It can be tough out there in the land of Marriage.  

Given that men and women are incredible complicated creatures seeking to join together as one, it is not difficult to understand why they can struggle together. Now, this does not mean you and your spouse are doomed to struggle, grapple, scratch, and claw your way to happiness.  Not at all.  But sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it?  

You probably wonder what kind of cruel joke Mother Nature is playing on our species such that husbands and wives are sometimes thought of as coming from two different planets (i.e. Mars & Venus)!  You might wonder, why must my husband (or wife) and I struggle so much just to be content?

The way I look at it, everybody on the planet is uniquely different, with their own particular settings and dialing in what fits with your own personal likes and dislikes is just the natural order of things.

First off, if you have not taken measure of this post, then dig in because it provides you with a lengthy overview of how to strengthen your marriage.

But know this.  You will never find someone who is completely compatible with your version of the ideal Man or Woman.  Relationships and interpersonal connections just don’t work that way. We are not robots or androids that can be specifically programmed to match up ideally with our mate.

When we get married, our view of the future is full of promise.  Our wedding day is embedded in our minds.  I think that is a great thing because as a couple, you want to continually build upon that connection.


Connecting With Your Soul Mate

We have  billions of human beings wandering around mother earth in search of their own brand fulfillment and a huge part of that is finding and connecting with their soulmate.

I rather like that word, “connecting”, when describing relationships between the sexes.  It is quite descriptive because it suggests that men and women are making efforts to draw closer together and most importantly the word “connecting” informs us that their efforts are continuous….that they are always working at becoming a union.

Learn more about how to save your marriage if you feel trouble around the corner.

As a couple, you do not start off as a perfect union, nor will you ever achieve that state of perfection. You should think of your marriage as continuous process of trying to improve that connection between you and your spouse.  The sooner you realize that men and women are never exactly dialed in to fit together with perfect precision, the sooner you will be able to accept your spouse’s imperfections. It turns out that is an important realization.  Those who do not understand this fall victim to the grass is greener syndrome.  I see this all the time.

People get frustrated and fed up, throw up their hands and decide they are going to break it off with their spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. Then they go looking for someone else to spend their life with, only later to realize that the “dream man” or “dream woman” is often just that….a dream.

Now I think there is something else that interesting going on with our use of words today!  Take for example, that most wonderful of relationship phrases, “Soul Mate”.  Did you ever notice it can be spelled two different ways….though it has the same meaning?  There is the version, “soul mate” which consists of two words, “soul” and “mate”.  Then we have the word people also use which is “soulmate”.  In this usage, the meaning is the same, but now both parts of the phrase are connected.  So, what does it all mean??

Perhaps it means that your friendly author of this article is going slightly insane! All of these break ups I deal with has finally taken its toll, right!  Now hold it now….that is not true!  At least, I hope it is not!  Let’s just agree that what we can learn from this little vocabulary lesson is that we are all “souls” seeking to find a “mate”.  This is what evolutionary biologists would say is coded into our DNA. It is one of the driving forces of our behavior here on this lovely planet, right?  It’s to find someone to mate with and by doing so, we advance the species.  Life goes on.

So is that what it’s all about?

I think not.  I like to think that there is something magical about all of us, men and woman, being here…existing in each other’s space.  

We are of the same species, but man and woman are somewhat different in very special ways.  Not just in the obvious physical ways.  But we also have a somewhat different way of responding to certain things emotionally.  The ways in which attraction builds in each of us is largely the same, but there are differences that are not just defined by personality, but also by our sex. We mature at different rates.  We have somewhat different motivations that influence our decision making on matters such as romance, communication, conflict, and others.

So what is the magic that pulls us souls together to mate?  Is it the universal need to propagate the earth?  Well, that is a big part of it.  Biologists can’t be all wrong, right!  But I think there is another powerful force that acts upon us all.  It serves as a connecting force and causes us “souls” to find and bond with our “mate”.  It is the most amazing and mysterious of all forces and it is called LOVE.

So I declare, from this day forward, that when you see the word, “Soulmate”, let it be known that what we have is a fruitful union of two people who have joined together through the force of love.  Let’s not break them up by taking the “soul” away from “mate”.

