Marital Tips List
From Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW and Elayne Daniels, PhD

Marriage as a package deal:
Marriage is a coming to together of not only two persons, but also their respective personalities, histories, families, at times children, good traits and bad traits. Like a coin, each person will bring two sides in all these elements. You cannot have just one side of a coin and pretend the other side doesn’t exist. If you are unhappy or unsatisfied with some elements, they are best addressed before marriage or as soon as possible after marriage. You will live with your in-laws and partner’s faults for the duration of life together. You will not be able to change your partner.​Cultural matters:
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in cross-cultural marriages. Some cultures are more similar than others and some are remarkably dissimilar. Couples must determine how they intend to fuse their respective cultures. When this is left to chance, there is a greater likelihood of conflict. Even well-intentioned couples realize after the marriage how important their respective beliefs and customs are to them. These issues are especially important to sort out before children come along.

Boundaries:
Marital couples need to define themselves as a couple to extended family and friends. To do so, the couple must determine what their rules are for themselves with regard to defining their relationship to others. In other words, will friends take priority over the couple? Will the in-laws determine a couple’s choices and decisions or will the couple do so? Have you determined how to spend holidays and religious events with regard to extended family? Conversations about boundaries need to start before the wedding.

Conflict Resolution:
There is an old adage, “Never go to bed angry at your spouse.” This may  not mean the conflict has been resolved. Not all conflict can be resolved before the lights are turned off. What must be appreciated though is that even in view of unresolved conflict, the couple does not seek to hold grudges. If the couple can’t resolve the problem, seek help so that the problem doesn’t fester. Because it will fester.

Labor Division:
Spouses must be able to rely on each other to address tasks and responsibilities. Many couples early on enter the marriage with the belief that the other will automatically know what is expected. Trouble is, both may hold different opinions as to the expectations of the other. So whether it is who cleans the bathrooms, how finances are handled or how the refrigerator gets filled with groceries, discuss these matters before and as they arise.

Use (respectful) words, not behavior, to address conflict:
When upset, some people do not talk about being upset, but rather act in a way so as to retaliate for the upsetting behavior. This  behavior creates more upsetting behavior, causing increasing distress in the marriage. Tit-for-tat is marital cancer. Instead of using behavior to speak for you, talk with your partner about the upset with reasonable words (no name-calling or belittling).

In trouble, seek help!
Men are notorious for not asking for directions and believing they can fix anything. As such, far more women than men run off to individual counseling to address their marital issues. It important for couples to know that attending individual counseling for a marital issue actually increases the likelihood of a marital separation. If your marriage is in trouble and one partner is refusing to attend counseling, you just found out the problem may be bigger than you imagined and the help you need may just be from a divorce attorney. Share this information with your spouse to open his/her mind.

Screaming, spitting, biting, name-calling, belittling, throwing things, pushing, shoving, hitting, abusing alcohol and/or drugs, having an affair (emotional or physical), holding a spouse financially hostage, are never acceptable. These are very serious problems, any of which can be a deal breaker.

A good marriage is marked by compassion and understanding. While partners may be tolerant of differences, that would not include tolerating abuse of self or others.

Instead of thinking of marriage in terms of “compromise” think in terms of “priority”. If your marriage and partner are the priority, there is little to compromise. For example, choosing one’s spouse over a night with friends is not a compromise. It is an investment in a good marriage.

Choose where and how you want to invest.

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