5 Marriage Issues That Can Lead to Divorce (and How to Fix Them)
We live in a fast-paced world full of rapid delivery, quick fixes, and immediate communication over high-speed internet. Primed to expect instant gratification, we can find a relationship with our intimate partner to be frustrating; it takes a lot of work, intention, trial and error, and experience.
Sometimes, things don’t always go as planned. The good news is that most struggling marriages experience a similar handful of problems and that these issues are fixable if both people are committed to the relationship.
Below, I explain five common marriage problems that can lead to divorce–and how to fix them to get your marriage back on track.
COMMON MARRIAGE PROBLEMS & THEIR SOLUTIONS
1. Unproductive fighting
Every marriage goes through periods of adversity. Fighting is expected. What sets successful marriages apart from others is learning how to fight in healthy ways, which can shift resentment into growth.
Most struggling married couples that I see in my practice tend to focus on who is “right” and who is “wrong,” which keeps them running on the hamster wheel of more pain and dissatisfaction. Let’s be honest, we all know how badly that feels.
How to move forward:
Remember that all human beings have the same need: to feel secure. We need to feel safe in our environment to function well.
In a marriage, this can get very complicated; if we fear our partner will leave, our fear of being left can turn into anger about being abandoned (emotionally, physically or sexually). All of this complicates our ability to communicate well and to “fight well.”
Learn what is going on with your partner underneath the verbal chatter. I encourage couples to focus on the physiological clues in their partner’s communications: body language, voice tone, facial expression, eye contact, body positioning, fluctuating breath, physical tics, etc.
Because body language can communicate much more than verbal language, focusing on it can leave spouses more attuned to each other’s wavelengths and encourage positive communication habits, such as active listening and responding.
It can also lead to body language mirroring between spouses, which may strengthen the relationship and translate to better verbal communication as well. In my experience, better communication means a better relationship.
The most important distinction between a friend who shares a connection with you and your marital partner is sex. We typically do not have sex with our friends, we have sex with our partner. As a result, we have a much stronger level of trust, loyalty, priority, and security with our partner.
When a spouse or partner cheats and breaks that bond, it can lead to a variety of negative effects in both people:
- Loss of trust in the cheating partner
- Feelings of anger, confusion, betrayal, shame, and guilt
- A sense of emotional instability or loss
- Decreased intimacy between partners, including sexual intimacy
- Damaged confidence and self-esteem
- Impacts to other areas of life, such as decreased work productivity or changes in relationships with other family members (e.g., children)
How to move forward:
Infidelity can be one of the most difficult relationship hurdles to overcome but it is possible to move forward.
In my practice, I often work with couples and individuals who are struggling with various marriage and relationship issues, including infidelity. Some spouses decide to work through it and we use couples therapy to help them get their relationship back to a good place. We explore issues and negative feelings around the infidelity and rebuild communication channels and trust.
Other times, couples decide to separate and we work through their divorce in a safe space. I act as a neutral third-party to help them communicate, focus on finding calm in the chaos, and course through separation step by step.
At that point, I frequently work with former spouses individually to help them discover what life looks like after divorce and how they can grow and maintain a sense of self. Who am I after my relationship? What is my life going to be like? How can I help my kids get through this? Those are the questions I help my patients to answer.
If you need help responding to infidelity in your relationship, schedule an appointment with me now.
3. Cultural differences or misaligned expectations
Every culture has its own relationship norms, gender roles, and ways of communicating, which can make relationships across cultures challenging for many couples. In my practice I frequently see Chinese-American couples or mixed-culture relationships (one Chinese partner and one American partner) struggling to navigate cultural differences, honoring their Chinese culture while also navigating American customs.
The most common marriage problem among these couples is mismatched expectations. For example, the husband believes that his spouse should be a mother and housekeeper while the wife wants to put off having kids to pursue her career.
Or, the wife believes that her husband should be more communicative of his feelings while the husband believes that men should be stoic.
How to move forward:
Communication is the best way to overcome mismatched expectations in a relationship. Share your culture with your partner and discuss some of the assumptions you bring to the relationship due to your background.
For example, if you and your spouse constantly argue over childcare duties, set aside some time to calmly talk about why.
Do you expect your spouse to stay at home and take care of the children throughout the day because that is the standard in your culture? Or do you expect your working spouse to contribute to childcare and house chores because your culture encourages an equal division of labor among spouses?
If you feel that your spouse is not as expressive in his or her feelings as you would like, discuss whether that behavior is typical in your spouse’s culture and why you expect your spouse to be open.
Not all relationship problems are caused by cultural differences, but you may be surprised how often culture and past experiences inform our expectations of our romantic partners.
At the beginning of a relationship, everything is fun and new. It’s easy to be in love and feel strongly connected as a couple.
Then, life gets busy. As time goes on, couples may feel like they’re no longer in sync or growing together. This can lead to resentment and other negative feelings about the relationship, which in turn pushes spouses further apart. It’s a vicious cycle that sometimes results in divorce.
How to move forward:
To reconnect with your spouse and grow closer as a couple, recreate the playfulness at the beginning of your relationship.
- Plan small adventures, like getting away for the weekend or doing a fun cooking night at home.
- Recreate past dates you both enjoyed and talk about your goals for the future.
- Aim to do one kind thing for your spouse every day.
These are simple ways to build trust, reestablish connection, and remove resentment in your relationship.
5. Not adapting to change
Healthy, grounded people create healthy relationships. When relationships suffer, the individuals within those relationships also tend to suffer. If you are struggling in your marriage, it’s time to prioritize self-care in addition to focusing on your relationship with your significant other.
How to move forward:
When your relationship is shifting, being adaptable to change can help you get through the tough times.
Embracing change will help you maintain your sense of self and stay grounded even when things feel fast-paced or chaotic. A lot of times our natural inclination is to push back against change, but change can be a great thing for yourself and your relationship.
It starts with embracing change as a positive thing and learning to respond to all situations–even rough patches in your marriage–in a healthy way. Try the following tips to be more open to change and build a healthier marriage.
- Understand that you both are constantly changing, evolving people. You will need to accept and embrace the new person you are today and do the same for your spouse, every day.
- Never stop being curious. Try new things, learn new things about your spouse, and share things about yourself.
- If you notice small things starting to annoy you or breed resentment, address them early on before they turn into big issues.
Big changes can be more of a challenge to overcome. If you need help with that or other marriage problems, including discussing divorce or getting through a divorce, I offer virtual appointments on a flexible schedule.
Schedule an appointment at Serene Shift now.