Not all marriages fail for the same reason. Nor is there usually one reason for the breakdown of a particular marriage. Nevertheless, there are some common reasons we hear more often than others.
Poor communication is often the catalyst for all other marital problems. Unfortunately, the simple act of saying “I do” doesn’t turn a spouse into a mind reader. So couples must share their thoughts and feelings or they risk losing touch with what is important in their marriage.
Direct communication is always best. If you want or need something, tell your spouse. If your spouse is doing something that bothers you, tell him or her why it bothers you and what you would like your spouse to do about it. As with all communication, however, the secret is in the delivery. Never be accusatory or disrespectful.
If your spouse reacts badly to something you’ve said, it’s possible that he or she did not understand what you meant. Before you overreact, take time to find out what your spouse thinks you meant, and, if necessary, explain what it is you were trying to say.
Some communication problems may be the result of the different ways men and women tend to communicate. Each sex often expects a particular response when they say something, and some are surprised or offended when they get something else. Women often want their feelings acknowledged, while men want to fix things, to solve problems.
It is dangerous to react to your spouse with anger. Anger impairs judgment and impedes communication. When people get angry, they may be speechless, or they may cry, yell, stomp out of the room, run away, or throw things. Some may even beat their spouse or children. None of this conduct helps a marriage thrive. It does not resolve disputes; it simply intimidates the other person.
It is better to focus on solving the problem instead of winning the argument; listen with an open mind to make sure you understand what your spouse means instead of launching into an unnecessary argument; explain yourself if you feel you have been misunderstood; respect each other’s opinion, even if you can’t find an immediate solution to the problem; spend time discussing problems and issues you each think are important; be quick to forgive, quick to forget; don’t go to sleep before resolving a conflict; don’t start arguments based on things that happened long ago.
No matter how rich or how poor a couple is, one of the constant subjects of marital disagreement is money. When spouses are raised with widely differing attitudes toward money, conflict is inevitable. The key is for couples to discuss their views on money and to decide among themselves how they will make decisions about how the family money will be controlled.
It is probably not a good idea to have one spouse in complete control of all family assets. That’s not to say that a spouse with a particular skill in managing money should not use that skill, but that spouse should always discuss with the other spouse what he or she is doing.
Some couples keep their earnings separate but agree in advance who will pay what bills. Some couples put every penny of their financial lives into a joint account. Financial togetherness can be as intense or as separate as the parties wish. As long as the goals and attitudes toward money are shared, the mechanics of fiscal management are less important.
Lack of commitment
Marriage is supposed to be a lifetime commitment, a pledge to do whatever is necessary to keep the relationship together. Spouses have to agree that keeping the marriage healthy is their top priority. To do that, they have to commit time and energy to it. Both spouses should be as concerned with the welfare of each other as they are with themselves.
Devoting time to one’s marriage can require some tough decisions, such as turning down challenging work assignments that would take away from “couple time,” spending less time with friends, leaving the office even when duty calls, etc. But it can also be as simple as having a weekly “date night.”
Changes in priorities
The most common change in priorities comes during a “mid-life crisis.” Fearing the transition into older age or more responsibility (such as having children), many people push aside all that they have valued in exchange for something new, exciting or completely opposite.
But there are other reasons for changed priorities: children going to college, which can often prompt stay-at-home moms to re-evaluate their lives in their children’s absence; a deteriorating sex life; major health problem; the completion of a longtime goal; or death of a parent or child. Any of these things can make a person feel the need to break away from their “routine” as a way to get back what they feel they have lost. Couples need to discuss their priorities and their expectations, and what they hope to achieve in the future. And they should do this not just on their honeymoon, but throughout their marriage. Even if they don’t always agree on the specifics of the new priorities, an open line of communication will facilitate a resolution as well as prevent unpleasant surprises.
The sad fact is that that some people will risk their entire marriage for the sake of an extramarital affair. A cheating spouse may find comfort in the arms of someone else when the other spouse has stopped communicating. Neither scenario is an excuse, but spouses who have extramarital affairs pick an inappropriate way to fulfill a need that’s not being met at home. The spouse who is betrayed may feel humiliated. So instead of breaking your family end that affair to save your marriage. This is the best you can do for your partner and children.