No relationship is perfect — even the happiest couples have problems.
The secret is knowing how to deal with your issues before they ruin your marriage and your sanity.
By Regina Boyle Wheeler
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
Sometimes it’s the little things your husband does (or doesn’t do) that can really drive you crazy. Perhaps he’s constantly late. Or maybe he refuses to help around the house. Whatever the problem, addressing it sooner rather than later is crucial to both the health of your relationship and your sanity.
So how do you get your man to stop his irritating behavior? Success will depend on how you communicate your grievances, says Joan Sherman, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Lancaster, Pa.
Communication issues can contribute to misunderstandings or make frustrating behavior from your mate even worse. Changing your approach could make all the difference. Positive, constructive communication is essential to making sure marriage troubles don’t turn into a troubled marriage, Sherman says.
Instead of approaching an issue with a tone of conflict, use a tone of cooperation, she advises. Say something like, “I really need your help with this problem I’m having.” Your spouse will probably be less defensive and more apt to listen if you’re asking for help rather than making accusations.
Relationship Help for Common Problems
Here are some common marriage issues, plus tips for how to deal with them:
He doesn’t help around the house. You’ve been working all day and have finally finished shuttling the kids to their activities, and you’re beat. When you walk in the door, the house is a disaster. But there he is, sitting on the couch and watching ESPN — again. Sherman says this is a big problem for wives.
Her advice: Try to understand why he’s not helping. Perhaps he was never taught how to clean or wasn’t encouraged to do so. In many cultures, she adds, housework by men is frowned upon. Once you’ve figured out the reason for his behavior, approach the problem as a team to come up with a solution or compromise.
He picks fights over small things. “This means he must be upset about something,” Sherman says. Perhaps he’s stressed out because of work or feels he’s not getting enough sex. Having a calm discussion may help you both figure out what’s upsetting him and what he needs to feel better.
He spends too much or too little. “First, don’t talk about money when you’re angry,” Sherman advises. “When defenses are up, it’s hard to talk. Instead of listening, you’re constantly thinking, ‘What am I going to say next?’” When tempers simmer down, talk about your financial goals with your partner and make a plan you can both stick with — for example, setting up one account for savings and two separate accounts for spending.
He’s constantly late. Putting up with a partner who’s always making you wait is frustrating. But Sherman says the first step in solving this marriage problem is finding out why he’s always late. “Perhaps he’s not planning his time well, or he’s scattered and can’t arrange his life in an appropriate way,” she observes. Once you figure out the “why,” the “how can we fix this” will be a lot easier.
He doesn’t understand me. Sherman notes that the pressures of work and family can make it easy to feel like you’ve lost a connection to your mate. She suggests you take 10 minutes every day to tell each other what’s going on in your individual lives. But keep your expectations realistic. “Maybe he doesn’t have to understand everything about you,” she says. Remember that you might not understand your husband’s obsession with football or golf, either.
When to Seek Professional Relationship Help to Save a Troubled Marriage
It’s important to not look at these marriage problems as a “comment on the relationship,” Sherman says. Just because he doesn’t help around the house doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t love you anymore. However, if you’ve tried several times (in a positive manner) to talk about these issues, and your husband blows you off without making any changes in his behavior, that’s a red flag, she says. It might be time to consider professional relationship help.
And if you can’t decide whether to call a divorce lawyer or a therapist, you’ve probably waited too long. “If you still love each other, do whatever you can to save the marriage,” Sherman says.