Surviving Marriage: The Plight of Struggling Couples

It is not easy being a couple and while we enter into the marriage with all the right intentions and full of excitement, invariably the constant challenge of staying connected can get the best of us.  Remember, connecting with your spouse is a continuous process.  Both you and your spouse are entirely different people and to expect that is will be easy to fuse together…..well, it obviously is not.  In addition, over time, both of your are changing in many ways.  It is the natural order of how things unfold.

Somehow, through all of this, the two of you are suppose to stay tightly connected and “live happily ever after”, right?   Yep, that is a pretty tough challenge.  But you do have a powerful force working with you.  The two of your brought it into existence and it exists just for the both of you.  It is  So don’t let this article on Marriage Survival take you down the road of depression.  You are better off understanding the problems and what causes them. This is how you arrive at potential solutions.

So what are the problems between husbands and wives?  What are the things that can pull apart that connection you have worked so hard to make with your husband or wife?  As I explained, loving someone and connecting with them over the long run is a constant process of push and pull.  For some, the challenge can be very arduous.  But knowing and understanding is your key to success.  Only when you understand the nature of the problem(s), can you do something about it.

“Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My

When Dorothy, from “The Wizard of Oz”, was skipping down the Yellow Brick Road, she was quite frightened of the world she found herself in.  Everywhere she turned, there seemed to be danger looming and her problems were mounting. But once she took time to understand and confront them, most of them dissolved away.  The fearful lion turned out to be a cowardly lion.  The frightful scarecrow, was just searching for insight.  And the evil witch, it turned out, could be easily defeated..

That is what we are going to do with this special Guide on marriage survival for struggling couples.  To give you an appreciation of the wide scope of problems that can confront you and your husband or wife, let’s first list all of those relationship issues that rise to the level as being a significant hurdle for you and your spouse to overcome.  What we are doing here is “seeking first to understand”….that is your pathway to solutions.

Now, what I want you to do is conduct an honest appraisal of your marriage.  I would like you to go through the list of key marriage problems that I summarize below and identify any of those that you feel exist in your relationship.  Then I want you to do a simple tally of the problems you checked off.  At the end of my article, I will provide you with a very simple way to evaluate the health of your marriage based on your final tally.

Bear in mind, this is not a validated, proven assessment tool.  But we are not talking rocket science here.  If you recognize that several of these problems described below exist in your marriage, then you have your work cut out for you.

But don’t be intimidated if that is the case.  Every marriage needs some work. And even if you just check off a few, remember, achieving a “fit” and fulfilling marriage is a continuous improvement process.   .

Let’s call it the Marriage Chaos List.

Ok, is that too scary sounding?

If so, then just call it the “What’s the Heck Wrong With our Marriage List”.

What I want you to do is to carefully review this list and identify those issues that apply to your situation.  Be honest, but try not to over analyze.  I think every marriage has ingredients from each of these problems.  Just check off those that you deem to be a clear and present obstacle in your relationship.   

