Avoiding Divorce: 10 Marriage Mistakes That Can Lead to Divorce
1. Having unrealistic expectations
Many marriages fail because of unrealistic expectations people put on themselves, their partner, and their marriage. Marriage is a serious (and hopefully lifelong) commitment that will have good and bad days, ups and downs, romance and frustration, and obstacles you could not have foreseen from the outset. Because of all these things, expecting your marriage to be in perfect harmony at all times is completely unrealistic! Similarly, expecting yourself and your partner to be perfect at all times is equally unrealistic. People are human, and we must accept mistakes as they come, learn from them, and move on. Another common problem in many marriages is when someone expects their partner to solve all of their problems. You cannot expect your partner to be your therapist. It isn’t fair to them, and frankly, they probably don’t have the proper training to help you deal with your demons. Expecting too much of your partner emotionally will totally drain them, and add stress to their lives. They are there to support you through tough times, not to assume your burden. In order to avoid setting unrealistic expectations, try to focus on acceptance in all its forms. Acceptance of change, frustration, fights, but most importantly, acceptance of your partner, yourself and your union, and all the flaws and strengths that go with it.
2. Poor communication
Communication is KEY. I know that we all know this, but I don’t think many people realize how detrimental poor communication can be to your marriage. A lack of good communication can transform small, resolvable problems into completely insurmountable issues - and in some cases, ‘irreconcilable differences’. Misunderstandings can cause you or your partner to feel unheard and unimportant, which can breed resentment. Good communication is the foundation of any strong relationship, so the lack of it is well... let’s just say NOT good. Not good at all. The thing is, good communication habits can be really difficult to build, and bad communication habits are even harder to break. But your relationship deserves honesty, vulnerability and trust. It requires you and your partner to articulate what is on your mind (out loud, and directly!), so that you can support each other and your emotional needs. Good communication also means talking about the things that aren’t so easy to talk about. You have to be willing to fight, and fight often (but only when necessary, of course), so that problems get resolved and solutions are reached.
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3. Lack of respect
Marriage is a partnership of equals. Accepting this fact means that you have you to respect your partner’s actions, choices, opinions and criticism. If there is a lack of respect in your marriage, whether one person lacks respect for the other, or there is a mutual lack of respect, your marriage is likely to fail. A lack of respect can take on many different forms, whether it’s extreme judgement, unnecessary criticism, a superiority complex, a lack of personal accountability, or simply ignoring your spouse. Though it can take on many forms, at the end of the day, these things all point to the same thing; a lack of both trust and equality in your relationship. No one wants to feel like they aren’t respected by their partner. And most people don’t do things to intentionally lose the respect of their partner, either. If you feel like there is a lack of respect in your marriage, you should talk openly about it. Is there a lack of respect because of how a specific incident was handled? Does someone believe they have better judgement? Try to pinpoint the root of the problem, then move forward together to re-establish respect in the relationship by trusting your partner to do the right thing. The golden rule always applies in these situations: treat your partner the way you want to be treated. Show them respect, and if you feel the need to challenge something they’re doing, do so in a gracious and understanding way. Supporting your partner by showing them respect will make them feel valued and engaged in the marriage.
4. Not giving each other space
No matter how much you like each other, you cannot spend every second of every day together. Too much togetherness can cause you to feel suffocated by your relationship. It can cause you to stay in a total standstill, devoid of growth and exploration. It is important to recognize that marriage is a union between two individuals. Don’t lose your sense of self for the sake of the relationship. Although many believe a true union is the total partnership of two people, it is actually a theory that may end up weakening your marriage in the long run. Taking space away from your spouse will allow you to check in on yourself, and do things that encourage personal growth. Creating these spaces for you and your partner acknowledges a mutual trust that you have for each other, which is an important way to ensure your marriage lasts. Plus, taking space away from each other means that you get to look forward to being together again. Afterall, absence, even for only a few hours, makes the heart grow fonder.
5. Being too independent
While it is important to give your partner space, and encourage personal growth and independence, it is important that you don’t become TOO independent. Becoming too independent can cause your partner to feel marginalized from your life. You want your partner to feel helpful and needed. If you are too independent you risk them feeling undervalued, or even worse, completely left behind. Admittedly, there can sometimes be a fine line between just independent enough, and too independent. In order to walk this line well, It can help to think of you and your partner as a team. Teams work together to make decisions, they support each other, and they grow together. Teams allow and encourage individual growth, but prioritize mutual growth and goals. Cultivating a team mindset will create a stronger, long-term marriage.
