A lot of people these days focus on how lucky you have to be to meet the right person, but really is that truly such an act of serendipity? Isn’t the more remarkable feat the ability to preserve that love over decades?  Seriously, if you talk to couples that have been married for 20 years or more, and you ask them about their marriages, few if any focus on how they met their spouse and instead most of them will tell you about how lucky they were to have weathered life’s storms together.  Maybe if we talked more openly about these “storms,” we could better prepare couples for the road that lies ahead.  Here are 4 common challenges that can either make or break a relationship:

1. Family Deaths– Whether it is mourning the death of an unborn child, or a close relative that has been around for decades, people need to grieve each loss, and each person must go through the grief cycle at his/her own pace.  Feelings of loss are dealt with differently, but if you can find a way to stay connected during this difficult time, it will definitely deepen your bond.

2. Financial Loss– Whenever somebody suffers a job loss or major financial setback that risks the family’s financial security or otherwise negatively impacts the family, it is going to take a toll on the couple.  Even though we all know there is no such thing as a risk-free investment or guaranteed paycheck, when these kinds of stressors present themselves, they really don’t just test our character, but our relationships.

3. Health Issues–   If you marry someone healthy, and then later the person becomes ill either physically or mentally, it’s impossible to predict how you will really handle the situation, and maybe it depends on the illness.  A lot may be sympathetic towards a physical illness, but not so much when their spouse develops an alcohol or drug addiction, or begins to exhibit classic behaviors attributed to untreated depression, anxiety, or a high conflict personality disorder.

4. Life Transitions– If you marry young, you run the risk of not only not knowing what your spouse will be when s/he grows up, but not knowing yet who you really are and the direction you want to take with your own ambitions.  If you marry later in life, you run the risk of being very set in your ways or being married to someone that is cemented in his/her way of doing things, which will make negotiations and/or the ability to compromise harder.  Either way, it will always remain unclear how you will respond to someone’s decision to change their identity, career, home base, or lifestyle.  Anyone at any time can choose to change jobs, move to a new location, or revisit their priorities in life, and if you are fortunate, you and your spouse will be on the same page with these changes.

Regardless of your socio-economic status, none of us are immune to death, financial loss, health issues and life transitions. These are all inevitable challenges we face in life, and they will test our  best relationships.  Those that manage to work through these issues together, actually do grow closer, whereas those that choose to deal with tough times separately, create a divide that deepens over time until the chasm is simply too vast.

Needless to say, luck is a huge factor in partnering with the right person to support you through life’s trials and tribulations.  But, since we cannot control luck perhaps we can focus more on the effort involved in keeping the love we find.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.