The traditional wedding vows: “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” remind us there will be tough times, but they don’t tell us how to get through them. So, we asked the experts for advice on handling some common marriage hurdles:

  • Let's start with sickness. James Cordova is the author of The Marriage Checkup. He says that when a spouse becomes seriously ill, the healthy partner needs to avoid becoming too much of a caretaker. Otherwise, the person who’s ill feels increasingly guilty about being waited on hand and foot, and the couple grows apart. The best defense is regularly discussing your feelings for each other and even reminiscing about the good times you had together before the illness.

  • One of you loses your job. Samantha Litzinger is a marriage educator at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. She says the mistake most couples make is not being honest about their feelings. For example, the spouse who’s still working won’t say things like, “We can’t afford to do that,” because they don’t want their partner to feel bad. But avoiding the subject leads to distance in your relationship. Instead, she suggests creating a new household budget together. That way you’ll be able to bring up your anxiety without getting too emotional.

  • The empty nest. This marriage hurdle is one of the top 10 causes of depression in older adults. Susan Yates, author of And Then I Had Teenagers, says that couples need to reconnect when their last child leaves home. To do that, each partner should make a list of the activities they enjoy. Then, look for similarities and start using the time and energy you spent parenting to grow closer as a couple.