I realize that when I fully commit to anything in life, it will not necessarily be easy-peasy, but should my marriage be this hard?
Successful marriages and long-term commitments require action from both partners, and sometimes it seems like work. Should it feel like a full-time stressful job? No. But when elements of the relationship are out of alignment, it can take time and dedicated synergy to break through and resolve the cycle.
Why Some Marriages are Difficult
When we feel like our daily life is tough, we typically start going through a mental checklist. What can I change, what can I remove, and what needs to happen? But, when it feels like our marriage is hard, there is much more involved. We feel a mix of deep emotions as we attempt to counterbalance our commitment. This combination can be extremely difficult to sift through.
There are literally endless reasons why a marriage or a long-term relationship can feel difficult, for example, poor conflict navigation, lack of work/life balance, infidelity, and waning intimacy. Studies indicate that stressful life transitions, such as having children, moving to a different home, job loss or change, and major illness or injury, can lead to a decline in how partners feel about their relationship, and this can make maintaining a relationship feel much harder.
Ways to Help Your Relationship Feel Less Difficult
Marriage Check-In and Tune-Up
The good news is that sometimes all that it takes to get a relationship on track is to bring it back to the basics by setting time aside for a marriage check-in. This allows time for you to talk about your relationship, ensure that you are both getting what you need, and recognize the parts of your relationship that might need a tune-up.
Learn more about checking in with each other: Episode 9: The Importance of a Marriage Tune-Up
Intimacy and Friendship
Intimacy is described as a familiarity or friendship that is close. In a qualitative study of individuals with great marriages, participants offered insight into their marriage preparation, personal qualities, and experiences that helped them obtain a strong relationship and intimacy. Temperament was reported as the top quality that led the participants to have a close relationship. Temperament is described as the way an individual interacts with others, as well as their personality and overall disposition. Good temperament bolsters friendship, happiness, and partners that are considered fun to be with. These characteristics add to admiration and respect and contribute to a more committed relationship, which helps partners to feel comfortable around each other and build intimacy.
Intimacy creates a deep sense of security within your relationship. It allows you to be wholly yourself, without feeling as if you’re putting the relationship at risk by doing so. Lack of intimacy can lead to partners feeling as if they are walking on eggshells (i.e., feeling that the relationship is ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’). Intimacy is strengthened by spending quality time together, being emotionally available, creating and enjoying routines, breaking routines, having fun together, and appreciating the small things.
Learn more about how to create intimacy: 10 Ways to Create Intimacy that Aren’t Just Sexual
In the same study, communication is also listed as a significant part of conflict resolution, as well as a strong contributing factor in developing deep friendships and marital satisfaction. Open communication supports the ability to problem solve and it is foundational in creating intimacy.
A recent compilation published by Forbes Health Advisory Board reports that good communication skills include:
- Paying attention and listening to your partner when they speak
- Listening to understand vs. listening to respond
- Validating your partner’s feelings and thoughts (acknowledge and repeat back what they have said)
- Ask questions
- Have empathy and understanding, even when you do not agree or see things in a different light
- Respond with respect – with a peaceful tone, using non-accusatory language
Five Elements that Can Help Your Relationship Feel Less ‘Hard’
When the core five elements of a healthy relationship are in alignment, relationships typically feel less difficult.
Learn more about these five elements – open communication, equal power, having your own lives outside of the relationship, trust and honesty, and resolving conflict respectfully – by reading the blog post Five Elements of a Healthy Relationship.
Do You Need Help with Getting Your Marriage on Track?
The old saying is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Sometimes, what we don’t know is invisible to us, and reaching out for help can make all the difference and shore up areas of weakness, improve communication, and navigate challenging journeys.
By doing the work together, you and your partner will gain the skills and education to:
- Develop a deeper connection
- Nurture, soothe and help each other
- Recognize dysfunction, and learn to fight fair
- Heal your relationship quickly when things get off track