We know the reality – no marriage is perfect. That said, there are some key things that we can look for in a marriage that can help to protect it from breaking down. Decades of research by relationship therapists have found several key elements that can lead a relationship to divorce – these are:
- Having unrealistic expectations – the more expectations we hold for ourselves and our partner, the more disappointed we’ll be! We can tend to idealize marriage as the solution to our problems – so accepting that this may not be the case is an important first step.
- Poor communication – we’ve heard this many times before – but communication can make or break a relationship. Direct communication can be challenging to develop, but is worth its weight in gold for the arguments and misunderstandings that it avoids.
- Lack of respect – researchers have consistently found that respect is of the utmost importance in a relationship – and without it, things go south quickly. If this is an issue for you, it is worthwhile asking some questions such as – is lack of respect due to an incident that has happened? Is it a gradual thing, or has it always been there? Understanding and resolving this could be the key to rebuilding the relationship.
- Not giving each other space – when we look at the happiest marriages, we see that – as much as the couple loves each other – they also have their own friends and hobbies. Relationships need oxygen to survive, and often when we return to our partners after time spent with friends, we can feel energised and alive. Additionally, space and time to ourselves gives us a chance to miss our partner – and truly appreciate their company.
- Being too independent – There can also be the risk of going off on your own too much – especially if both partners are somewhat avoidant and independent. This can be great for the relationship at first, but it can also pose challenges if there aren’t opportunities to also connect and be close to each other.
- Decrease in physical intimacy – as we know, every relationship has its ebbs and flows, but a decrease and lack of sex and intimacy can be a major issue. Sex is where we often connect and express vulnerability and fun, and if this is missing then things can start to feel off.
- Dishonesty – starting to tell white lies and fudge the truth can be a slippery slope – it undermines the safety and trust in a relationship, and creates distance and resentment.
- Refusing to address bad habits – part of marriage is compromise, and we do need to meet our partners halfway – even if we don’t always agree. Not being open to change things like poor manners, substance use, sloppy personal habits, or communication patterns, is a major issue as it stops the relationship from growing, and creates resentment and irritation.
- Taking your marriage for granted – marriage is cozy and safe – and comes with a level of comfort. But when we start to take it for granted and not put in the effort, we start to lose our connection with our partner. Showing effort and appreciation is essential for relationship longevity, and you’ll start to see the benefits almost immediately.