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Keeping Your Marriage Strong Through Life's Critical Moments

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

When a couple chooses to marry, they bring together two families, backgrounds, sets of traditions, and different ways of coping with life.

When a couple chooses to marry, they bring together two families, backgrounds, sets of traditions, and different ways of coping with life.

"Most couples don't make it through this kind of stress, you realize that don't you?" the attorney said. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. Although the car accident had left my body unstable, we had not considered the impact that it had on our relationship. We were more concerned with the fact that the insurance company was refusing to pay the ongoing cost of treatment than that we were both physically exhausted. Crises were not new to us. We had dealt with them before, but we had never considered it a reason to call it quits.

With the divorce rate hovering at around 50%, there seem to be more reasons to end marriage than to stay married. Whether it is disagreement over finances and career changes, or infidelity and financial woes, more people are choosing to end rather than save their marriages. The most recent US Census shows the number of children born to single mothers is now higher than the number born to married couples. This trend is alarming, however, given our societal emphasis on freedom and individual independence, it is no surprise.

Perhaps marriage has been somewhat idealized by the fictional world of "happily ever after," or perhaps people don't really understand what marriage is all about. It is not meant to be a campground of endless bliss, rather it is the basis of the most fundamental unit of our society: the family. The family is the greatest schoolhouse on the face of the earth. There is no substitute for it, nor can it be abandoned without significant consequences.

There are several important decisions couples make when they marry that impact their ability to remain together, and when reiterated throughout marriage, enable them to be strong in the midst of life's critical moments.

Once children are born to the couple, the complexity of challenges faced increases exponentially.

Once children are born to the couple, the complexity of challenges faced increases exponentially.

Trading "You and I" for "We"

When a couple decides that they are ready to marry, one of the first choices they make is to trade their personal agendas for one that focuses on them as a single unit. The commitment required for this type of transition is solidified by the legal contract of marriage. They are now recognized as a family unit as far as society is concerned. From that point on, they are financially and socially responsible for one another and the children born to them.

As always, life happens, and circumstances change our points of view. Each decision made by the couple individually or together either strengthen or weaken the family unit, depending on the priority placed on individual desires versus the needs of the family. There is a delicate balance that must be respected and understood by both marriage partners. Each has their personal needs, and putting these on hold can lead to resentment. At the same time, the family is high priority, and cannot be set aside without affecting all.

It is at these critical moments, that the couple's choice to turn to one another for support and strength increases their committment to the marriage and the family. They may have to forego some things temporarily, both individually and together, to keep the family unit functioning effectively. As they do this, they strengthen their bonds with each other, and the solidarity of the family. Challenges are minimized as they draw strength from their united efforts and sacrifice.

As children grow to adulthood and leave the home environment, this changes the dynamics of the marriage and family.

As children grow to adulthood and leave the home environment, this changes the dynamics of the marriage and family.

Taking Transitions in Stride

Life is all about change, and marriage is no exception. Transitions occur frequently, whether adding or subtracting family members, taking on new career responsibilities, or moving from one place to another. Throughout all of these changes, adjustments are necessary in the way we think, the feelings we experience, the actions we perform, and the beliefs we hold dear.

Transitions may be planned and prepared for well in advance; namely, babies are born, marriages occur, and people get old and die. Other times, they are thrust upon us through no fault or action of our own. Accidents happen, natural disasters occur, and people do things that we have no control over. The resulting changes are not easy, although they are a vital part of our growth and development as individuals and families.

Having the courage to turn to friends, extended family, and diety during transitions gives a couple support and strength, encouragement, and inspiration. Regular contact with those outside the marriage is necessary for mentorship and learning opportunities. A couple must be careful with those they choose to associate, however. Staying away from entities who breed selfishness and competition against each other will increase the chances of the marriage remaining solid.

As the couple returns to their status of being only two, it is necessary to rekindle the romance.

As the couple returns to their status of being only two, it is necessary to rekindle the romance.

