives and moms often forget — helps build self-trust. So does being kind and compassionate with yourself, the opposite of the perfectionism that pervades our lives these days. Little crises with others, including your husband, will seem less catastrophic when you feel more confident in your own skills.
Reminding yourself that your husband can’t be there for you 100% may seem depressing at first, but doesn’t necessarily make him untrustworthy. Rationally examining his devotion to you is important. If you figure out that you have mistakenly assumed the worst about him, don’t forget that research affirms the power of couples to repair big and small rifts in their marriages. If others can do it, so can you!
One resource that can help you trust yourself and your relationship is my book Strong Women, Strong Love. In it, you’ll find many more practical strategies like the ones in this article.
Among Americans age 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s. This phenomenon of decades-old marriages dissolving even has a trendy name: “gray divorce.”
In a way, the rise of gray divorce isn’t surprising. We live longer lives than people of generations past. That’s more years to tend to a relationship. Or, as so often happens, to fail to tend to it. Life has a way of handing us other priorities that make it harder to focus on our marriages. As a result, couples grow apart or even become resentful.
If this is something you’re experiencing, maybe you’re wondering what life might be like outside your marriage — and the thought leaves you both nervous and intrigued. There’s a lot to consider, so let’s talk through some of the things that might be on your mind.
Can Your Marriage Be Saved?
Of course, the answer to this question depends on your relationship. But, in general, I would say that if you and your husband still share friendship and a sense of respect, then you have a chance of resurrecting your relationship. As I wrote in a previous article on respect and marriage:
In long-term relationships, it’s quite normal for feelings of love and passion to wax and wane over time. If partners have maintained a deep respect for each other, in time, these feelings can be rekindled. However, when there is a serious breakdown of respect, relationships inevitably end up deeply troubled.
Divorce will affect every aspect of your life. Even though your kids are grown, a divorce will still alter your family dynamics. Then there’s the financial aspect. According to Forbes, gray divorce “deals a heavier financial blow than divorces that happen earlier in life.” That’s especially true for women. Mulling the logistical realities of post-marriage life may or may not prompt you to give your relationship another chance. But whether you stay or go, the possible financial or family challenges of a gray divorce merit your thoughtful attention.
Do You Even Know Each Other Anymore?
You might be mulling a gray divorce if you feel that your husband isn’t the same person you married. And there’s a degree of truth to that. Life has probably changed both of you in some important ways. Do you know why your husband is the person he is today? Does he understand what has made you who you are? Longtime partners can assume they have each other all figured out. Before you write off your marriage, consider engaging each other with more curiosity. Remember, too, that the qualities that initially attracted you to each other are probably still present. You just have to remind yourself to notice and appreciate them.
You’re Craving Change
Another common reason for seeking a gray divorce is feeling stuck or stagnant in your marriage. You may feel that your relationship has no room for growth and adventure. That may indeed be true in some marriages. Before you make any big decisions, though, I believe it’s worth a try to reinvigorate your relationship. It’s natural for passionate love to ebb, especially in long relationships. But you can stoke the fires by adding variety to your relationship. Travel to a new place or learn something new together. If your husband is slow to get on board, go ahead and pursue your own interests. The new energy you bring to the relationship could bring him around.
You Want More Romance
And — let’s be frank — more or better sex. If you lack sizzle with your husband, the idea of new partners can feel tantalizing. But if you haven’t dated in a long time, you may have forgotten that it’s also a lot of work! Chances are you won’t immediately find a magical person with all the passion your husband lacks. Also remember that you may not need to leave your marriage to rekindle the sense of romance in your life. If you follow the advice above to get to know each other again and introduce more novelty into your relationship, passion should also start to reappear. (And if you suspect that health problems have interfered with your sexual connection, seek treatment.)
Can Your History Overcome Your Problems?
One of the most compelling reasons to stay in your marriage might be all of your shared experiences, which might include raising children together, weathering your parents’ illnesses or deaths and coping with your own health crises. Writing your story together can be a powerful exercise that highlights the meaning of the life you’ve shard.
If you decide to stay, remember that your relationship will always need maintenance and tending, no matter how long you’ve been together. You can never just set it to “cruise control”! My book Strong Women, Strong Love has strategies that can help.