Q: “I’m getting married in a month and want to know why so many marriages end in divorce. What should I look out for? How can I prevent divorce?” ~Sandra, Houston TX
A: Understanding why a marriage or relationship might fail can alert couples to their own unique relationship vulnerabilities. These are not meant to be doom-and-gloom predictions about anyone’s marriage, but rather information to help you identify potential marriage problems that can arise and that should be addressed.
Let’s look at five reasons why a marriage or relationship might not survive.
Marriage help: 5 reasons marriages end in divorce
1. The marriage or relationship started for the wrong reasons.
The motivation to marry or start a committed relationship was an act of escapism, not love. For instance, you married to flee an abusive household, or to avoid feelings of loneliness, or to cover up the pain of a failed first marriage. While this doesn’t mean your marriage is destined to end, it does pose some challenges.
Preventative Measure: For this marriage to survive, it’s important to separate the person you married from the reasons you married him/her. This will allow you to break the negative associations and really “see” the person you now call “husband” or “wife.”
2. The couple has grown apart over the years to such a degree that there are no longer any common interests.
The “we” of the marriage or relationship has been neglected to such a degree and for so long that you no longer recognize the person you fell in love with. When this occurs, the relationship may feel like it offers little meaning to your life and the danger is that you’ll seek to get all of your needs met outside of the relationship.
Preventative measures: Make the commitment and take the necessary steps to keep your marriage/relationship a priorityeven when life and competing priorities seem to get in the way.
3. Years of unresolved conflicts and deep emotional wounding have shattered the very fabric of the union.
Chronic defensiveness, resentments and deep emotional pain caused by a relationship that has spiraled out of control have invaded the union and dissolved the foundation of mutual love and respect.
Preventative measures: Have those uncomfortable discussions to make sure important issues don’t go underground where they can fester. You may need to seek professional help to get things moving in the right direction.
4. One or both parties unconsciously repeat unhealthy relationship patterns from their family-of-origin.
We’re all vulnerable to repeating patterns from our past. When unhealthy relationship patterns predominate (e.g., acting abusive just like your father did), combined with an unwillingness to examine these destructive dynamics, one’s marriage is placed at serious risk.
Preventative measures: Reflect on your parents’/caregivers’ relationship and think about how you want to be different from them in your role as a husband/wife or partner. Each day make a conscious effort to stop negative family-of-origin patterns.
5. The marriage or relationship is built upon expectations that cannot support the realities of a committed relationship.
We all hold expectations about what a marriage or romantic relationship should look like. When overly romanticized dreams predominate (my spouse should always make me happy), you’re likely to feel disillusioned and not commit to the work that all marriages/relationships require.
Preventative measures: Examine the expectations you hold about marriage and share this with your spousediscuss any differences in perspective that may exist between you and then take a hard look at which expectations feel realistic and which are likely to buckle under the day-to-day realities of life.
While the above list isn’t exhaustive, it does capture some of the most common, essential reasons marriage problems arise and why an initially loving, committed relationship can fail to thrive over the long haul. Don’t forget to take the preventative measures needed to keep your marriage or relationship healthy.