  1. Trying to change your spouse – This is a case in which you come into the marriage knowing full well what your partner is all about including all of their idiosyncrasies and unattractive attributes; but you are determined to shape them into the man or woman of your dreams.  These efforts usually fall flat on there face causing resistance, resentment, and ultimately a lot of conflict.
  2. Lack of effective communications – This is a big one.  Communications is one of my 5 Synergistic Principles of a successful marriage. In the beginning, all the two of you wanted to do is talk and talk and talk.  It was magical and exciting and you just could not get enough of each other it seemed.  You would both spend long, seemingly endless hours talking on the phone or in person.  You probably thought, “wow, we are really connecting on so many levels”. But what happens over time is that the two lovers, who seldom could be pulled apart from each other, slowly settle into some familiar habits and routines.  And for many, this communication groove that they have fallen into seems a bit less exciting, maybe even boring. Now, due to the breakdowns in communications, conflicts and disagreements are occurring with greater frequency and disrupting your lives.     
  3. Money Issues –  One would think that when two people come together and share in the costs of living, that financial stress would be minimized.  But what actually happens is that the synergy surrounding the marriage can cause the couple to begin accumulating more material possessions.  You start off as newlyweds with hardly anything and after awhile you look around and realize that you have lots of stuff, some of it purchased on credit.  Maybe there is a new automobile or possibly you and your spouse have purchased a home. Perhaps you have children and I need not tell you how that can put additional stress on your finances.   As time goes by, this phenomenon of “material possession accumulation” begins to take its toll.  And when you factor in that both of you may have come into the marriage with a different set of ideas about managing finances, it is not difficult to see how all these things can collide and bring about some serious conflict.
  4. Lack of Sexual Intimacy – Most relationship experts agree that if the couple is experiencing problems with either the frequency of sexual relations and/or the level of satisfaction in your sex life, then the marriage is at risk.  Can we conclude that the marriage is at high risk or doomed just because husband and wife are not hooking up enough.  I say No, at least in most cases.  There are a lot of other important moving parts that make up a marriage, so let’s not just throw in the towel quite yet if hubby and wife are struggling in this department.  But this is one area of your relationship that needs to improve if either of you are not satisfied. Indeed, couples that experience a healthy and vibrant sex life are among the most successful when measuring marital bliss.  
  5. Emotional Affairs – It’s one thing when you discover that your spouse has cheated on you.  The very thought that they have slept with someone else is shocking, painful, and the feeling of betrayal is one of the rawest emotions a human can experience.  But what might even hurt more is to discover that your lover actually is not just chasing after sex, but has bonded with another individual on an emotional level.  Emotional affairs can also include, non-sexual affairs in which your spouse is romantically obsessed with another person at work or online.  Whichever the case, this is one of the most serious problems a marriage can face.
  6. Unwillingness to Forgive – The one thing we can always count on is that during the course of our marriages, both husband and wife will say or do something and things will get all screwed up.  Perhaps what happened was an accident or possibly the individual knew full well what they were doing.  Whatever happened, just know that we all make mistakes.  And one of the biggest mistakes we can make….the mother of all mistakes…is not to forgive the person we love who committed the mistake.  I realize, sometimes the nature and severity of the offense can make it very difficult to forgive.  And since we are talking somewhat in generalities, it is hard to analyze exactly what course of action is appropriate for every given offense.  But know, that at the end of whatever process you and your spouse end up going through to reconcile, true and heartfelt forgiveness has to close the curtain.  It is when we get petty and mean spirited, withholding forgiveness and constantly reminding the person of their mistake(s)…it is this type of behavior that suck the energy and spirit out of a marriage.  If forgiveness is not occurring in your marriage, then your relationship is dysfunctional.
  7. Lack of  Positivity/Appreciation – There is probably no better lightening rod for measuring a dysfunctional and unhappy marriage than evaluating whether it is plagued with negativity and a disregard for showing kindness and appreciation to your spouse.  If I had a magic wand and could grant every couple in the land one wish, I would declare that all married couples be given the fullest dose of behaving with kindness and appreciation.  That is how important I believe this type of behavior truly is in our lives.  Appreciation is a form of Kindness/Positivity which is the cornerstone of my 5 Synergistic Marriage model . And it’s not just me who thinks this way.  Social scientists have studied the most successful marriages that have lasted decades and it is acting with positivity and kindness that wins in the end.
  8. Lack of Quality Time Together – Since we are on the subject of the 5 Synergistic Principles for a successful marriage, why not touch on another.  When we are newly married or seriously dating, spending quality alone time seldom seems a problem.  We owe a big assist to all of those love chemicals rampaging through our brains.  Eventually, the buzz of romance begins to wear thin and unfortunately, the inertia of life makes prisoners of us all….taking away that special quality time we use to frequently spend with our spouse.  The reason this element of your relationship is so important is because without time “alone” with your husband (or wife),  you are unable to bond, communicate, have sex, discuss problems, and simply just relax with someone you feel safe and happy with.
  9. Division of Household Duties – It is surprising sometimes the things that can stir up fuss.  I think every couple will struggle to some degree in this department.  Depending on the personalities involved, resentments and frustrations can accumulate over time and eventually spill out.  From a logical perspective, it should not be very difficult for a couple to divide up the duties and just get it done.  But how often do men and women act exclusively in the world of logic! My experience is that more often than not, conflict over the household chores is more of a symptom of a larger problem.  What you have to discover, in order to arrive at a solution, is determine what is causing so much conflict over this topic.  Is somebody a clean freak or a slob?  Does your spouse think you are incredibly lazy because you did not do your household chores on a particular day?  That is probably not the whole story.  There is usually an underlying cause for the blow up over the household duties.
