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4 Marriage Milestones That Will Make or Break a Couple

Remember that whole line in wedding vows about for better or for worse? Well, they weren't kidding about the worse. Every couple goes through their fair share of trying times, but the interesting thing is that the difficult stuff brings certain duos even closer than they were before—while it pulls others apart. What makes the difference in each critical situation? We turned to experts to find out.

1. Having a Child
It's all too easy to lose sight of your marriage when your life revolves around 3 a.m. feedings and whose turn it is to empty the dirty diaper bin. Oh, and you can forget about sex for the first few months. "It's important to talk about the changes happening in your relationship, from lack of sleep to lack of sex," says psychologist Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D.

Getting on the same parenting page can also help prevent arguments down the road. "Try to stay flexible about the best ways to parent," says Napolitano, so that you can find what works for you as a couple. "There is no one way to parent—some families use daycare, some use a nanny, some stay home. It's about what makes the two of you feel comfortable.
2. A Serious Illness
"A serious illness can allow you to see that a spouse really has your back in ways that you may not realize in a healthy, day-to-day existence," says Masini. "Whether it’s a hospitalization after a car accident or a bout with cancer, you and your spouse can show each other what you don’t usually get to—that you’re there through thick and thin."
3. Caring For a Sick Parent
"A sick parent is, in many ways, like introducing a new baby into the family," says Napolitano. "Caring for this ill parent takes time, energy, and money away from the couple." Tackle this new family dynamic as a team: "Maybe one person cooks food for the ailing parent while the other visits," says Napolitano. "Depending on the acuity of the illness, it's important to make sure that you also schedule 'couple time' in addition to supporting the sick parent."
4. Losing a Job or Other Financial Stress
You might be tempted to start pointing fingers if your partner loses his job or makes a bad investment with your shared funds. "But again, the key here is to not blame each other, " says Napolitano. "As a couple, the best thing you can do is seek out professional financial help. There are likely decisions you can make to ease your financial burden"—which will help you get back to focusing on each other.

"The reality is that most people will face most, if not all, of these issues in their marriage," says Napolitano. "It's important to take the long view and know that even though there will be times of stress, marriages can survive and thrive.
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