Psychological Self-Help

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and trying to pay for two families, children upset by divorce and re-
marriage and/or torn apart by two bitter parents. In the early 1990's,
the divorce rate is still very high but has possibly leveled off (others
say it is still increasing); the median length of marriage has stabilized
at seven years which means that many marriages only last 3, 4 or 5
Arond and Pauker (1987), who studied the first year of marriage,
say that couples either found the first year to be their easiest or
hardest year. A hard first year can be a good sign. The ones who said
it was hard worked through their adjustment problems; many who
found it easy denied and avoided facing their problems. You have a
better chance if you start working on the minor problems early. Attend
to the little stuff: spending too much time with friends, not helping
with the housework, spending too much on clothes, drinking too much,
gaining weight, watching TV, etc. Don't wait until one partner is about
to walk out (Matthews, 1990). 
Not only are the disadvantages of going through a divorce
becoming more clear, the possibilities and advantages of working out
the marital problems are also becoming easier to see. Notarius &
Markman (1993) observed that all couples, early on in marital
conflicts, want to preserve their love, that most disagreements are not
world-shaking, that small changes in one person's behavior (more
attentiveness, more compliments, more affection, less complaining,
etc.) can make great changes in the relationship, that men withdraw
from conflicts while women insist on resolving them immediately, and
that the use of skills (empathy, "I" statements, decision-making,
negotiating, etc.) can sooth negative feelings and overcome most
differences. In other words, as a society, we may be becoming more
hopeful of preserving our marriages. 
The importance of problem-solving: The warning signs
We started this marriage section by describing different types,
some happy but several unhappy or blah. At that point some danger
signs were described: factors that predict future trouble in the
marriage or characteristics of deteriorating relationships. You may
want to review that list. 
It is common for one spouse to not realize the other spouse is
unhappy--very unhappy (McGinnis, 1986). How can you tell? Look for
these signs: (1) you no longer laugh together or do nice things for
each other, such as send a love note, give a little present, bring a
flower, etc. (2) You talk to someone else more than you do to your
spouse, especially if the talk is about being unhappy with your spouse
and/or how attractive someone else is. (3) You frequently become
irritated with your spouse and your discussions escalate into nasty
fights. (4) You seldom remember good times together or share your
hopes and ideas. (5) You don't try to do things with your spouse, are
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