talking about marriage problems

Talking About Marriage Problems

talking about marriage problemsDoes it really help to talk to your spouse about the problems in your marriage?  Although many people assume that’s the right thing to do, often it makes things worse.  Repeatedly having unproductive talks about marriage problems can cause both of you to stop talking about anything but the weather.  And when the talking stops, so do people’s loving feelings. This article will help you troubleshoot your talks about marriage problems and also suggest an alternative strategy if things aren’t going so well.

The Best Time to Talk About Marriage Problems

The best time to talk about marriage problems is when both of you agree on what the problem is, and both of you are motivated to make your marriage better.  This is because the problem will be distressing to both of you and there will be a lot of love and sympathy on both of your parts.  You will be able to listen to each other supportively, and you will feel closer after you talk things out.  Couples in love can feel intensely close after working out problems, with a resulting increase in intimacy.


You:  “Honey, we’ve got a problem with our finances.  Our bills eat up all the money and there’s none left over for us to have some nice dates.
Spouse:  “Yeah, that’s true.  I was wondering about that myself.  What can we do?”

You:  “I don’t have a solution, but I’m sure we can figure out something together.  Let’s go for a walk and talk and do some brainstorming.”

Spouse: “Ok.”

The Worst Time to Talk About Marriage Problems

The worst time to talk about marriage problems is when you are both divided on what the problem is or when your relationship is already strained.  If you are divided on what the problem is, your talk will deteriorate into an argument that will push both of you further away from each other.  If your marriage is already strained, the conflict that arises from talking about problems can be used as “evidence” by one spouse that the marriage is unsaveable.  Because my clients have strained relationships, often where one person is wanting a divorce, I recommend them not to talk about problems with their spouse.


You:  “Honey, we’ve got a problem with our finances.  Our bills eat up all the money and there’s none left over for us to have some nice dates.
Spouse:  “You’d have more money if you didn’t waste it on stupid clothes you don’t even wear.”

You:  “Well, I’d be able to wear them if you took me out once in a while.”

Spouse:  “Stop kidding yourself, this marriage is dead and you know it.”


Talk  About Marriage Problems When Things Are Going Well

One of the most important things to do to improve your success with talking about marriage problems is to choose your time carefully.  The best time for talking about problems is when things are going really well, you are both in a good mood, and enjoying each other.  The worst time to talk about problems is when people are already upset.  When people are upset, the thing to do is to lovingly reconnect, and that doesn’t happen by talking about problems.

Stay Away from Blame

The way you talk about problems is more important than the actual problems.  The reason main  that marriages fail is not because of what one spouse is or is not doing.  The main reason is a couple’s inability to talk about problems in a loving way.  Talks which contain blame result in an increase in problems.

The Alternative to Blaming

The alternative to blaming is taking responsibility.  This doesn’t mean taking responsibility for your spouse’s behavior, but taking responsibility for your inability to deal with it.

Example of blaming,

“You are so tight with the money that I can’t have any fun.”

Example of responsibility taking,

“I don’t know how to have fun with the limited budget that we have.”

Blaming will lead to arguing, while responsibility taking has a better chance to get to problem solving.

Another example of blaming:

“You never help out around the house,”

Responsibility taking:

“I have a hard time getting all the housework done by myself.”

If you make sure that you have this kind of talk when you are both getting along well, you and your spouse are much more likely to come to productive solutions.  If you do it right after conflict or during tension, your spouse may still feel blamed.  Many people are using my book, Connecting Through “Yes!” to begin to talk in a positive way about problems they have avoided for years.

The Alternative to Talking About Problems

Better than talking about problems is working on problems.  This is what my clients do.  For example, if the problem is a blaming and controlling husband, I do not advise my client to talk with her husband about how he is blaming and controlling.  No matter how sweetly she managed to say it, she would be blamed for doing so—adding fuel to the problem and making her feel even more hopeless.  Instead, I help her to put good boundaries around the blaming, while also helping her to build the relationship with her husband.  This two tiered approach results in decreasing or removing the problem while strengthening the marriage.

Talking About Problems with a Separated Spouse

Typically, separated spouses do not want to work on marriage problems, and are in fact motivated to end their marriages.  Before working with me, many men and women mistakenly assume that if they work on the problems that caused the separation, it will lead to changing their spouse’s mind about the separation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What actually happens is that working on problems reminds the separated spouse of all the reasons for the separation, and strengthens his or her resolve to leave the marriage.  Talking about marriage problems only works with spouses who are motivated to keep their marriage intact.

Relationships Need to Be Strengthened Before Doing Problem Solving

I work with my clients to change the way they say things so that their spouses enjoy talking and being with them again (for example, how to have better communication in marriage by making clear requests).  When a marriage has severe problems, there is a great deal of emotional distance in the relationship.  The typical strategy of working on problems in order to decrease emotional distance doesn’t work.  It’s backwards.  Instead, it’s necessary to put the problems aside while working on getting emotionally close.  As my clients’ spouses start to feel loving and attached again, then comes the time to address some of the earlier problems.  But, by that time many of the problems disappear—just by becoming emotionally close and enjoying each other again.

Deciding to share your marriage problems with others

There is a time for keeping secrets, and there is a time not to.  The purpose of sharing should be to get support, help in decision making, and to help your spouse.  There is a way to talk to adult children about marriage problems that preserves their relationship with your spouse. This is important because if you turn your kids against your spouse, it is one more reason for your spouse to turn against you.

Many Marriage Problems Are Just a Symptom of Not Being Emotionally Close

Because of that, talking about problems is likely to lead to more problems.  It’s necessary to get to the root of the problems which is you and your spouse not feeling loved, important, needed, and appreciated.  Also, it’s often a lack of boundaries where boundaries are needed.  If you will work on those two things, you will get from your spouse both love and respect and many years of happy marriage.

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