HuffPost Relationships Reporter, Kelsey Borrensen, shared a list of some of the most common marital issues couples face at or near the 10-year mark in their relationships, as reported by a group of marriage counselors and therapists. With the “honeymoon phase” a distant memory, Borrensen highlighted the following eight problems, along with insights on how to deal with them:
1. You start feeling more like roommates than romantic partners.
Most long-term couples admit that keeping a romantic “spark” alive takes work. If both individuals aren’t committed to keeping their romantic connection strong ― whether that’s through habits like regular date nights, fun, surprise gestures or impulsive weekend get-aways ― they can easily end up drifting into “roommate” territory.
“After a decade together, turning into roommates becomes a big risk as partners can slowly over the years take their focus off of each other and give all of their attention to dealing with day-to-day life,” Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men, told HuffPost. “Couples can easily turn into partners in managing a family or life, rather than partners in love.”
2. You’ve become bored with your life together.
In marriage, it’s unrealistic to expect each day to be some sort of magical fairy tale, filled with fireworks and moonbeams. However, therapists advise that couples shouldn’t just resign themselves to a life full of “blah,” either. Psychotherapist Tina Tessina suggested that boredom in a marriage is often a sign that partners have started taking each other, and the relationship, for granted. If you feel like your normal routine is getting too routine, shake things up.
“Perhaps your activities have become too routine or you are avoiding facing a problem,” Tessina said. “Counter the boredom by taking necessary risks ― for example, have that scary discussion about sex, aging, your in-laws, or dare to suggest a change in your routine. … All you need to do is anything different. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s different and can be shared.”
3. Your sex life has dimmed.
It’s very common for a couple’s sex life to ebb and flow over a period of time for any number of reasons, including relationship problems, physical or mental health issues, children, anxiety or stress, sleeping issues, as a side effect of certain medications, among many others. Sex therapists say peaks and valleys are completely normal. But if you’re in one of those valleys and are not committed to getting out of it, the “sexual dry spells” may end up lasting longer, leaving one or both partners feeling disconnected, rejected and/or resentful.
If you and your partner are in a rut, sex therapists recommend honestly discussing the issue with your partner – even if it makes one or both of you uncomfortable. Going to bed together, at the same time, as well as touching each other outside of the bedroom (hugging, kissing and cuddling, etc.) are important. And when you’re ready to get back in the saddle, be accepting if it’s a bit awkward or not as hot and heavy as “the old days.” Take it slow and be realistic that not every sexual interaction is going to be mind-blowing.
4. You feel marriage has stood in the way of accomplishing certain life goals.
When you get married, your priorities usually shift. It’s no longer just about “you.” Your spouse, and your kids (if you go down that path) typically become your top priority. And as a result, you often need to make compromises and sacrifices which may hinder certain career moves or other life goals, such as traveling, starting a company, fitness routines or other hobbies.
Couples therapist Kari Carroll said, “Many couples sacrifice their dreams in order to maintain stability when initially building a relationship and family. But by 10 years, they are realizing that life is calling and they must negotiate how to help both themselves and their partner achieve greater fulfillment.”
5. Your patience and tolerance for one another has dissipated.
In the first years of marriage, you’re more likely to cut each other some slack. When your partner makes a mistake or does something annoying, you’re inclined to give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt. But as time goes on, couples often become less and less patient and forgiving with one another. Things they once laughed off are no longer funny – they’re irritating!
When this happens, it’s best to try to remember that you and your partner are on the same team, not rivals. And do not give meaning that their actions have negative intent. Instead, assume they’re doing their best, and would not intentionally do things to annoy or upset you.
“Early on in marriage, we can have a great amount of graciousness with each other as our love for each other makes up for all shortcomings or failures,” therapist Kurt Smith said. “Sadly, as a marriage matures, the patience can fade.”
6. You stop celebrating milestones, both big and small.
Early on in a relationship, you’d find any excuse to celebrate: your 10th date, your six-month anniversary, Cinco de Mayo, or National Ice Cream Day. But as time goes on, those celebrations typically become less frequent. If that’s the case, make an effort to plan get-togethers with friends and family and take time to celebrate just the two of you. Whatever you do, make it fun and celebratory. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, over-the-top event – celebrating may just mean a picnic in your backyard or a night at the movies.
“Just as you used celebration as an important ingredient of your marriage ceremony, work promotions, your children’s birthdays and graduation, you and your spouse need to continue celebrating your love throughout your lives to keep your energy high and maintain your motivation,” Tessina said. “Frequent celebrations demonstrate your love and appreciation for each other. … Don’t stop dating because you’ve been together a long time.”
And when you do have a bigger milestone to celebrate, go for it! Do a weekend get-away to mark a special event. Plan a special evening at home or at a restaurant; attend a concert or go to the beach together.
7. You’ve forgotten how to be goofy or silly.
As we get older and the complications and stresses of live pile up, many of us fall into the trap of taking things way too seriously. We lose our child-like sense of wonder and our ability to be just-plain-goofy. To counteract this, try incorporating some play into your marriage.
“Get over any reluctance you have to appear silly,” Tessina said. “Throw a Frisbee, blow bubbles, get on the swings at the park, play a cutthroat game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Or just read silly jokes and funny stories to each other.”
8. You take on the stress of home ownership.
By the 10-year mark, your finances have hopefully reached a point of greater stability, so you may be at the point of buying a house or condo. And while buying your first home is a huge life milestone and an awesome accomplishment — home ownership is great — it comes with the potential downside of putting a strain on your marriage.
“The weekends of brunch and socializing often have turned into building decks and mowing the lawn,” Carroll said. “Negotiating how to balance the greater responsibility of maintaining home projects along with raising a family and keeping your relationship strong requires teamwork and planning skills.”