Why do some marriages flounder?
It’s easy to get into a relationship. Boy meets girl and the rest is history. But keeping the home fires burning is the challenge.
As a result, 40% of all marriages end in divorce. Why is the divorce rate so high? Why is it so hard to keep marriages strong over the long haul?
Let’s take a look at the some of the reasons why marriages struggle…
- Couples marry at a young age. In 1990, 50% of all women got married under the age of 24 (Males are slightly older). If you are over 35 today, in retrospect, what guided your relationship choices when you were in your early 20’s? While most 20 year olds are pretty confident about the wisdom behind their choices, a quick look back suggests otherwise. Interestingly, the age of marriage is increasing (which I think is a good thing). In 2010, the median age of marriage for women was 26.1.
- Couples rush to get married. Sometimes couples are in a rush to get married, propelled by love and passion. Then they discover that they didn’t know each other very well. Or they find out that they are not really compatible in some important ways. In recent years, couples have been waiting longer to get married—another positive trend.
- Couples get married for the wrong reasons. Guess one of the main reasons why young adults get married? All of their friends are getting married! And, sometimes adults want to please their parents, feel more secure in their relationship, have greater financial security, or cope with a geographic move of their partner. These can be practical reasons for marriage, but not necessarily a foundation for longevity.
- Couples have unrealistic expectations. In our culture, adults have very high expectations of marriage. They think that their spouse should be able to meet all of their needs. Their husband or wife should be their best friend, have exactly the same interests and hobbies, laugh at the same jokes, and always be available when they are needed. Unrealistic expectations can lead to chronic disappointment.
- Couples have trouble resolving conflict. Remember the big five common sources of marital tension—money, sex, children, in-laws, and housework? Men and women who have problems resolving conflict can have smoldering tension which never gets put out.
- Couples have poor communication skills. This is another big challenge for many partners. Many men and women are just poor communicators! Some spouses don’t talk enough about what they are thinking and feeling and some spouses talk too much so their partner can’t get a word in edgewise! Successful marriage requires a great deal of effective communication about many diverse topics.
So what can couples do to keep their marital boat in the water and avoid capsizing?
- Don’t rush into marriage! I have often felt that it should be very difficult to get married, and relatively easier to get divorced. Take your time. What’s the rush? Better to make sure that this is the right person for you. Look at your motivation to get married? Why now? Why not wait?
- Take stock of your expectations. Are they realistic? Many adults don’t really consider what they expect to get out of marriage. What are your expectations? Do they seem realistic to you? What are your partner’s expectations? Examine them closely.
- Get help sooner rather than later! I see so many couples that come in for counseling after they have had problems for years. It is very hard to help them find each other when there is so much dirty water under the bridge. When you are having problems that you are having difficulty managing, get help! Don’t let your pride get in the way of solving longstanding marital conflicts.
Many times husbands are the most reluctant to go to a marriage counselor. They may feel that they “should” be able to solve their problems on their own. Or, that getting help is a sign of weakness. But don’t we bring our cars to a mechanic when they break down? Don’t we call a plumber when we can’t fix a leak? Getting help when you need it is a sign of intelligence, not weakness.
- Sometimes leaving a bad relationship is the best thing to do. After all is said and done, getting out of an unhealthy relationship may be the best thing for you to do. Sometimes couples stay in chronically unhappy marriages “for the children”. Years later, their kids tell me how unhappy they were as children living in an unhappy home.
What’s your perspective? What do you think keeps a marriage going when the going gets tough?