Dealing with Conflict

Any time there are two people in one room, there are differences of opinion that can result in conflict. We experience life according to our individual personalities, family backgrounds, cultures, and education. Even then, people in the same family have differing perceptions of situations that they experience simultaneously.

When couples are courting, conflict is minimized purposefully. We want to be at our best and get to know the other person. We keep our weaknesses and imperfections hidden to give love a chance to grow and flourish. Time spent together is usually in activities of our choice that are highly desirable and enjoyable.

The more types of circumstances we experience together, the greater the opportunity to see our potential spouse in difficult or stressful situations. Even then, because we can walk away from the situation, we do not truly "know" how the other person will be once marriage occurs. Some people reason that this is the purpose of cohabitation, to give the couple a chance to see if they can "make it" together. Unfortunately, the lack of long-term committment still makes the relationship potentially vulnerable.

Conflict is guaranteed. It will happen. The way we deal with it affects our feelings for one another, and thus, the marriage relationship. John Gottman, in his book "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail" speaks of communication in marriage. He indicates that every couple develops their own style of dealing with conflict by the way that they communicate with each other. This style may inhibit the relationship, or it will build it, depending upon how it is used, when, and why.

Couples who are able to resolve conflict by communicating with one another are more likely to strengthen their marriage as they work through their differences and difficulties. Couples who turn to activities outside of their marriage, especially if these activities include the use of drugs and alcohol, are weakening the marriage bond. Hobbies, sports, and entertainment have their place in making life enjoyable, but when they become an escape from our problems, we are on dangerous ground.

Since human beings change over time, marriage also changes. During it all, however, as couples remember the decisions that brought them together in the first place: trading "You and I" for "We," taking transitions in stride, and dealing with conflict, they will be in a position to keep their love strong and their relationship intact through life's most critical moments.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Denise W Anderson

Comments

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on July 17, 2020:

It takes effort on the part of both husband and wife to resolve issues in marriage. We each have our own backgrounds, points of view, and personality quirks. When we look for the good and allow others the respect of listening to their point of view, we can get past these differences and find common ground on which to build. I am glad that you were able to resolve the issues and bring your marriage back together. I appreciate your comments.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 10, 2020:

Greatt hub. I had been through a bad patch with my hubby for years until my teen daughter stepped in.

Our marriage had turned better after we agreed to trash out our differences in views and decided to change.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 25, 2013:

I appreciate you reading and commenting, Bradley. I'm glad that it was helpful to you.

Bradley Shea from Welland Ontario on December 22, 2013:

I really enjoyed this hub. Thank you for your insight Denise.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on October 12, 2013:

Thanks for you encouraging words, mathira. In this day and age, many are loosing faith in marriage because they do not know what to do when things are difficult. My husband and I have weathered many a crisis, and it has made us stronger and more supportive of one another. Couples who choose to stay together and work it out have an added dimension of closeness that doesn't come in any other way.

mathira from chennai on October 11, 2013:

denise, your concept of marriage is really worth following. It is always easy to be good to one another when the going is easy, but the real test comes when problems peep into your life. It is when you stay together in your crisis can you call your marriage meaningful and happy. Excellent and thought provoking hub.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 05, 2012:

Thanks, MsDora, for capsulizing the message of my article. We can elevate our marriage higher and allow it to carry us through the difficult times rather than allowing them to separate us.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 05, 2012:

Thanks, Eliza, for your comments. Marriage is sometimes difficult, but at the same time, it is the most wonderful institution available on this earth to help us learn the lessons that will enable us to return back to our Heavenly Father again.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 04, 2012:

"Conflict is guaranteed." Thanks for walking us through the process and the reasons for elevating the marriage above them. Voted Up and Useful.

Eliza Anderson on September 01, 2012:

I look forward to the day I find a young man I can easily talk to and get along with and in time have him take me to the temple and to eternity. Even if these moments get difficult, there are ways to strengthen our relationship instead of breaking it apart.