Stronger Marriages are Not Just a Matter of Chance

Israel Helfand, Ph.D., Cathie W. Helfand, M.S.

Helfand, M.S.

Finding comfort and security, dealing with the issues, and increasing the rewards of marriage is an art requiring specific skills. To very few people this ability comes naturally. Most of us need to learn how to do it. Frankly, our culture prepares us poorly for our various roles of spouse, parent, lover, etc. As a result, we frequently have difficulty communicating, loving, sharing, or making a decision.

All couples have disagreements at one time or another, but certain problems are more likely than others to put a serious strain on or even break up a marriage. After years of experience and learning from the couples and families we have worked with, we have found that it is not always the differences between couples that are important but “how they handle” those differences. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. However, surviving in a divorce-prone society such as ours requires a profound ability to amicably solve day-to-day disagreements. Following is a graph depicting the major areas and percentages of disagreements that break up marriages. Often other areas of marital distress, such as infidelity, violence, money, incest, religion, etc., can fit under one of the headings below. What areas can you best relate to?

Like that car you’ve been meaning to tune up or change the oil, couples all too often forget that their relationship needs maintenance or it will break down. It’s all too easy to ignore the common warning signs or consciously realize that if you want a smooth-running marriage, you are going to have to deal with the consequences of your avoidance and procrastination. Some say that problems don’t change unless tended to, but they are wrong. They do change … they get worse!