Help Your Marriage Weather Any Storm

Reviewed May 31, 2016

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Summary

  • Put your relationship first.
  • Build a two-person team.
  • Set goals and also set up for challenges.
  • Get expert advice.
  • Count your blessings.

Everyone everywhere has a full plate of worries. Even if you have managed to escape serious difficulties in recent years, you probably know someone who has experienced tough times. And, you may be living with the fear that you and your spouse will suffer, too, in time.

Expect hard times, work together

The reality is, bad things happen to all people at some point in their lives, says Scott Haltzman, MD, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at Brown University. Couples can expect the same.

"It's how you react as a couple to deal with those things that counts," he adds. Interestingly, Haltzman sees bad times as great opportunities for couples and families to reconnect with each other, improve their ability to set goals together, help define their values, and grow stronger.

When times are tough, it's especially urgent to invest in important relationships, believe Greg and Priscilla Hunt, who have been married for more than 30 years. They are certified trainers for Marriage Enrichment Inc., a non-denominational, not-for-profit organization that promotes strong marriage through communication skills training.

"By investing in your marriage," Greg says, "you reap the rewards of a deeper sense of connection and intimacy."

One couple’s strategy

The Hunts have helped hundreds of couples strengthen their relationships at training programs all over the United States. One of those couples built a foundation that could withstand many storms, 33 years ago when they married. They promised to try to spend their birthdays and anniversaries alone together, yet leave ample time during the rest of the year for children and their own parents. Each would take responsibility for certain household expenses, yet keep separate bank accounts. They would encourage each other to pursue their own interests. They chose to live frugally, and their pared-down lifestyle has allowed them to get ahead financially, without much stress.

Pointers for couples who want to stay together, especially during hard times

  1. Put your relationship first. You chose the relationship so place it at the top of the list of your most valuable assets.
  2. Make uninterrupted time to spend time together.
  3. Build a two-person team. A marriage is like a well-run family business. It runs best when there is a clear division of skills and labor. Remember, two heads are better than one, especially in tough times. If you build a good team now, you'll be able to handle tough decisions later, knowing the entire burden isn't yours alone.
  4. Communicate early and often, through words and actions. Men and women communicate differently, and don't always understand what the other is saying. Take a course in communication skills or read a book, then practice what you've learned, with your spouse. Cultivate your physical connections as well. Hold hands, touch, give massages, and show your partner you care in every way you can.
  5. Minimize stress. Stress is cumulative, so control the small stresses. Consider taking stress management training as a couple to prepare for obstacles that may lie ahead. Once you know how to meet a challenge head on and get through it, your stress level will go down.
  6. Compromise. When problems arise, work together as a loving unit, not an adversarial one. Repetitive, purposeless arguing gets you nowhere. Look for an equitable compromise to conflicts, one in which each partner gives a little and gets a little. You may never agree on a particular point, but that’s OK. What's healthy is respect for each side of the equation, Ritvo says.
  7. Set reasonable expectations. Radio commentator and author Debbie Mandel advises couples to "make room for a reasonable happiness." What gets in the way, she says, is the fantasy we have that material things will make us happy. Let your partner make you happy.
  8. Set goals and also set up for challenges. Be honest with each other—in a loving way—when you set your goals for the long term. Be proactive and decide now what you will do if one of you loses a job, or if your mortgage payment increases. Develop an action plan based on research and discussion.
  9. Get expert advice. Read, listen to call-in shows with marriage and family experts, or join a reputable marriage training program. Look for courses available through your local school district, nearby colleges, religious organizations or health care provider. Michele Wiener-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, advises couples to seek out solution-based counseling.
  10. Count your blessings. Be thankful for your relationship and for the partner you have chosen to spend your life with. When we’re most critical of a spouse, we're unhappy with ourselves, Mandel notes. Look for the joy and comfort you get out of your marriage, and try to put the negatives on a shelf. Instead of focusing on his sloppiness, remind yourself how great he is with the children. She may always be late, but she's also good at balancing the checkbook.

When you've been through tough times and have come out on the other side, you can be grateful to have that person there for the good times, says Ritvo. It is resiliency, she says, that keeps marriages together, especially when outside forces go against them. 

What not to do

All advisers agree marriage strengthening is hard work, so don't expect to reach your goals in one weekend, or even one marriage-strengthening course. You will learn as you go along, and it may take a lifetime.

Whatever you decide to do, do something! Don't sit back and wait to see if disaster comes your way. If you do, it probably will.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Eva Ritvo, MD, psychiatrist and administrator, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY; Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, author of Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy; Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University, and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and The Secrets of Happily Married Men; Jill Vanderwood, author; James Campbell Quick, PhD, professor, University of Texas-Arlington; Debbie Mandell, author and Livestrong.com stress management expert; Dr. Donna Tonrey, marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia; Greg and Priscilla Hunt, certified trainers, Marriage Enrichment, Inc.