  10. Unwillingness to Have Kids – This issue can evolve into a serious marital problem if not resolved expeditiously.  What we have here are multiple issues colliding and this can create a very volatile cocktail of emotions.  Coming into the marriage, there may have been an understanding on the topic of having children.  If later it turns out that one of the marriage partners backs away from their commitment, things can turn sour fast.
  11. Differences in Parenting Strategies –  I once met a couple who love each other very much.  They connected on so many different levels and I have little doubt their marriage will be sound for many years to come. But one of the problems they discussed with me was their conflicts over how to discipline their children.  The husband was reared in a family where clear lines of authority had to be established and reinforced.  This meant rules needed to be enforced and there were no grey areas.  If someone violated a rule of the house or exhibited troubling behavior, there would be clear and immediate punishment.  This often was in the form of a whipping.  On the other hand, the wife grew up in a much less strict household and the use of positive reinforcement, patience, and timeouts was more the rule.  This difference in how to administer punishment to the kids was a constant sore spot, sometimes rising to fights over how to discipline the children.  Clearly, there was serious issues of anger and resentment from the wife.  This is what brought them to me as they sought out some coaching advice on how to deal with both problems (i.e. how to discipline their kids and how to deal with the the hole this was causing in their marriage).
  12. Conflict over the In-Laws – It’s funny, but when I mention to people how they get along with their “in-laws”, I very often get this big smile, followed by what sounds like a practiced answer.  When I probe further, the truth comes pouring out.  More often than not, at least one set of in-laws are described in such a way that I immediately think of all those movies in which the in-laws are horrible, perhaps even a little bit crazy.  I tend to look at things a little bit differently than most other relationship coaches. Ok, so what if you have some in-laws that are difficult to connect with?!  You are not married to them.  Indeed, the way I look at this whole issue is to put some “math” to the problem.  What does that mean?  Well, it’s like this.  You have two sets of in-laws, right?  So that is 4 people right there.  In most cases your in-laws will have children, right?  And there might be a grandfather or grandmother in the mix and even a favorite uncle or two.  So now we are dealing with maybe 8 or 10 people that make up the in-law family group.  So ask yourself, what are the odds that you will get along with, let’s say 10 people you met for the first time?  I would say the odds are very low.  So lower your expectations.  Don’t expect your in-laws will be your favorite people, but know that the odds are usually stacked in your favor because most in-laws will open up their hearts to you so as to please their daughter or son.
  13. Boredom – If you list this as one of the key problem areas of your marriage, then guess what, “so have millions of others”.  We all get bored at some time with those we love most.  For some, their degree of boredom can be a barrier to a fit and healthy marriage. When things get boring, be careful where you point the finger.  We are all guilty of contributing to the problem of boredom in relationships.  Yep, that is right; and we all need to up our game in making our relationships more interesting and engaging.  The main reason for relationships becoming dull is that boredom is like a cancer.  It attaches itself to all marriages and slowly whittles away.  Expect it, but don’t embrace it. When a client and I are talking and they start telling me how bored they are with their spouse, complaining that he (or she) offers little in the way of excitement; I always turn the question around and ask the individual to write down 10 things they have done to create excitement in the marriage.  You see, boredom is a product of two people and what they choose to do or not do.  A boring marriage can never be entirely blamed on just one person. It takes both people to address the problem.
  14. Neglecting Your Partner –  This is a big, big problem for relationships.  When I see “neglect” operating full force within a marriage, then I am seeing what I call the “Marriage Black Hole Effect”  Once neglect sets in, such as ignoring your spouse, becoming a workaholic, or succumbing to addictive behaviors, then the relationship can swiftly break apart.  Ignoring your wife’s (or husband’s) needs is a destructive pattern of behavior.  Think of a relationship as a black hole.  Imagine that you are caught up along the event horizon which is whirling around this giant black monstrosity.  The more often you are neglectful, the faster you swirl and the closer you come to taking the plunge.  And once you fall into the relationship black hole, you get stretched and torn apart.  This is what neglect looks like over time.  It utterly destroys marriages.
  15. Depriving Your Partner – Do you enjoy the highest levels of marital bliss?  Well, if so, it is very likely you and your honey are scoring high in this category. When couples are sensitive to their  partner’s needs, taking time from their own agenda to be attentive to their spouse, then mark that down as marriage job well done.  So what does relationship deprivation look like?  Imagine heavy doses of affection, caring and loving behavior….well it would be the opposite of these behaviors.  One of the 5 Principles of Highly Effective Couples that I covered in the huge guide I wrote for this website (i.e. “How To Save Your Troubled Marriage”) describes in great detail the principle, “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself”.  In order to achieve this objective, your spouse has to support and encourage you to realize your personal goal.  Without their support, you will not realize your personal goals and resentments will form.  If the marriage partner withholds their blessings and deprive you of your personal needs, both you and the marriage will suffer.  
  16. Attacking and Criticizing Your Partner – Negativity rains down on us from all sorts of places.  So when you are receiving wave after wave of criticism from your wife or husband, the feeling of being pushed down can weigh on you.  In successful marriages, the partners lift each other up. Playing the blame game will just slowly rip you away from each other.  Remember, a relationship is like a bank.  The more deposits of positivity you both can make to it, the greater the security and capital you build in your marriage account.  If a couple spends too much of their time carving up each other with nagging and nitpicking behavior,  it will negatively weigh on the marriage and empty the emotional bank account.  If you feel compelled to say something negative to your spouse, stop and think about what you wish to say.  Find a softer, more positive way of communicating.  Think about how you would feel if someone directed the same words to you.  This approach works for some, but unfortunately when I coach couples about some of their negative communication tendencies, one or both may not even realize that what they are saying could be perceived in a negative way.  It is as if they have blinders on regarding what qualifies as blaming or fussy remarks.  When I explore their behavior in more detail, the individual will sometimes hide behind the pretense of, “I was just being honest” or “I was just kidding” and the ever so popular, “Sorry, but I was just in a bad mood”.  Your relationship bank account only keeps track of the positive deposits and negative withdrawals.  It does not care about feeble excuses.  But it will reward the couple with higher interest if the balance of their emotional bank account grows.
