Serious talkBecause we have this blog, I often find myself observing and analyzing people in normal situations, perhaps making a few assumptions, and then sharing it with you guys in an effort to make a point.  I had another opportunity to do this last Saturday at Linda’s 35th high school reunion.

Nothing earth-shattering occurred but I did notice that probably about 90% of the attendees were there without their spouses.

Now, I didn’t go to the same high school as Linda, but over the course of our marriage I’ve become acquainted with the majority, and friends with many of her fellow graduates. So while Linda was off small-talking and reminiscing with her former classmates, I was mingling with most who were there.

One of the questions I asked of those who were there by themselves was “So where is the wife (husband)?” The majority said something to the effect that he/she had to stay home and babysit the grandkids or he/she didn’t want to come, or “I just left her butt at home.”

Upon further conversation, the person would typically express some area of discontent with their spouse that was obviously a sore spot for them.

I heard… “All he wants to do is play golf.” “She had no desire to come with me tonight.” “He never wants to do anything anymore.” “I have no clue what we’re going to do when we retire.” “He’s boring.”

6 years of denial

Psychologist, Dr. Betty Phillips says that people wait six years from the time they start having problems in their marriage before they go and talk to a counselor. No wonder it can be so difficult to restore health and vitality to a marriage.

People know they’re having trouble, they know things aren’t the way that they want them to be, but it takes them a very long time to actually do something about it. It would also seem that six years could be prime time for an affair to happen.

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The marriage goes from the foreground to the background and gets put on the backburner. The couple doesn’t want to look at the problem for whatever reason and takes a firm stance called denial. “We’re fine, there’s no problem, we’re just in a rut.”  

They don’t want to look at it because they’re afraid of admitting there’s a problem and they’re afraid of knowing what’s going to happen and they’re afraid of therapy. Because of these fears, they don’t take action and instead put on their blinders and go on as if everything is peachy.

I’m not for certain if the 6 years was an accurate time frame in our case, but we certainly ignored our obvious problems over a several year period earlier in our marriage.

Now, a good percentage of these couples will just continue on that way and will probably see a slow deterioration in their marriage and in their happiness, but another percentage will say, “Man, things just aren’t working for me at home and things will be fine if I just move on to another relationship.”

They have that “grass is always greener” way of thinking. So they figure an affair is no big deal because their marriage isn’t going to last anyways. Or they may see it as a big deal but they believe it’s the better path because the grass does seem pretty bright and pretty green. There’s high romance, nobody has to take out the trash, nobody’s arguing about who’s going to do the laundry or pick up the towels from the bathroom floor or get up with the crying children at night.

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So they’re pretty much at the same place they were when they first met their spouse, but unfortunately they don’t remember that.

And if you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time then you realize that most affairs are not reality – the grass is not greener – and if they wound up marrying each other, the marriage will probably soon become an unhappy one as the euphoria starts to fade. Eventually, they more than likely become a statistic – one of the 75% of affair marriages that fail.

Marriage is like your teeth

So getting back to the 6-years before counseling I mentioned earlier… What if we treated our marriage like we treated our teeth? Dr. Phillips has a great analogy:

Well, just think about it. We’re told to pay daily attention to our dental health, brush and floss each night and seek professional assessment with dental checkups every six months. When a dental problem is discovered we invest immediately in corrective work, whether or not the charges are covered by insurance. Why? Our teeth are a long-term investment and we know we will be much better off if we take good care of this important resource. Sure, we can purchase replacement (“false”) teeth but we worry that they won’t care for us as well as our original permanent teeth. Get the picture now?…Marriage is an important resource for our long-term mental and physical health – but how do we take care of our marriage partnership? Not nearly as well as we take care of our teeth. 

Every day you ignore your spouse is a day that your marriage starts to go down the tubes because a marriage must be built in part on fondness and admiration. Your spouse must be your best friend in a lot of ways. Sure, you can have other friends but your most personal, private, intimate friend needs to be your spouse.

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So how do you build that friendship? You build that every day by spending time with that person. Doing things that you enjoy together or just “hanging out.” It doesn’t have to be all day. It doesn’t mean following each other around like puppies everywhere you go.

It does mean that we should treat our spouse as we want to be treated. We should think about our partner’s good qualities, not just the bad stuff that invade our daily lives. We need to share good times and pleasures. We need to have fun, laugh, be intimate, play hard and talk about stuff. Basically, we need to consistently be doing things that add deposits into our “love bank.”

Now, I don’t know if any of the spouses of the people at Linda’s reunion are having affairs, though it wouldn’t surprise me. And I have no idea if they are even unhappy in their marriages to the point where they would even consider an affair – or for that matter, marriage therapy. It was clear however, that their marriages have seen better, happier days.

The point is that it’s always better to stop a problem before it happens than to try and deal with it after the damage has been done.  So don’t be afraid to admit you have marriage problems.

We’d like to know if you went through a period of denying any problems in your marriage.  Did you eventually address them?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below.


    8 replies to "Don’t Wait 6 Years to Admit You Have Marriage Problems"

    • EyesOpened

      It’s so weird for me now – because pretty much everyone I meet I now believe has something wrong with them! I’ve become almost evangelistic about therapy – and want to scream at every couple who is about to marry – ‘Hey you! Stop !’ Think this through ….. I know I wouldn’t have listened though :-).

