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.