  17. Personal Annoying Habits – We all have them, right?  We all can say and do things that can be annoying and upset the positive vibes.  What causes certain personal habits to bother people can be complicated.  Your challenge as a couple is to discuss those things that your significant other finds bothersome and learn to curtail it.  Now, how difficult is that?  Well, it seems it is pretty darn hard for many because this issue comes up a lot.  It seems that we all have personal habits that can nearly drive our mate crazy. But often we wait for our spouse to bring it up and by then it’s too late.  The trick is to initiate the conversation yourself.  Ask your husband or wife, what things you do that causes them to feel annoyed.  This is one of those big grown up conversations and quite frankly, I really do understand why it is hard to carry out.  Seldom do we invite our spouse to tell us something that will probably hurt our feelings a bit.  But the alternative is to ignore discussing such issues and hope these annoying habits will just go away.  That course of action will assuredly result in some kind of blow up.  Annoying habits rarely just vanish.  Have you ever heard the sound of chalk screeching on a blackboard?  Do your remember how it made you cringe and want to just run away from the sound?  This is how your spouse probably feels about some of the things you do.  Most likely, you are not even aware of what you are doing. It is better to just get things out in the open..  Annoying habits  have a way of just being mostly ignored, meanwhile our hidden intolerance for them accumulates and finally something sets it off and everything explodes. If you wish to avoid the relationship big bang, then be proactive and be first.  Ask your partner to be honest and tell you what you do that annoys them.  Then flip it around and you tell your partner what you find annoying. But stick with the “high hard ones” which means don’t bring up petty stuff.  If handled this way, you are making deposits into your marital bank account that will pay off in the long run.
  18. Controlling Your Partner – This problem in marriages can have devastating results. I think to some degree we all seek to control things around us. It seems everywhere we turn, we are faced with uncertainty.  This can create anxiousness and insecurity.  So naturally, we develop these coping strategies to attempt to govern our environment and influence the future.  Unfortunately, trying to exert control of your potential destinies, large and small, is a slippery slope.  I am reminded of the story of the little boy who attempted to stop a dyke from leaking by placing his finger in a hole to stop the leak.  But imagine if another leak sprung, so another finger was used; then another leak and another, and another.  Controlling behaviors operate in the same fashion.  Somebody is trying to stop things from happening or influence things in a certain way, but it is utterly impossible to completely succeed. Our personalities in how we cope with the uncertainties of life vary.  Have you ever met those individuals who are just really, “chill”.  Not much bothers them and they tend not to try to overly exert their preferences on others.  Then we have others who feel like they have to be in charge of everything.  When they are not, they feel somewhat helpless and vulnerable.   Show me someone who is very controlling and I will show you a person that has internal fears outside the norm, that is anxious far too much, and possibly a person with some unusual insecurities or obsessive tendencies.  I think we all fit that picture to some degree, but a problem arises when certain people exhibit a high degree of these behaviors. Hence, the control freak is born.  And when this type of person starts acting out their controlling behavior in a marriage, it can be either suffocating and/or explosive, depending on how the significant other responds to the controlling behavior.  I consider this one of the more serious of marital problems because it touches on deep personal and psychological factors.  So it is not possible to wave a hand and make this person’s controlling behavior easily dissappear.  It takes longer to work through this type of problem and it starts with discussing and understanding the nature of what causes a person to behave in this manner.  Then you move toward strategies to help this person manage and arrest this behavior.
  19. Putting Yourself First – There is a leak in your marriage that needs to be fixed.  So you call the relationship plumber.  When this individual arrives they take a look at what is causing some of the misfortunes of the relationship, then sits you both down and with a stern gaze tell each of you that the relationship has sprung a leak in a very vital area.  He tells you that there is a hole in the marriage and it is growing faster and the leak is in your emotional relationship bank account.  He goes on to tell you that if this leak is not sealed, some of the love and trust you have built up will escape.  Selfishness is the cause of the leak, he tell you both, and if you don’t stop acting in a self centered way, the entire plumbing will have to be replaced.   Putting yourself first, frequently ahead of your spouse, is the type of selfish behavior that acts as a corrosive agent.  I am a big fan of each individual within a relationship, seeking to realize their potential.  But if it is at the expense of the spouse, that type of selfishness with grate on even the strongest of marriages.
  20. Not Listening to Your Spouse – Do you ever get the feeling that your better half is just going through the motions of pretending they are listening to you?  Or worse, do they just outright ignore you when you speak or fail to show much if any empathy?  Look, we all have concerns that are weighing on us and having a spouse you trust that is willing to simply listen and offer support is a huge communication boost.  If this is missing in your relationship, then those feelings of feeling “close” and “connected” to your spouse will suffer.  Demonstrating love is many things, of which one is simply being willing to sit quietly and lend an ear.  The magic of this type of communication wisdom is that you don’t even need to come up with a solution.  Often, the person pouring out their heart, already knows what they should or should not do.  What they are looking for is a means to offload some of the frustration or disappointment they may be feeling.  By just quietly shouldering their pain by actively listening can be a powerful way of demonstrating your love and support.  I often have clients who tell me that their spouse should already know that “I love them” and support whatever they are going through.  My response to them is that loving support demonstrated through active listening is like a “commodity”.  You need to keep, as often as needed, refueling their tank.  It is not that your spouse doesn’t appreciate that you take the time to listen…they do and trust me…you are slowly making deposits in the love bank.  But we humans are vulnerable creatures and often need reassurance. Show me a good listener and I will show you an individual with a foundation for a very successful marriage.

