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Relationship Deal Breakers
The US divorce rate hovers around 46% and is second only to that of Sweden. What's most surprising about this sad statistic is that many of these marriages are carefully planned, expensive, and elaborate affairs with the average cost of "the big day" hovering near 27,000.00. With all this attention and investment, it's ironic how so many unions can go so wrong. Perhaps we are putting the emphasis in the wrong place--seeing the wedding as an end unto itself instead of just the beginning of a lifetime of investment, sacrifice, challenge, growth and accomplishment.
When couples come to counseling for relationship help, the number one reason cited for discord is a "problem with communication." In my experience, this covers many different issues and can include; increasing emotional distance, alienation of physical/sexual affection, frequent conflict brought about by financial, health and job stresses, problems with children/parenting conflicts, infidelity, and/or a loss of trust or love which can be accompanied by a desire to end the relationship and perhaps to start over with someone else.
What is important to note is that couples arrive at this difficult place one day at a time--and all along the way there are opportunities to do something better or different, but often they report that they don't know how they got there or believe the problems were there all along and marriage only made it worse, not better as they mistakenly thought it would.
If this assessment is correct, then examining their relationship choices and how they deal with issues that arise over time while identifying and applying tested and effective interventions along the way, would be a good way for couples to work towards decreasing their chances of ending up in divorce court. In order to do this, it is important to know the top relationship destroyers--and to address these quickly in order to keep them from sending the relationship into a downward spiral. See if any of these sound familiar:
* Not taking time each day to check in with one another and offer even a small, intimate gesture of love or appreciation
* Putting one's partner and time alone together last in line of priorities--after kids, work, household responsibilities and even friends. This is often accompanied by the thought that they will be there when there is more time and energy available.
* Not dealing with small issues and concerns that your partner brings up--choosing instead to shelve them for later or write them off to over-sensitivity, tiredness, stress, or selfishness, in other words, their partner's problem
* Negativity. This can be expressed verbally--through attitude, withdrawal, anger, or annoyance. It can be direct or indirect (directed to others around you, work, the cashier at the local grocery store, the broken vacuum, etc.)
* Letting hurt or anger build up until it becomes an anger monster that causes you to lash out at your partner, citing a long list of grievances accompanied by angry labels to describe your partner's behavior, character, etc.
* Not letting the little things go. Of course, this is easier to do if they don't build into larger issues. However, some things really are little issues, because no one's partner is at their best all the time--and when we live intimately with one another there will be things every day that have the potential to annoy us.
* Failure to share the workload--including household responsibilities, parenting tasks, errands and maintenance issues, etc. This will lead to exhaustion and resentment in the partner who is shouldering the whole load.
* A lack of intellectual stimulation, shared sense of fun and humor, and/or friendship. Couples can challenge, excite, encourage and inspire each other--or they can bore, drag down, tire and drain one another. Which are you?
* Putting our needs and wants first all the time. No one wins unless it's a win-win.
* Not making an effort with personal grooming, dress and overall hygiene and self-care. Making that effort is a statement about your feelings of self-worth and your attraction to your mate.
If any of these resonate with you, don't delay. Spend some time thinking about your issue and how to raise it with your partner. If necessary, consider professional help if you feel like you are at an impasse or if the situation has grown into something you can no longer tackle on your own. When you identify a problem, make a list of steps to address it, set aside the time and resources needed, and then take action immediately.
One of the things I tell my clients frequently is that it's the little things--all those small acts and daily gestures that can make or break a relationship. Planning an elaborate celebration for Valentine's Day or making grand gestures or big plans a few times a year are not the glue that holds relationships together. It's all the little acts of love, kindness and appreciation that matter.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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