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Marriage Counseling 101: Tips for a Happy House
Well, that's cool!
According to an article on WebMD, the divorce rate has fallen to 36%. It seems that people actually like being married.
Marriage Isn't Easy
I had always heard, and maybe you have too, that money is the numero uno reason couples split up. And as half of a couple myself, I can certainly understand that it's a big source of stress. But I think for new/young couples, housework and roles should be addressed.
As I'm writing this article, my husband and I have been married for just shy of 8 years. We did not live together before getting hitched - I realize that this is not the case fro many couples, but in respect of our parents and religious beliefs, we never considered it. So when we finally moved in together, house chores became an arguing point for us.
But we managed to get past it with no outside help. Just fighting. It was an annoying cycle: Fighting over something mundane like laundry. Crying that the other is totally unreasonable. Lamenting that "forever" is a really long time. Making up. Happy for a while. Fighting again over something mundane.
It went like that for years. By the time our 6th wedding anniversary came around, we could barely look at one another. Our relationship felt like it was at the end. Or at least teetering on the edge of a cliff. I should add that it wasn't over housework. That was a factor, but it was mostly monetary stress that was doing us in. We were at a point where I don't think we even liked each other.
It was time to ask for help...
One week's counseling session was focused on our jobs. Not the 9-5 paycheck job. The jobs we do at home to keep the physical house and household in order.
If you think of your marriage as a career, it makes sense that each person has certain job requirements. When you are hired for a particular position, your boss will clearly lay out your responsibilities. And then you are expected to do those things. Marriage isn't that much different.
So we sat in our session and wrote a list of the house chores that are important to each of us. For instance, my list looked a bit like this:
- Clean dishes before bed
- Laundry completed and put away "my way"
- Trash out when full, not overflowing
- Kids bathed and ready for bed
- Dinner cooked
- Lunches for kids packed
Then we combine lists. And divvied up the responsibilities. I'm kind of old school, as is my husband. I believe that the house is the women's space. I am also blessed enough to have a very flexible work schedule. I am almost always the one who picks the munchkins up from school. Most days we are home a solid 3 hours before my husband arrives. In fact his schedule is such that on his work days, he gets home an hour and a half before the kids go to sleep. Why shouldn't I have a lot of the house responsibilities?
The point of the exercise is not to show how much or how little each person does. It's to clearly assign the tasks that must be done. There's never a fight about it. It's just your job. Do it.
There is another benefit too. If you want to be nice to your spouse, you can do one (or more) of their jobs without being asked. My husband and I do this for each other sporadically. And it's really sweet. One of his jobs is to bathe the kids. But because of his job, he is sometimes completely stressed out... I can usually tell before he gets home that he's had "one of those days". When that's the case, I will bathe the kiddos and have them ready for bed. He is appreciative.
I have to say that when your spouse does one of your chores, especially if it was unsolicited help, THANK him/her. It is important to let the other one know that you noticed and you don't take them for granted. I can't tell you how happy I am when Stu surprises me with a clean kitchen.
This isn't going to solve all of your issues. You won't instantly be back to the power couple you were. But, at least for us, having clearly defined roles has alleviated some stress from our marriage. Now our house is happier.
Let's Get Personal
Which one do you think is the biggest elephant in your relationship?
Headed to Divorce: 5 Ways to Get There
In December 2012, Huffington Post published an article: "5 Ways to Destroy Your Marriage". Basically, this is what they say:
- Issues with your in laws. Apparently, if the husband gets along with the wife's parents, the marriage is 20% more likely to last. If the wife gets along with the husband's family, the marriage is 20% more likely to fail.
- Woe is me... Playing the victim all the time is a detrimental move. So, suck it up.
- Inability to handle bad things. It should be no surprise that a person who sweeps issues under the rug is a ticking time-bomb.
- I'm ALWAYS right. ALWAYS. As much as we might like to joke about it, no one is correct all the time.
- Your spouse's needs mean little to nothing. This is a pretty big no-brainer to me. But even though I say that now, this was a big topic of discussion in our counseling sessions.
Tips to Stay Connected
Stu and I have a strong friendship. I think that is the single most important piece for a strong marriage. I thought I'd share with you what we think is the key to our success.
- Talk to each other. He's my best friend. I'm his best friend. We talk once or twice during the work day, and we usually spend about 30-60 mins at night chatting.
- Laugh with each other. Laughter makes life fun. Do it often. Do it together. But notice I said "with" not "at".
- Spend time together without the kids. This is crucial to remembering that the other is a person you are attracted to and someone you love. We don't go out for as many date nights as I'd like, but we have young kids and don't want to spend a lot of time away from them. So Stu and I try to spend time together during the day. Every so often, on one of his days off, I will push aside my work and we will have a day date. It works. Try it if you have flexibility in your work schedule.
I hope some of these help. Marriage is work. This partnership does not go easy. But it's totally worth it.
I'd love to hear your thoughts... I don't consider myself to be an "expert". I'm just a woman who is happily married to her best friend.