How Does Your Marriage Fare?

Nobody’s marriage is without problems.  I have listed 20 of the top problems confronting couples.  Each one of these problems, depending on the severity, can cause weakness in the relationship.  There are a few of these problems that are more troubling if they persist.  

Is this a complete list of all issues that can bring down a marriage?  

I think you know the answer.  It is impossible to account for every unique problem that creates dysfunction.  I left a few off such as a spouse’s friends and health issues as there is considerable information available about these problems and while they occur, they are not among the leading causes of a marital split, although both can lead to issues.

So it’s now time to rate yourself.  Go back through the list I provided and honestly ask yourself if you and your spouse are experiencing the “problem” at such a level that it is very noticeable and has created conflict, damage, or injury to your marriage.

Remember, we are talking about finding a distinction between what falls within a normal range of behavior and occurrence versus a frequent, repetitious behavior that hinders the bond between the two of you.  So with that assessment scale in mind, simply tally how many of these problems you feel exist within your relationship.

Use the Assessment Guide below to help you with evaluating the condition of your marriage.  I do have one caveat I wish to add.  If your relationship is having serious issues with at least two or more of Numbers 2, 5, 7, 8, 14 or 16, then all “bets are off” regarding the usefulness of the Assessment Guide.  Each of these problems I just referenced are what I consider essential to resolve.  If you fall prey to any of those specific problems, it does not necessarily mean your marriage is on the rocks. But you and your spouse need to get very serious at addressing the problem(s).   

