When you have been married for a long time, you might think certain thing is “just the way it is”. You might even compare your marriage to others and tell yourself “were not that bad” or “I wish we were more like them”. The truth is, ALL marriages have problems… even healthy marriages.

What if I told you there are things that are common in all marriages… They could lead to divorce if couples do not identify and rectify these issues right away.

What if I told you there was a reason…

Marriage usually works like this…

Disclaimer, not every marriage will experience these or the difficulties mentioned below. These were the result of a recent study that was done on marriages. When research is done on a certain topic, it’s performed on a group of people and the common outcome is taken and studied.

Dating/Wedding Day/Honeymoon

We want to look our best, act our best and impress each other. Time goes by and you get engaged, spend a year planning the wedding of our dreams until that special day arrives. Family and friends come from all over to celebrate the love you and your fiancé are exuberating out of your glowing faces. That night, well… you know!

First 2 Years

Honeymoon Stage! We love this phase. Newly married and have recently joined your lives together. You are able to see each other day in and day out, go on trips without many limitations and … have sex whenever (and wherever) you want! We anticipate them walking through the front door after being away from them all day.

“The honeymoon period [is] an emotional high, fueled by endorphins, the hormones, and chemicals that flood the brain when we’re enjoying closeness.”  

Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist

This phase typically can last up to two years depending on a few things such as adding a baby sooner than you expected, drama from previous marriages, issues from other family members that consume your life for a long period of time, or financial problems.

Next 5 Years

The “honeymoon stage” is over and this is when things start to settle a bit. This is because it’s the first real “phase” of the marriage. Stuff just got real and quick and you are no longer able to spend every second together This is when most couples add kids to the mix, a new career and your extended family is more involved because of this. You are working together and focused on being new parents.

7 Years In

Talking about “ish” getting real… this is the “we were not ready for all of this at one time” phase. Kids, daycare, sleepless nights, date nights are long gone and careers are demanding. Routines are now necessary and everyone feels overwhelmed and under-appreciated.

You have to stay focused during this stage. See it as putting in the work in order to build your relationship and family. Even though it might seem like it at times, you are not “falling out of love” with each other and you are not actually “living separate lives”.

Unfortunately, many couples don’t make it past this stage because they are not about to stay focus and see this as the “investing period”.

This is also a time where we see people are most likely to cheat on their spouse. After the honeymoon stage is long gone and the relationship is more focused on the kids and building their family, some find that marriage isn’t what they thought it would be. Marriage becomes more about kids and less about passion and sex.

You and your spouse need to stay united and see this stage as an opportunity to invest and build the future you want for your family. It is going to be hard work and it won’t always be fun but it will be worth it.

The 10 Year Mark

In recent studies, researchers found that at the 10-year mark of marriage, problems tend to be at their worst. Couples have now gone approximately 8 years (not counting the first 2 years) without giving much to their marriage because of all of the examples listed above. They give enough to get by and in passing because you both are trying to juggle it all and survive.

These are also the year’s couples will face some of the most difficult and exhausting chapters of parenthood. The kids are busy and involved in many activities. They are at the age where they are getting in trouble more and causing problems. Parents are trying so hard to keep up with them while maintaining the long list of their personal daily to-do lists. This loneliness and stress start to affect how couples start seeing each other.

This is also a period where people are most likely to cheat on their spouse so, watch out!

15 years-Home Stretch

This is where you take a big inhale and exhale… Studies show a light at the end of a tunnel. The good news is many of these issues and any dissatisfaction begins to decline at this stage. If we can push through past the 10-year mark, we are downhill from there. This also contributes to the kids getting older and more independent as well as careers are going well. There is more time to focus on our marriage again!

What can couples do while going through this?

Don’t let this scare you or discourage you from doing everything you can to optimize each opportunity to show your spouse you still love them and are still attracted to them. The key is to … WORK FOR IT! Marriage isn’t easy and if anyone trie’s to tell you otherwise, don’t take any advice from them… ever again.