Summary

  • Put your relationship first.
  • Build a two-person team.
  • Set goals and also set up for challenges.
  • Get expert advice.
  • Count your blessings.

Everyone everywhere has a full plate of worries. Even if you have managed to escape serious difficulties in recent years, you probably know someone who has experienced tough times. And, you may be living with the fear that you and your spouse will suffer, too, in time.

Expect hard times, work together

The reality is, bad things happen to all people at some point in their lives, says Scott Haltzman, MD, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at Brown University. Couples can expect the same.

"It's how you react as a couple to deal with those things that counts," he adds. Interestingly, Haltzman sees bad times as great opportunities for couples and families to reconnect with each other, improve their ability to set goals together, help define their values, and grow stronger.

When times are tough, it's especially urgent to invest in important relationships, believe Greg and Priscilla Hunt, who have been married for more than 30 years. They are certified trainers for Marriage Enrichment Inc., a non-denominational, not-for-profit organization that promotes strong marriage through communication skills training.

"By investing in your marriage," Greg says, "you reap the rewards of a deeper sense of connection and intimacy."

One couple’s strategy

The Hunts have helped hundreds of couples strengthen their relationships at training programs all over the United States. One of those couples built a foundation that could withstand many storms, 33 years ago when they married. They promised to try to spend their birthdays and anniversaries alone together, yet leave ample time during the rest of the year for children and their own parents. Each would take responsibility for certain household expenses, yet keep separate bank accounts. They would encourage each other to pursue their own interests. They chose to live frugally, and their pared-down lifestyle has allowed them to get ahead financially, without much stress.

Pointers for couples who want to stay together, especially during hard times

  1. Put your relationship first. You chose the relationship so place it at the top of the list of your most valuable assets.
  2. Make uninterrupted time to spend time together.
  3. Build a two-person team. A marriage is like a well-run family business. It runs best when there is a clear division of skills and labor. Remember, two heads are better than one, especially in tough times. If you build a good team now, you'll be able to handle tough decisions later, knowing the entire burden isn't yours alone.
  4. Communicate early and often, through words and actions. Men and women communicate differently, and don't always understand what the other is saying. Take a course in communication skills or read a book, then practice what you've learned, with your spouse. Cultivate your physical connections as well. Hold hands, touch, give massages, and show your partner you care in every way you can.
  5. Minimize stress. Stress is cumulative, so control the small stresses. Consider taking stress management training as a couple to prepare for obstacles that may lie ahead. Once you know how to meet a challenge head on and get through it, your stress level will go down.
  6. Compromise. When problems arise, work together as a loving unit, not an adversarial one. Repetitive, purposeless arguing gets you nowhere. Look for an equitable compromise to conflicts, one in which each partner gives a little and gets a little. You may never agree on a particular point, but that’s OK. What's healthy is respect for each side of the equation, Ritvo says.
  7. Set reasonable expectations. Radio commentator and author Debbie Mandel advises couples to "make room for a reasonable happiness." What gets in the way, she says, is the fantasy we have that material things will make us happy. Let your partner make you happy.
  8. Set goals and also set up for challenges. Be honest with each other—in a loving way—when you set your goals for the long term. Be proactive and decide now what you will do if one of you loses a job, or if your mortgage payment increases. Develop an action plan based on research and discussion.
  9. Get expert advice. Read, listen to call-in shows with marriage and family experts, or join a reputable marriage training program. Look for courses available through your local school district, nearby colleges, religious organizations or health care provider. Michele Wiener-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, advises couples to seek out solution-based counseling.
  10. Count your blessings. Be thankful for your relationship and for the partner you have chosen to spend your life with. When we’re most critical of a spouse, we're unhappy with ourselves, Mandel notes. Look for the joy and comfort you get out of your marriage, and try to put the negatives on a shelf. Instead of focusing on his sloppiness, remind yourself how great he is with the children. She may always be late, but she's also good at balancing the checkbook.

When you've been through tough times and have come out on the other side, you can be grateful to have that person there for the good times, says Ritvo. It is resiliency, she says, that keeps marriages together, especially when outside forces go against them. 

What not to do

All advisers agree marriage strengthening is hard work, so don't expect to reach your goals in one weekend, or even one marriage-strengthening course. You will learn as you go along, and it may take a lifetime.

Whatever you decide to do, do something! Don't sit back and wait to see if disaster comes your way. If you do, it probably will.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Eva Ritvo, MD, psychiatrist and administrator, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY; Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, author of Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy; Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University, and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and The Secrets of Happily Married Men; Jill Vanderwood, author; James Campbell Quick, PhD, professor, University of Texas-Arlington; Debbie Mandell, author and Livestrong.com stress management expert; Dr. Donna Tonrey, marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia; Greg and Priscilla Hunt, certified trainers, Marriage Enrichment, Inc.