Marriage Assessment Guide

3 or Less –  Congratulations, it appears you have a strong marriage. Like most couples you have some room for improvement, but the two of you are bonding well and doing a lot of things correctly to strengthen the union.

4 to 5 – Depending on the specific problem factors you checked off, your marriage is probably on a reasonably solid foundation.  You have some work to do and you have taken the first step by becoming more aware of the opportunity areas.

6 to 7 – Things are probably somewhat topsy turvy in this couple’s marital relations.  It’s probably time to seek self help or professional assistance to right the ship. You may be on the verge of crisis or have already been close to meltdown a few times.

8 or more –  This relationship is most likely the picture of dysfunction.  While it is not time to give up, it is clear from the number of key problems being experienced, immediate and professional help is most likely needed.  Now there is another possibility.  I call it “rater error”.  Now don’t get mad at me, but it is possible that your standard in judging your marriage against these problem categories is high.  So it may be that your relationship is not quite as bad as you think. As I have said before, one has to be careful in drawing definitive conclusions from assessment tools.

The Synergistic Marriage Model

It can be a confusing time when you and your spouse are struggling with your marriage.  Being realistic about your problems and acknowledging that you both have to work hard to bring about change in a dysfunctional relationship are your first two critical steps.

You would be surprised at the number of people I have coached that cannot even describe the extent of their problems.  Like a tree in a forest, they are unable to see the big picture of the key causes of their problems, never mind working on resolving them.

You sometimes need to step away so you have the benefit of perspective.  Even an exercise such as the one in this article, can be a huge and important step in identifying the problems.  My experience is that many couples muddle their way through their marriage, failing to take stock of the health of the Marriage Bank.  It can be eye opening when you complete an assessment of the health of your relationship. And once the findings are known, just having that information can be a springboard to taking action to correct the problems.

But where does one start? In many cases, the typical marriage will usually suffer from multiple problems.  That is why I developed what I call the 5 Synergistic Marriage Principles.  They consist of:

  1. Spending Time Together Alone
  2. Making Positivity & Kindness Your Marriage Brand
  3. Achieving Communications that are both Balanced and Transformative
  4. Seeking Your Individual Potential
  5. Frequently Revitalize Your Relationship

It is not practical to try and resolve a web of marital problems without having some kind of template that addresses the most meaningful things that impact a relationship.  If you are looking to gain the most benefit in the most efficient way, then put your focus on excelling with each of the 5 Synergistic Principles.  To learn a great deal more about the merits of this approach, you can read all about it at:

In closing, this brings me to my last point.  I would like to hear from you.  Below, you will see there is a comment section that allows you to offer up your “story”. Let me know what kind of problems you may be encountering in your relationship.  Ask me any question.  I look forward to potentially helping you with whatever issues you and your spouse may be struggling with.

How likely is your marriage to succeed?

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One response to “Marriage Survival For Struggling Couples

  1. Hello there!
    I’ve been reading several of your advice columns and guides. My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years and have been together for over 20 (High School Sweethearts). Our marriage hasn’t been without it’s troubles for sure. There has been a big lack of good communication and respect. I’d dare say I have a couple narcistic qualities that I am working hard on overcoming, part of my growth mindset. We have been growing further and further apart, gradually as you’ve pointed out in other articles. However, a couple months ago she informed me she wanted a divorce and had been talking with someone else and started developing feelings for them. This person I had thought was just a good friend and was actually a family friend. To make matters worse, he is also married and told his wife about the situation and she has completely lost her sense of logic and dragged her kids and ours into the mess. To put even more icing on the cake, we are currently renting their second home until ours is built, and living on their land. So, we see them almost everyday.

    I had noticed certain behaviors over time that I just pushed aside, again our communication has been lacking. She stated that over time she has slowly been falling out of love with me, but wasn’t sure how to communicate that with me. So, basically time went on and our issues were never worked on. Right now she says she is in love with this other person. We are trying to build solid foundations for our marriage moving forward. But, you are right the hurt I feel does build up when trying to follow your synergistic model. We try to communicate our emotions better now, and use strategies moving forward. We do still have arguments and they stem a lot from the hurt I feel from her emotional affair. I tell her it isn’t really love she is feeling it’s Limerence and that eventually the Halo effect will fade and the longer consequences the situation has caused would never allow for a happy ending.

    So long story short, we have had several of those chaos list parts. But, I am not only working on our marriage, but working on myself as well to find better self awareness and care.