      Yes, we started having problems approx 6 years before (almost exactly , strangely ). We did have a couple of telephone therapy sessions but they did more harm than good.

      Right now, we have come so so far, but I am still stuck in a place where I just do not want intimacy in my life . My h has overhauled himself And is virtually the perfect partner now – but I just can’t. ‘Feel’ the feelings I need to to make this marriage work. So now, I’m not only consumed with self hatred for the affair I had, and the fallout – but I am now failing at meeting my h halfway when he has reinvented himself to be a better man. So not only did I have the affair but he’s worked so hard to mend the broken pieces that helped cause our relationship to disintegrate an now I can’t even validate that work by being loving and intimate. I have literally shut down !

      He is now being patient – but I am pressurising myself from the inside now and I am failing us constantly. He goes away with work next week for 7 days and I am guiltily looking forward to a week of sleep and no pressure. I’m just full of self loathing right now and it’s killing us.

      • blueskyabove


        Have you heard of Robert Holden?  He’s been called “Britain’s foremost expert on happiness” according toThe Daily Mail.  He’s the author of “Happiness Now!  Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast” plus several other books dealing with changing attitudes and happiness.  IMO he does an excellent job delivering his message to those who are ready to hear it.

        If you have an iPad or Kindle I recommend you get a copy ASAP and start reading it!  You said you have 7 days to yourself next week…sounds like a perfect opportunity for you to start taking charge of your life, your happiness.   Otherwise, check out his website at  Life is too precious to spend it in self-loathing.  It doesn’t do you or your loved ones any good.  Don’t waste any more time on something you can change when there is expert help available.  You may be unable to see the possibility of your situation changing right now, but with Dr. Holden’s guidance I believe it’s possible.

        As Dr. Phil says, “I want you to get excited about your life!” 

        Take care.

    • EyesOpened

      Thank you blueskyabove. I’m open to anything that might help. I’ll look it up. I appreciate that. Thank you.

    • exercisegrace

      While I think this is a very good article in general, it largely misses the mark for our situation. His affair wasn’t the result of problems in the marriage that were ignored. It was the result of problems within himself that were ignored. Emotionally bankrupt parenting left him to grow up without the ability to set boundaries or form solid, healthy coping skills. He looked too much to his career to define his self-worth. Then when a storm of things happened…dad dying, business nearly failing, real estate losses, a move, a new baby, etc. He couldn’t cope with that. He didn’t know how to deal with feeling overwhelmed and worse, he didn’t know how to deal with or verbalize the clinical depression that was taking over his life. Initially he hid his distress well. But a keenly observant “work friend” saw her opportunity and by her own admission she took it. She told him she had been after him for “a very long time”. She told him all the things he wanted to hear and none of what he needed to hear. ie: you don’t tell someone who says they are suicidal with a plan, NOT to seek help. You don’t tell them that YOU are the answer, and their wife and kids are the CAUSE of their depression.

      I questioned him closely and explored things in counseling and he remains adamant that he was happy in our marriage. He never intended to cheat and never intended to leave the marriage once he did.

      Having said all that, I DO recognize how busy our life had become. With four kids active in school and sports, it’s a given. Add owning and running a business into the mix, and suddenly you find there are not enough hours in the day. Today, we are much more purposeful about carving time out for each other. We stay in touch throughout the day, even if its quick texts here and there. We go places just the two of us, and try to keep more focus on the husband/wife relationship. We manage our schedule instead of letting the schedule manage US.

      Lastly, I will say that I have come to the conclusion that there NO SUCH THING as “affair-proofing” your marriage. We have to “affair-proof” OURSELVES as individuals. We were in love, partners, best friends, and had a good sex life. He cheated anyway. I have asked him SO many times what I could have done or not done. What WE could have done or not done. His answer is the same today as it was two years ago: he was the one who was broken. He was the one who used unhealthy coping mechanisms and made bad choices. I am thankful he sees this clearly. I think it is dangerous to enable a cheater by saying, well the marriage had been crappy for six years. ALL marriages have issues from time to time. None of us are perfect. However, we CAN make the decision to deal with things appropriately. We CAN make the decision not to cheat. We can set personal boundaries in our dealings with the opposite sex.

      Doug, one thing I find interesting. Your high school buddies, whether they realize it or not, were speaking very disrespectfully of their spouses. That is one of the biggest dangers to a marriage. We can make our spouses feel so unloved! We can “put out” the message that we are unhappy (and therefore potential affair partners!). For me, protecting the marriage means looking inside yourself first and foremost. Are you speaking to and treating your spouse as you would want for yourself? Are you giving respect to your spouse when you speak OF THEM to other people? Sometimes I think we need to focus first, and mostly on who WE ARE inside. If we are being the right person, we will be the right spouse.

      • Doug

        EG, you bring ups some great points. I especially like you view about how we have to affair proof ourselves. That’s probably a line of thinking that is new to many people.

        And you’re right, those people at Linda’s reunion were disrespecting their spouses. Unfortunately, I hear that type of talk way too often.

      • Rachel

        Exercise grace, great blog!

    • Strengthrequired

      You know what we call it here? The seven year itch.

    • Tryinghardnottokillemboth

      It was the same here……it was more like 6 1/2 years into the relationship then…..ha! ha! My co worker is my new boo… ! Im like “YOU Shi$&*^#@ ME!” I hope she was worth every thing thats about to come after all this!

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