The statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce has been highly debated and disputed over the last few years, yet that number just keeps swirling around. It often prolongs younger generations’ decision on when or whether to marry. Although the divorce rate varies depending on demographics, it can happen to any couple, and wanting to prevent a permanent parting of ways is a very real concern for most couples. While finances and communication have been cited as some of the most common causes for divorce, we asked the experts about the most overlooked reasons that marriages fail.
Lack of Investment
We think of investments in regard to money. But we forget about the time investment and education investment that we need to have in learning how to maintain successful marriages. “Why do we think we don’t need any skills when going into a marriage? What other job do we sign up for without any training?” asks Sadler. Sadler’s advice includes simply investing time in each other that may include 2-3 hours of your undivided attention for your partner and of course seeking out couples’ counseling and/or books to help you navigate the obstacles of a marriage.
Our inability to truly forgive our partners in marriage is one of the major reasons that they fail. True forgiveness is when we are able to treat our partners as if the offense never happened which proves to be very difficult for couples. We are constantly reliving the trauma of past experiences which never gives the wounds the opportunity to heal.
Not Showing Up for Your Spouse
So many things can happen in the course of a marriage as Dr. Bradford mentioned. As we experience the ups and downs of life, it’s important that our partners “show up,” in some of the most difficult experiences whether that’s losing a home, the death of a child, or a sick parent. Sadler advises the importance of being able to ask your partner “What is it that you need?” instead of making assumptions. She cites a major issue as the tendency we have to simply want to fix the problem. “Every situation doesn’t need to be fixed. Sometimes you just need to show up,” warns Sadler. Showing up includes being able to communicate that you may not know what you need at the time, but finding the opportunities to talk through these tough situations and be honest with your partner.
Forgetting the Friendship
Somehow the terms “husband” and “wife” add so much more pressure than we’ve experienced in our relationships prior to the marriage. Often times, without realizing it, we forget about the friendship that was formed in the dating process and get so far away from it after the nuptials. Sadler advises that we approach marriage with friendship at the forefront and learn to be able to communicate with our partners from a friend perspective without always being so easily offended.
This is definitely an area that seeps into our ability to communicate but is a very specific part of the puzzle that is often missed. Not only do we ignore an opportunity to communicate our expectations, but we also begin to act on those expectations not being met “We come from different backgrounds and expect different things and never communicate that to our partners. Women never let men know how crucial security is to us. We think men should know to provide, protect, etc., but it’s rarely discussed in detail. Men are being brought up in single parent households and have no examples of what it means to be that security,” says Sharon Sadler of SOS Marriage Network.
Lack of Flexibility
“Even if a couple has done their due diligence and discussed and agreed on the big topics like finances and parenting styles, there needs to be room in the plans for things to change. A partner’s ideas about working outside of the home may change after a child enters the family, or health issues could arise that impact your sexual relationship,” says Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D. “I think the key to managing changes that were not expected is to remember that you and your partner are on the same team and should put your heads together to tackle the issue and not each other. If you find it difficult to do this on your own then scheduling an appointment with a couple’s therapist may be a great strategy to help you both get some clarity and perspective.”
Familial or Societal Pressure
Often times our families have thoughts on who we should marry. Women tend to also be racing the clock when it comes to getting the husband and the family started so they are not marked with the scarlet letter of being “30 something and single.” This, Johnson believes can lead to making rash decisions in marriage that in turn can lead to divorce. Johnson addresses the pressure that we face as women when it comes to marriage. “At some point, people will understand the danger of living and loving for others to which they will want to leave the marriage. In that case, it may be the best decision for both parties involved. It’s never too late to find yourself and most of us need to find ourselves every few years.”
Lack of Self-Knowledge
“There’s a mix of people that never explored what they like or need and there are others that go with what their family thinks is good for them. These people date who looks good on paper for the family and for a societal image. Whether this is to fit in or stand out, depends on the individual and their life experiences,” Jaynay C. Johnson, MFT explains. “My advice to overcome this is to take your time getting to know and love yourself. Understand what you like and don’t like. Document how situations make you feel and if you are able to overcome them quickly or not. Talk your feelings out with your partner, friends or a therapist so you don’t internalize emotions. Finally, accept that you will change over time. What you like at 25 may not be what you like at 30 and that’s okay.”