ENJOYING THE TOUGHEST YEARS OF MARRIAGE
As a parent of three teens, I can testify to how hard the teen years can be on a marriage. I have read a number of books on how to do a better job of parenting teenagers. But I have yet to find a book on how to maintain and improve your marriage when you are parenting teens. Why do I say that the years of marriage with a teenager are the toughest? One study among 5000 couples consistently found that the time of lowest marital satisfaction is when adolescents are present in the home! What are some of the general factors that make these years so difficult? 1. Less EMOTIONAL reserve: As you get into the years when your children are teenagers, these are the years when you don’t have the emotional reserve you once had. This is one of the things that makes it easier to react to our spouse’s little irritations, or those of the mini-adults now occupying the house. 2. A faster pace which leads to being STRESSED OUT. What parent of teens isn’t stressed out? Many Americans are simply depressed from the strain of life today. In 2002 Americans filled more than 200 million prescriptions for anti-depressants. 1 out of 10 Americans report feeling “great stress” at least once a week. What stress producers have been tearing at your marriage? Lost jobs, missed bills, loss of parents, a recent move, the list can go on indefinitely. 3. HYPER-living: Dr. Tim Clinton puts it this way: “It’s like we are hyper-living. We are pulled in every direction, busy going nowhere fast, and having to do more with less. Before long tempers flare, stomachs ache, hearts break. Hurried decisions become bad decisions. And bad decisions make people hurt. And our hurt makes us irritable, discouraged, and very difficult to live with.” 4. DINS Syndrome: Couples also suffer from what one marriage counselor calls DINS Syndrome: Duel Income, No Sex. Couples will talk about getting to the place, often on a regular basis, where they feel that something has to give, and many chose “what gives” to be their marriage. Listen to the testimony of David and Claudia Arp from their book, The Second Half of Marriage, “The lack of privacy, the exhaustion, and the emotional drain of teenagers in our home had taken a toll on our love life. Our own social life was practically non-existent. We had lost touch with our friends, who were overwhelmed with their own teenagers, careers, and fast paced lives.” The divorce rate among couples once their kids leave home is disturbing. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, in the last ten years the overall divorce rate has declined 1.4%, while divorce in the thirty plus years marriages increased 16%. You would think these couples had finally arrived once the kids were raised, financial stability is achieved, and more free time is available. So why the jump? One husband married 25 years comments: “We never had a very close relationship, but the kids kept us together – they were our connecting point. When they left home, it was just the two of us, with no buffers. We had nothing in common and decided it was crazy to waste the rest of our lives. So we divorced.” Let me outline some of the issues of marriage in the teen years that can tear at you and your spouse. Consider some of these Teenager issues: -The shift from child to young adult. -The struggle of your child with independence and autonomy. -Sex and dating. -The change in relationship between a daughter and a father. -The change in relationship between a son and a mother. -How children mirror their parents becomes more acute. -The shift from control to influence as you parent your teen. -Biological clock changes for the teen. They sleep in later and stay up later. -Learning to drive and the independence that comes with it. -Greater consequences for sin and irresponsibility. -Homework and school pressures. -Friction between privileges of your teens and restrictions for younger siblings. Now consider some Couple Issues: -Mom and Dad’s Taxi Service. -You are getting older. -Your own parents are aging. -Financial pressure in saving for college. -Differences on how to discipline the kids. -Differences on policies related to the kids conduct. -Kids wanting to be up later leaves less time for parents. -Level of involvement with kids activities. -The pressure of “will my kid make it?” -Worry over your child’s moral, spiritual choices Is your marriage buckling under the weight of the stress of the teenage years? Take some time and discuss these issues with your spouse. In the next issue, I will outline some common mistakes couples make during these years, and then outline how to renew your marriage now, and not when the kids are finally on their own.  Clinton, Tim. Before a Bad Goodbye: How to Turn your Marriage Around. Nashville: Word, 1999, p.61.  Arp, David and Claudia. The Second Half of Marriage.