The way you and your spouse handle the first 10 years is detrimental to your future. Many parents focus on the kids and leave their spouses to fend for themselves. This is so dangerous in a few ways. One possibility is infidelity and the need for the “neglected” spouse to fill certain needs, feelings, and desires.

There is another issue we see often is when so much focus is put towards the kids. Guess what happens when all of the kids are gone… the couple is now together again without the children and they don’t know each other anymore.

 The most important thing married couples should keep in mind is to find ways to improve the relationship together.

There are things we can do to keep our “fire lite” in the first 10 years.

  • Find a marriage counselor that can help guide your marriage and help you to see the problems
  • Take time together and go on a vacation
  • Set aside time every day just to be together
  • Communicate
  • Laugh together
  • Focus on the positive
  • Pray together
  • Ask your spouse why they need from you from time to time
  • DON’T GIVE UP!

A word from the wise

Here is a little marriage advice from one of our very own Optimized Life members.

When you get married and then encounter challenges, it is easy to blame the challenges on the marriage. After all, that’s what changed, right? But the truth is that the intimacy of marriage is like a fire that pulls the dross of what already existed to the surface. Of all the issues you face when married, 40% are your pre-existing faults, 40% are your partner’s faults and only about 20% are a result of being married. So don’t point fingers or jump ship (because your 40% will be sure to follow you, and you can bet there will be compound interest with each intimate relationship you pile on). Instead, acknowledge your faults, forgive, apologize, be brave, get a mentor, go to counseling, confront your past, work on your stuff and give your spouse the space and grace to fix his/her stuff. It’s worth it!!! Let the dross rise without fear and when it’s all said and done, you’ll get pure gold!

Megan M.
Family Pic

Well said Megan! I love the part when you said: “acknowledge your faults, forgive, apologize, be brave, get a mentor, go to counseling, confront your past, work on your stuff and give your spouse space and grace to fix his/her stuff.” (Mic drop)

Work on YOUR STUFF and give your spouse the space to FIX THEIRS! That’s amazing advice for anyone.

Here is one more piece of advice from another Optimized Lifer

“Ryan and I have both been married in the past. For different reasons, it those marriages didn’t work out but the most important thing we have to remember is NOT to bring our past baggage into this one. We have been married for 7 years now and our “stages” looked a little different from the typical stages mentioned above because we both came into this marriage with children. He had one child and I had 2 children. We were full force from day one and jumped right into stage 7. A year later, we welcomed a sweet boy into our lives. Now we are complete. The sad truth about marriages today is half end in divorce. There is a bigger percentage in second marriages. This is because people take their same baggage and bad habits that lead them to their first divorce into their new marriage. They are also more likely to give up quicker because they have an exit strategy. Look at yourself and identify areas you need to change in order to eliminate any possibilities for this to happen.

Sandi T.

This article is meant to encourage, support and motivate you. It helps to understand why things happen and to know you are not alone. Every marriage has “things” and struggles. My hope is you will find a few ways to stay connected and live your best life possible with your spouse.

We would love to hear from you!

Please comment below and let us know what stage you are currently in and what helps you and your spouse.

If you enjoyed this article, please share this article on your favorite social media platform.

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29 Comments

  1. This is a great article! My husband and I will celebrate 6 years of marriage, and 15 years together this year.

    The important thing to remember, in every stage, is that you are on the same team. Learn each other’s love languages, and communication style.

    When mistakes are made, and hurt happens (either from your partner, or something you are going through together like a miscarriage or infertility), be open and honest.

    Its in that vulnerability that beauty happens. The strength and resilience you might admire in other marriages didn’t just occur overnight. It’s intentionally choosing to love each other, even during those times you don’t like on another.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article! Thank you for sharing your insights!

    Cori
    This Maagnificent Life

    • Optimized Reply

      Hi Cori! I love your advice. Thank you so much for commenting and adding extra value to this article.

  2. I definitely think couples underestimate how marriage changes over time and you need to put in more effort to make it work. We hit a rough patch at 10 years (13 together). We had to commit to a strategy for communicating in a new way plus accept each other’s faults without using them against each other.