Summary

  • Put your relationship first.
  • Build a two-person team.
  • Set goals and also set up for challenges.
  • Get expert advice.
  • Count your blessings.

Everyone everywhere has a full plate of worries. Even if you have managed to escape serious difficulties in recent years, you probably know someone who has experienced tough times. And, you may be living with the fear that you and your spouse will suffer, too, in time.

Expect hard times, work together

The reality is, bad things happen to all people at some point in their lives, says Scott Haltzman, MD, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at Brown University. Couples can expect the same.

"It's how you react as a couple to deal with those things that counts," he adds. Interestingly, Haltzman sees bad times as great opportunities for couples and families to reconnect with each other, improve their ability to set goals together, help define their values, and grow stronger.

When times are tough, it's especially urgent to invest in important relationships, believe Greg and Priscilla Hunt, who have been married for more than 30 years. They are certified trainers for Marriage Enrichment Inc., a non-denominational, not-for-profit organization that promotes strong marriage through communication skills training.

"By investing in your marriage," Greg says, "you reap the rewards of a deeper sense of connection and intimacy."

One couple’s strategy

The Hunts have helped hundreds of couples strengthen their relationships at training programs all over the United States. One of those couples built a foundation that could withstand many storms, 33 years ago when they married. They promised to try to spend their birthdays and anniversaries alone together, yet leave ample time during the rest of the year for children and their own parents. Each would take responsibility for certain household expenses, yet keep separate bank accounts. They would encourage each other to pursue their own interests. They chose to live frugally, and their pared-down lifestyle has allowed them to get ahead financially, without much stress.

Pointers for couples who want to stay together, especially during hard times

  1. Put your relationship first. You chose the relationship so place it at the top of the list of your most valuable assets.
  2. Make uninterrupted time to spend time together.
  3. Build a two-person team. A marriage is like a well-run family business. It runs best when there is a clear division of skills and labor. Remember, two heads are better than one, especially in tough times. If you build a good team now, you'll be able to handle tough decisions later, knowing the entire burden isn't yours alone.
  4. Communicate early and often, through words and actions. Men and women communicate differently, and don't always understand what the other is saying. Take a course in communication skills or read a book, then practice what you've learned, with your spouse. Cultivate your physical connections as well. Hold hands, touch, give massages, and show your partner you care in every way you can.
  5. Minimize stress. Stress is cumulative, so control the small stresses. Consider taking stress management training as a couple to prepare for obstacles that may lie ahead. Once you know how to meet a challenge head on and get through it, your stress level will go down.
  6. Compromise. When problems arise, work together as a loving unit, not an adversarial one. Repetitive, purposeless arguing gets you nowhere. Look for an equitable compromise to conflicts, one in which each partner gives a little and gets a little. You may never agree on a particular point, but that’s OK. What's healthy is respect for each side of the equation, Ritvo says.
  7. Set reasonable expectations. Radio commentator and author Debbie Mandel advises couples to "make room for a reasonable happiness." What gets in the way, she says, is the fantasy we have that material things will make us happy. Let your partner make you happy.
  8. Set goals and also set up for challenges. Be honest with each other—in a loving way—when you set your goals for the long term. Be proactive and decide now what you will do if one of you loses a job, or if your mortgage payment increases. Develop an action plan based on research and discussion.
  9. Get expert advice. Read, listen to call-in shows with marriage and family experts, or join a reputable marriage training program. Look for courses available through your local school district, nearby colleges, religious organizations or health care provider. Michele Wiener-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, advises couples to seek out solution-based counseling.
  10. Count your blessings. Be thankful for your relationship and for the partner you have chosen to spend your life with. When we’re most critical of a spouse, we're unhappy with ourselves, Mandel notes. Look for the joy and comfort you get out of your marriage, and try to put the negatives on a shelf. Instead of focusing on his sloppiness, remind yourself how great he is with the children. She may always be late, but she's also good at balancing the checkbook.

When you've been through tough times and have come out on the other side, you can be grateful to have that person there for the good times, says Ritvo. It is resiliency, she says, that keeps marriages together, especially when outside forces go against them. 

What not to do

All advisers agree marriage strengthening is hard work, so don't expect to reach your goals in one weekend, or even one marriage-strengthening course. You will learn as you go along, and it may take a lifetime.

Whatever you decide to do, do something! Don't sit back and wait to see if disaster comes your way. If you do, it probably will.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Eva Ritvo, MD, psychiatrist and administrator, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY; Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, author of Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy; Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University, and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and The Secrets of Happily Married Men; Jill Vanderwood, author; James Campbell Quick, PhD, professor, University of Texas-Arlington; Debbie Mandell, author and Livestrong.com stress management expert; Dr. Donna Tonrey, marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia; Greg and Priscilla Hunt, certified trainers, Marriage Enrichment, Inc.

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