Marital Tips List
By Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Marriage is 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.
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in cross-cultural marriages.
Some cultures are more similar than others whilst some are remarkably dissimilar.
Couples must determine how they intend to fuse their respective cultures. Where
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 best sorted out before the kids come along.
Boundaries need to be determined:
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? Imagine a submarine with
a screen door; it submerges and takes on water, never to rise again. Submarines
require doors that can be open and shut tight according to the skipper. Marriages
similarly need boundaries that can be secured at the discretion of the couple.
Resolving conflict is crucial:
There is an old adage, “Never go to bed angry at your spouse.” Please
note this does not mean the conflict has been resolved. Not all conflict can
be resolved before the lights go out. What must be appreciated though is that
even in view of unresolved conflict, the couple does not seek to hold grudges
or seek retribution the result of unresolved issues. Rather, there must be a
commitment that if matters cannot be resolved between the couple, rather than
resorting to harmful behaviors, they seek help as necessary.
Pull your weight:
In a marriage, couples 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 likely
hold different opinions as to the expectations of the other. It is difficult
for couples to pull their weight, in mind of the other person’s expectations
if the expectations are not discussed. This is like starting a new job without
a job description. So whether it is who cleans around the house, how finances
are handled or how the groceries are obtained, discuss forthrightly.
Use reasonable words, not behavior to address conflict:
When upset, some people do not discuss the upset, but rather act in a way so
as to retaliate for the upsetting behavior. As such, upsetting behavior begets
upsetting behavior causing increasing distress in the marriage. This tit-for-tat
is marital cancer. Instead of using behavior to speak on your behalf, talk with
your partner about the upset with reasonable words (no name-calling or belittling).
If there is going to be a tit-for-tat, let it be that reasonable words beget
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. The therapist will naturally align with the one spouse on the basis
of the one-sided account. Even if the other spouse follows into counseling later
on, because of the pre-alignment between the partner who attended first and
the counselor, this process is at risk of failure. 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 their mind.
Screaming, yelling, name-calling, belittling, throwing things, pushing, shoving,
hitting, abusing alcohol and/or drug, 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
Some persons speak of compromise in a marriage. Rather than “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 the friends is not a compromise. It is an investment in a
In the end, if you want a loving marriage and partner, first act lovingly yourself.