6. Decrease in physical intimacy
After the initial honeymoon phase of a marriage, your relationship is likely to experience periods characterized by a lack of physical intimacy. It’s important to understand that these dry spells are completely natural, and often related to outside factors such as stress, work, family problems and things of that nature. BUT, if you notice that the dry spell is lasting a little toooooooo long, this can be cause for concern. Physical intimacy is a very important part of marriage, and when it goes away for a long time, it can be very hard to get back. Even if you’ve been married for a significant amount of time, you can become unacquainted and even awkward with each other if you get really out of the groove. You should also acknowledge that the ways in which you are intimate are likely to change over the course of your marriage. Our bodies change as we age, which means that the physical and sexual intimacy will change as well. Make sure that you and your partner are staying in tune with your own bodies - needs, changes, and all - this will help you tune in to each other’s more successfully. Scheduling intimate time together can be a great way to increase the intimacy in your relationship. If you’re not having sex with your partner becuase you are no longer attracted to them, that hints to a problem larger than intimacy issues. Try and figure out what is causing the lack of attraction, Are you fighting often? Are you too stressed out to even think about sex? Is your marriage experiencing a decrease in emotional intimacy? Focus on fixing that first, the intimacy will be sure to follow once you’re off the rocks.
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Honesty is the baseline for trust, and both trust and honesty play a huge role in gaining the respect of another person, especially YOUR person. Even minimal amounts of dishonesty in a marriage can be detrimental, because it normalizes half-truths and white lies. When these things are normalized, lying becomes more and more common, until OOPS!, a big lie slips out and you’re too far down a slippery, slippery slope. Addressing dishonestly in a relationship, first and foremost means being honest with yourself. Why do you feel the need to lie? Are you trying to cover up a mistake you made? Do you want to exaggerate something so you seem more impressive? Be aware of what is motivating you to be dishonest, and challenge your partner to do the same. Additionally, it can be important to evaluate your personal relationship with the truth. Do you think that omitting something is the same as a lie? Does your partner feel the same way? Would you be hurt if your partner lied by omission? Understanding your relationship with honesty, communicating that to your partner and creating an open dialogue about what dishonesty means will ensure that you and your partner are on the same page. If you end up in a situation where you are dealing with dishonesty in your marriage, the only way to hold onto your relationship is by working to rebuild trust, which means open and honest communication moving forward.
8. Refusing to address bad habits
Whether it’s biting your nails, talking over people, or leaving your dirty socks around the house, it’s important to understand that we all have bad habits. At the same time, it’s also important to recognize that habits are breakable. And these habits should not get in the way of a happy marriage. As an individual you should consistently be trying to learn and improve yourself, so that you can be the best version of yourself for you, your partner, and your marriage. If you refuse to address your bad habits, or refuse to take care of your physical and emotional health, your marriage will pay the price. The hardest thing about bad habits though, is that sometimes we don’t even realize we have them. If your partner critiques a certain behavior of yours, it’s important to try and understand their point of view, rather than becoming defensive. You must trust that your partner wants the best for you and the marriage and try to embrace new, healthy habits.
9. Taking your marriage for granted
We often associate marriage with comfort, which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Afterall, it’s special to be able to relax into a day to day routine with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. BUT, it’s important that this level of comfort doesn't lead to laziness, or neglect. Getting too comfortable can lead to overlooking your partner and your relationship. To avoid this marriage mistake, be more intentional and mindful! Pay attention to your spouse, ask them about their day, do nice things for them like you did when you were courting each other. Don’t assume they’re going to stay around forever, unless you put in the necessary work to maintain your relationship.
10. Losing sight of where you started
We change. Our relationships change. Our lives change. There’s pretty much no way to stop any of this change from happening. And most successful marriages actually embrace all of the change that life throws at them. But while you change and grow, it’s critical to remember what your marriage was like when it started. Not all of life’s changes are planned for, some changes can actually totally derail your plans, and not always for the best... If you don’t like where you currently stand (in regards to finances, or location, or social life), don’t just settle for the current situation. You and your partner entered into a marriage with a shared vision for your lives and for the future, and even after all that life has thrown at you, you probably still share the same (or at least a pretty similar) vision. If you lose sight of what you wanted at the beginning of your marriage, it will be hard to recover from huge changes or blows to your life plans, which as we just discussed, are inevitable! But if you remember where you started, and that you started there with your partner, you are much more likely to recover when life knocks you down.
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