9 Marriage Problems That Are Actually Good for Your Relationship
Every marriage has its uh-oh moments that leave you questioning your compatibility as a couple. While some behaviors, like cheating, are obvious deal-breakers, other seeming threats can actually have a positive impact on your relationship. Below, nine marital mannerisms that may seem ominous but truly can be good, according to experts. Plus, what to watch out for so things don’t go too far.
1. You both fantasize about other people.
“Fantasies are an ancient aphrodisiac,” says Iris Krasnow, author of The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married. “A vivid imagination allows you to open up to your partner physically and emotionally." So thinking about a sexy neighbor, for example, can improve your marriage—as long as those racy visions stay in your mind. That means leave it out of pillow talk; neither of you needs to know exactly who—or what—the other is thinking about. And don’t let daydreams jeopardize the intimacy you feel with your spouse, says Krasnow. “The danger is when fantasy becomes an obsession that overshadows a real relationship.”
2. He goes out with the guys.
“Happily married couples have an active life together and dynamic life apart,” says Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband). “Interests and hobbies outside of marriage feed a person’s spirit and help break up routine.” Cathy* of Chicago, IL, knows this firsthand from her part-time musician husband. “He goes to band ‘practice,’ and I put that in quotes because sometimes it’s just an excuse to drink beers with the boys.” Cathy used to be bothered by it but not anymore. “He always comes home by midnight and answers any questions I have,” she says, adding that he’s happier and more relaxed the next day. But the real coup: “When I want to do things with my friends—especially now that we have a baby—he’ll move mountains for me to be able to do that,” she says.
3. You argue a lot.
Fighting isn’t necessarily a sign of a broken relationship, says Syrtash. “It means you trust each other enough to share your feelings,” she says. The key is arguing without attacking your spouse’s character. And when you hear him out out and solve misunderstandings, you're strengthening your bond. Even recurring fights aren’t cause for concern. "Couples tend to recycle arguments,” says Syrtash. “Identify what you keep arguing about when you're not in the heart of a fight. Try, ‘I know you don't like the way I clean the kitchen, but it looks clean to me when I'm done. How can I make you feel better about it?’ Listen, and then mention what triggers you and why it's important to you.” One caveat: If you're constantly arguing about things that you can’t change about each other, like personality traits, you have to decide whether or not you can live with them.
4. He spends a lot of money on his hobbies.
“It’s one thing to go to Vegas when you can’t make mortgage payments,” says Krasnow. “But if the bills are paid and the kids are taken care of, let your husband get new golf clubs or go on a fishing trip.” Couples need to feel like they’re growing as individuals, and occasional splurges can enhance personal fulfillment. “When two people are happy separately, they have a better shot of going the distance together,” says Krasnow.
5. He uses porn.
Porn is a slippery slope, but it doesn’t have to mean disaster, says Susan Heitler, PhD, a Denver psychologist and creator of the marriage-skills website PowerofTwoMarriage.com. Couples who are honest about their interest in porn may be able to incorporate it into their sex lives. “Consider using it as a lead-up to the act or to enhance your routine,” says Dr. Heitler. It only becomes problematic when porn is used in secret or instead of interaction with a partner. But if he or you use it occasionally when the other’s not around, that’s okay.
6. He works all the time.
Melissa* from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, was frustrated by her husband’s 60-hour workweek. “I felt like a single mom to our two boys,” she says. Eventually, though, she realized that even after-work functions were his way of climbing the corporate ladder. “He had to schmooze to market himself. It was his way of showing the company he was willing to do whatever necessary,” she points out. He was ultimately made manager, and Melissa says the benefits aren’t merely financial: “Because he misses the kids’ activities during the week, he devotes entire weekends to building our family bond.” If your man is a workhorse, think back to when you first started dating, suggests Syrtash. Chances are, his drive and passion for his job are qualities that initially attracted you to him. But it could be a problem if “work always comes first—ahead of your kid’s school play or your anniversary,” says Syrtash.
7. You both flirt with other people online.
Between Facebook, Twitter and more, it’s easier than ever to reconnect with old flames, says Krasnow. But flirty friendships can be healthy as long as they don’t get physical, she notes. “It’s a self-esteem boost when men you don’t live with find you smart, inspiring and beautiful,” she says. When women feel good, they make better moms and wives. But be careful: Virtual relationships lose their innocence when a married person becomes infatuated with someone else.And that obsession can cause someone to mislead their online love interest. "Avoid giving off vibes like you might get a divorce,” says Krasnow. “Bashing your husband because you’re having a bad day isn’t okay. Sending provocative photos is also a bad idea."
8. You’re too tired for sex.
“We’re all overscheduled," says Syrtash. "It’s hard to find time for anything, let alone making love." But the less you do it, the less you’ll want to do it: A lack of intercourse causes testosterone levels to drop in both sexes, says Syrtash. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, schedule sex. It gives you something to anticipate, explains Syrtash. And have fun with it! Designate Tuesday night as date night—then, send playful texts during the day to fuel the fire.
9. He’s close with a female colleague.
Acknowledge that your husband’s success on the job may be a direct result of his ability to work well with others. In fact, “your financial stability and social status may depend on this specific office relationship,” says Dr. Heitler. While the potential exists for sexual feelings to arise when a man and woman work together, couples can beat the threat by talking openly about their fears. If your man is getting too chummy with his office wife, Dr. Heitler suggests asking him to keep conversations work-specific, stick to public places and avoid alcohol, which can lead to inappropriate behavior.