    • Optimized Reply

      HI jenn! Thank you so much for sharing your marriage struggles with us. I love your advice on coming up with a strategy to communicate and accept each other for who you are. Many readers will definitely take away value from your commen. Thank you so much

  3. This feels so true! We hit a serious rough patch at 7 years in. We’ve been doing a lot of hard work since, and are hitting 10 years this fall – and celebrating with a kiddo free trip to Paris! It certainly feels like we’re coming out of that tunnel.

  4. We got married right out of high school and I’m so glad we did. While it’s not been easy and we’ve gone through some hard things we never anticipated…I love and respect my husband more than ever. Celebrated 14 years of marriage in May!
    Great article!

    • Optimized Reply

      That is so sweet and a great story. Thank you for sharing!

  5. We have been married for 5 years and we have two littless. A 2 1/2 year old and an 8 month old. It’s super busy, and that definitely takes a toll on our marriage. But we try to prioritize our marriage with date nights and small get aways. I look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel at 10 years… lol

    • Optimized Reply

      It is so awesome that you guys are taking time out of your busy life to stay connected. I promise it gets easier.

  6. Yes to all of this! My husband and I have been married for 5 years now, and it is quite obvious when we are not being intentional with our marriage. Things start to feel off and we feel disconnected. We try to make it a habit to cook together once a week, have a weekly date night, take quarterly vacations (even if they are just weekend trips!), and share 3 things we are grateful for each night after we get in bed!

  7. I love your honesty. Marriage does shift dramatically after the first few years, especially if you add in kids. I love your suggestions to not only continue to make it work, but to help your marriage thrive!

  8. Great article. Marriage is tough! It’s hard to make that choice to grow and change with someone every day…when you maybe don’t want to change. But it can be done and it’s so worth it!

  9. nice article, I think as a husband and wife we start to very demanding as life goes by without noticing the difference that could bring later in married life. we have to appreciate more for happy and healthy marriage. that goes to both husband and wife

  10. My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years! It is definitely tough and work, but so worth it. I would say that we’re actually in a really good place. Definitely exhausted from having a 4 and 1 year old, but we try to make our marriage a priority!

  11. This was a great article! It should be handed out at weddings….lol! I’m only half way kidding. I think many people don’t realize how much work goes into having a good marriage. They just think it happens. We’re on our second marriage, and we both learned a lot from the first: Mostly, that it’s work, but it’s so worth it. We’ve been married 10 years now.

    • Optimized Reply

      Same with me. My husband and I have both been married in the past. Thanks for reading!!

  12. My OH and I are about 10 years in, although we had kids first so could sos be at the 15 years stretch. In the midst of lockdown, it definitely feels more like the 10 years.

    Communication is key, we are crap it, but we’re working on it!

    Fay | How Felicity Finds

    • Optimized Reply

      Awesome! I’m glad you enjoyed this article from Optimized Life!

  13. We are at the 10 year trouble spot! LOL. But we have been together for 15 years. I’d say we have a pretty good partnership. Just some occasional bickering.

  14. These stages make so much sense! We’re in the 7+ stage, and yes, it’s tough. We’re also dealing with the coronavirus life, so it’s doubly difficult to sometimes see ourselves as more than two separate units trying to get through life.

  15. Love this! It is so insightful to all the different phases marriages go through. I’m in the “7 year in” phase right now. We’ve been married 5 years but about 7 years into our relationship and definitely in that phase of life and navigating it with two little ones. It’s hard to find a balance some days but your tips are so helpful!

  16. So interesting and so true! My husband and I will be celebrating our 9th anniversary in Dec. I cannot believe how fast those years have flown by. Last year was particularly challenging for us but well, every marriage will go through ups and downs right? But above all, we make a decision to stick to our covenant and always seek to iron things out quickly.

    Thanks so much for sharing this article!

  17. Marriage requires work! It’s good news that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Not reaching for that light often leads to divorce. Great post!

  18. We’ve been married for 10 years! I would actually say the last couple of years have been some of the best! We didn’t have kids until 5 years and that time was our greatest struggle so far. Some days are harder than others, but it’s so worth it!

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