What Ruins Marriages and Relationships
As a marriage counselor, I get asked a lot what the biggest reasons marriages and relationships fail are. Although there are big ticket items such as infidelity, addictions and abuse, I would say more marriages and relationships end because of less drastic issues. As I have thought about this question, I have come up with 5 common habits that make marriages and relationships fail.
Although they are not listed in any particular order, nor are they all inclusive, I would say at the root of most marriage problems is selfishness. When one or both individuals in a relationship is selfish, it makes it impossible to have a successful relationship. Selfish is defined as “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.” When we choose to be in a committed relationship, I believe we also commit to being considerate of our partners thoughts, feelings, opinions and beliefs. Even putting them ahead of our own often times.
This is challenging because we live in a world that places such an emphasis on doing what we want and when we want as long it makes US happy. Just take for example the ideas of YOLO (You Only Live Once) and “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I believe these mottos promote the idea that selfishness is positive and good for us. For they truly are “concerned …with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”
Now, I am not saying that we don’t need personal self-care. We need to do things for us and us only sometimes, but no healthy self-care should be a wedge in a committed and loving relationship.
Another bad habit that ruins relationships is being mean to each other. This could be as serious as emotional and verbal abuse. (I do not include physical and sexual abuse here because those are beyond being mean and will be a topic of another post). The meanness I am talking about for purposes of this post are being critical, judgmental, overall sarcastic, and other ways people are emotionally and mentally mean to each other. I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw years ago which stated, Mean People Suck!. That is so true!
There is no place for meanness in a relationship where two people have committed to love and care for each other. Over time, this can drive a wedge between two people that cannot be repaired.
The next big issue that tears couples apart is probably the most common relationship problem that couples come into counseling for. When I ask couples during a first session what brings them into therapy and what they want to get out of it, they almost always say they do not communicate well and they want to learn to communicate better. Poor communication skills is a huge relationship killer.
This is such a huge topic, that there will be many more posts on communication skills in the future. I stress that communication skills are a “skill” and need to be learned and practiced continually to be effective.
Another really bad habit is laziness or a lack of effort. I find that people get complacent in their relationships. They seem to put all their effort into pursuing the other person in the beginning. Then, once they got the other person to “fall in love” with them, they think they don’t have put that same amount of effort into the relationship to keep that love and passion alive. Then they are surprised when the other person is not happy in the relationship and have “fallen out of love”.
Thriving marriages and relationships take continual effort throughout the relationship. It seems that most relationships are in what I call Surviving mode. They are not train wrecks and they are not thriving. They are just “getting by.” If you want a thriving marriage and relationship, be willing to put the continued effort into it.
Finally, I find that not understanding the opposite gender gets in the way of a loving and happy marriage and relationship. Men expect women to think like men and women expect men to think like women. Neither is going to happen! Each have a unique way of thinking, viewing the world and solving problems. Neither is right or wrong, just different.
When we can respect and honor each others differences, we can then be more understanding and patient with each other. We know those difference are a part of who each of us are, and we then cannot take it personally when they do not think and feel as we do. We can work together as a united partnership instead of opponents, trying to win a battle.
Questions to consider:
Where are you at in each of the areas?
Which one can you choose to work on today?
What will you do to improve in that area?
Commit to working on one of these areas for the next 30 days consistently with real effort and see how your relationship improves.
There are a lot of theories on how one changes something about their life. This post and video discusses a few principles that need to be understood and applied to change effectively. Changing a habit or life style is hard. If change were easy we all would be who and what we exactly want to be.
However, if we understand the principles of effective change, we can change anything about ourselves that we want to. So, what does it take?
We need self-efficacy if we want to change something about ourselves. Self-efficacy is believing that we are capable of change. In my private practice, I find that lacking self-efficacy is probably one of the primary stumbling blocks to change. You can put a lot of effort into change and apply a lot of good techniques to make that change possible, but if you do not believe that you capable of changing or accomplishing what you want to change or accomplish, you eventually will fail.
Once you believe you are capable of making a change, you have to be ready to change. Readiness to change means you ready to take action. But action is not the first stage of change. There is a great book on change called Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. It is important to understand what stage you at when beginning to change something about your life. (There sill be an entire video and post on the Stages of Change in the near future.) For purposes of this blog, I will only list them with a brief description of each.
Questions to Consider:
1. Do you believe you are capable to change what it is that you want to change?
2. What stage of change are you in?
3. Are you willing to do what every it takes and put in maximum effort to make the change?
Share with someone the answers to above questions and start the change!
Stress is a part of everybody’s life. The question is, how well do we cope with it? There are a lot of strategies to cope with stress. This video covers some tools to not only cope with stress but to prevent being stressed in some circumstances.
You may have heard of the acronym H.A.L.T. before. If you have, please comment on how following the strategy has helped or how not following it has increased your stress. Halt stands for the following:
H = Hungry: When we are hungry and not eating healthy, we are more prone to the effects of stress. It is not uncommon to be more “cranky” when we are hungry. Help yourself deal with or prevent stress by eating regularly and eating healthy.
A = Angry or any intense painful emotion such as depression, anxiety, worry, fear etc.: When our emotions are intensified, we usually end up reacting to situations and not responding. It is important to learn effective emotion regulation skills when dealing with stress.
L = Lonely: Having a lack of connection or positive support in our life can make coping with stressful situation much more difficult. We may have a lot of people around us, but if we do not feel a connection with them and supported by them, life challenges can be much harder to bare. Work on strengthening the important relationships in your life.
T = Tired: Lack of sleep and or lack of quality of sleep can deeply effect how we handle the stress in our life. Sleep problems effect more people than we realize and it really can create more stress in our lives. Be willing to change your sleep patterns if you are not getting the sleep you need.
Questions to Consider:
1. How has being imbalanced in any of these made it more difficult to cope with the stress in your life?
2. Which one(s) could you be more balanced in?
Choose the one you struggle with the most and set a goal to do better in that area.