Happy Couples: What It Takes to Be One
Love alone won’t see you through, say the experts
Happy Couples: Addressing a Sexless Marriage
That future, according to most marriage experts, should include a healthy
sex life. While sex isn't everything to happy couples, sexual problems can lead
to marital discord. That men and women tend to have different ideas about sex
doesn't help matters.
"Generally speaking, women tend to see sexuality as part of a larger
construct. Men are exactly the opposite," says James E. Sheridan, a judge and
founder of Marriages That Work, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that
teaches instructional courses on how to strengthen marriages. "Women have to be
in the mood. Men have to be in the room."
Many times, misunderstandings over these differences lead to a break down in
a healthy sexual relationship within a marriage, even among happy couples. The
result, say experts, is a sexless marriage. Patti Britton, president of the
American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, calls
sexless marriages an "epidemic." She reports that many of the married clients
she sees haven't had sex in 10 years.
Adopt a business approach to improve sex.
Seeing things from a business-like perspective helps couples reframe their
sexual relationship. "I tell them, 'If this were a business,
would you let it flounder like this?'" Britton says.
Presenting sex in this light makes problems, and solutions, more concrete
for couples. "By likening it [marriage] to a business mode -- with shared goals
and missions; responsibilities, assets, and
liabilities; and frequent business meetings -- things shift," Britton tells
To salvage their sex lives, some couples need to dig deeper. "Often, sex
wasn't good in the first place. A big complaint for women is that foreplay is
bad or nonexistent," Britton says.
But this isn't easy for anyone to admit. "I do a lot of pushing for the
truth," Britton tells WebMD. Some couples simply aren't prepared to tell, or
hear, the truth. "A lot of couples fall out of it. It
pushes too many buttons," she says.
Happy Couples: Learning Financial Savvy
The topic of family finances is another hot-button topic, even for happy
Delegate the task of budget balancer.
Experts observe that most happy couples recognize that handling household
finances should remain a singular task. "Only one person can work the
checkbook. There can't be two CFOs," Sheridan tells WebMD.
That doesn't mean, however, that the other partner should be kept in the
dark about finances. Sheridan espouses making joint financial decisions, with
just one person implementing.
He also strongly urges couples to plan for financial emergencies. This
helps diffuse any potential blowups, such as who will sacrifice personal
spending money when urgent house repairs must be funded.
Every couple faces adversity, from slumps in their sex lives to bickering
over the checkbook balance. But Markman believes that most married people can
learn to become happy couples. "If both partners are motivated, they can turn
things around," Markman tells WebMD.
Published February 2007.