Partnership and marriage are often the culmination of a long-term relationship and are a common way of life for humans. It is a public display and declaration of a permanent relationship.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly fifty percent of individuals between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States choose cohabitation, marriage, domestic partnership, a civil union, or some other form of being in a long-term committed relationship. When one considers how much impact anyone can have on another’s everyday experience, it is no surprise that this impact can be magnified in a relationship with another person.
Largely, there are many advantages to being in a partnership or marriage with another individual. In addition to any political or social benefits this may include, there are also personal advantages. For example, having a partner provides a long-term and consistent support network - there is always someone with you to manage difficult circumstances, as well as to celebrate the positive experiences.
Each relationship is unique, yet everyone experiences ups and downs within the context of their relationship. Many partnerships will struggle through difficulties and learn how to cope together or with the help of friends and family. Others will need the help of a therapist, spiritual advisor, or a relationship skills training class.
Sometimes couples will come to the conclusion that their relationship is no longer working and break up. Whatever the path, know that you are not alone.
Common relationship issues include:
- Life events such as the birth of a child, loss, or trauma
- Sexual dysfunction or intimacy struggles (male or female)
- Severe health problems or disability
- Addiction and substance abuse
- Physical, mental, or emotional abuse
- Mental illness
- Financial difficulties
- Separation or divorce
- Family acceptance of gay relationship or cultural differences
- Military family life
It is not uncommon for a relationship to be tested by one or more of these issues throughout its duration; the important thing is how challenges are managed. Because relationships “wax and wane,” individuals must strive to be flexible within their relationship and recognize that people change, bodies change, romantic love changes, and that no partnership is free of conflict.
For example, for a couple who has not lived together or has not lived together for a long time, marriage can introduce annoying habits that create conflict. Similarly, it is not uncommon for people’s expectations and roles to change once they take on the new title and role of “husband” or “wife.” If irritations and concerns that pop up are not addressed, they can become bigger and more pressing concerns over time and generate resentment. As expectations change, our view and perception of our partner may also change.
Psychology Today offers the following common topics of conflict in day-to-day relationships:
- Annoying behavior
- Disorganization/differing cleaning habits
- Feeling unloved
- Lack of appreciation (perceived or actual)
- Control of partner (perceived or actual)
- Personality conflicts
- Inequality (perceived or actual)
Help and Support for Relationship Issues:
If you are seeking assistance or support locally, there are many programs designed to help with relationship difficulties and build partnership skills. Some of the resources may surprise you. Many work on a sliding scale for those who feel they can't afford help. Some institutions that may be able to help include:
- Hospitals, medical groups, and other health centers
- Employee Assistance Programs (ask your Human Resources representative)
- Community centers
- Spiritual centers
Additional Resources for Marriage and Partnership:
Smart Marriages, from The Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, strives to make marriage education and information user-friendly, affordable, and accessible.
What is a Healthy Relationship? is an article that provides tips on how to maintain healthy relationships.
Grief and Marriage gives an overview of how grief can affect marriage.
National Healthy Marriage Resource Center offers information on marriage and family, how to find a local marriage and relationship program, and much more.
Alternatives to Marriage Project is a nonprofit advocacy group for unmarried individuals seeking equality; they provide information on a variety of relationship types.
Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples is an international resource for same-sex couples.