Selfishness, Distance, and Other Reasons Why Your Marriage May Have Ended
With the divorce rate at approximately 40% to 50%, you have many more couples asking, “Why even get married?” Another sentiment you often hear is, “Marriage ruins everything.” But that sentiment is a lazy one. It puts the blame on a mere label and set of papers. Did that ring really ruin your relationship? Or that little piece of paper otherwise known as a marriage certificate? You were already living together. You were already sharing your lives, responsibilities and a bed. So let us be real: marriage doesn’t ruin a relationship that wasn’t already doomed for one of these fundamental reasons.
Having a committed relationship brings so many great things to your life like emotional support, sex, affection and companionship. Everybody wants that, which is why most of the world seeks out a relationship. The problem is that a portion of that “most” forgets that you have to give in order to get what a relationship can offer you. That’s why so many marriages end over a partner that wants sex on demand, but won’t give it when they are tired, or wants their partner to accompany them to important events, but doesn’t want to return the favor if they’re tired/their favorite show is on/it doesn’t sound fun. But true generosity means giving even when it’s not convenient or enjoyable.
Is a flirtatious conversation cheating? Are funny emails exchanged with a co-worker cheating? Actually, in a sense, yes. Any activity that leads to fantasy about another person, and therefore perceived dissatisfaction in your own relationship, is cheating. You can’t help it if sometimes you think about another person, but you can help it if you engage in activities that spur on that fantasizing. Many marriages end because couples use the excuse that this or that was not “technically cheating,” and yet, the emotional implications still exist, and take a toll on their marriage.
A good partner will be there for you, even when you cannot be there for them (as much). And that will happen many times in life. If someone’s parent becomes ill, or someone gets laid off and has to vigorously job hunt, or someone begins their own company that they have to slave over day and night to get off the ground, that person will not have as much emotional, physical or mental energy to dedicate to their partner as they normally would. Many marriages fail because couples do not anticipate this change, and they do not realize it is only temporary. They also do not realize that part of the give and take dynamic of a relationship means being there for someone when they cannot be there for you, as hopefully they would do for you in return some day.
Some couples literally go years without disagreeing over something major. Sure, they disagreed over where to have dinner or even which apartment to rent, but a decision, which would greatly affect their relationship, was not thrown in their way until further down the line. This is where many relationships split up because it becomes apparent that one or both parties do not respect the other person’s difference of opinion. Instead of approaching the matter diplomatically and calmly, a difference in opinion is approached with threats, anger, belittling and patronizing. And then one or both people no longer want to share their ideas.
Any time your partner makes you feel angry, unless they were intentionally trying to upset you, it is your responsibility to find a healthy way to work out that anger. Lashing out, throwing a temper tantrum or spewing harsh words is the childish way of reacting to something you do not like. Unfortunately, it’s also the easiest way to react and the reason many couples break up—because one or both people never learned how to stop and ask, “Is my partner actually trying to upset me? Does my wrath do any good?” Once one or both people are incapable of managing their anger, the relationship becomes a scary, unsafe place rather than one of open communication.
Lack of sex or affection
It can happen completely by accident: the affection just leaves the relationship. Both parties either get too busy, or are too in their heads about their own issues, that they begin living more like roommates than romantic partners. But you have to make a conscious effort to step out of your own thoughts/problems/stresses and be affectionate with your partner, because lack of physical intimacy leads directly to lack of emotional intimacy, and that can be very difficult to get back.
Living too independently
A relationship should be stable enough to withstand the two people taking occasional time apart to pursue their own passions, however it should never be taken for granted that the relationship will hold up all on its own, if nobody is working on it. Many marriages breakup because each person thinks, “Oh, I can commit 5 days a week to my work and the other two to my own separate social life and my partner will still be there for me.” If a couple does not put aside time to experience adventures, hobbies, new experiences or even just down time together, they begin to feel distant. That feeling of distance only makes them turn more to their separate lives because they no longer feel excited about being around their partner. And so the vicious cycle begins.
You tell yourself, “I’ll just let this one thing slide” but before you know it, it’s become a habit. You never think it’s “worth it” to mention when something your partner did or said is bothering you. While conflict is unpleasant, it is the bridge you must cross to get back to feeling close. Avoiding conflict is resisting crossing that bridge, and staying on “your side” where your partner has no idea what you are thinking or feeling. Consider it the “closed throat” syndrome. The more you keep quiet, the harder you find it to communicate.
Addictions are not always obvious. There aren’t just drugs, alcohol and gambling. There is binge eating, shopping, a need to always be on the move, work addiction, socializing addiction. Basically, anything that your urges for are so strong, that they constantly overpower your ability and desire to fulfill your partner’s needs is an addiction. When an addiction exists in a relationship, it is almost like having a third person in that relationship because that addiction has a say in every decision that is made. But that is not what people sign up for in a marriage, and so many end over it.
A marriage should be a partnership between equals. It should not feel like a parent/child relationship. Unfortunately, it often becomes that way especially when one person believes their job/life is more demanding, and that the other person “should” pick up more slack. Even if one person is employed at a high-stress job, and the other stays home all day, it should never just be assumed that one person “should” be taking on more responsibility within the relationship, like cleaning the house or taking care of children. When this happens, that feeling of equality leaves.
Put a divorcee on a therapist’s couch, and when you really get down to it most marriages end over a problem that happened years ago. The ability to forgive and forget is a muscle that has to be constantly flexed. And the longer one holds onto negative feelings about something their partner did, the harder it becomes to let it go. That anger becomes a part of that person, and it dictates every word and action towards his or her partner. But, if you want a relationship to continue after hard times, you have to have certitude in your decisions. If a partner cheats and the other forgives them, they have to make the decision not to punish that partner or change they way they behave towards them. That lack of certitude is what ends many marriages.
Only a lucky few experience having absolutely everybody in their life from co-workers to best friends to family love the partner they choose. Many marriages end because one person was not prepared for the burden of having their family or friends strongly dislike their partner. It’s a full time job making sure your partner still feels loved, while your family clearly disapproves of them, and making sure your family still loves you if they can’t stand your partner.
Married too young
The mid-life crisis seems to be a phenomenon of the baby boomer generation—the couples that married in their early twenties and sprouted a family overnight. Essentially, many of these couples did not give themselves the freedom to pursue their passions and dreams on their own, unhindered by a partner’s agenda or a family. But, your passions and dreams don’t go away and many marriages break up because in their 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s, one or both people feel a strong urge to travel, go back to school, start a business or do something that consumes all of their time and thoughts, and leaves no space for a partner.
No sense of self worth
What is at the root of all relationship problems is a lack of self-knowledge. If somebody doesn’t have clear boundaries of what is “cheating,” if a person has anger issues, if a person has an addiction, they did not do the personal work on themselves that is required before you can even begin to entangle somebody else into your life. That work is often terrifying, grueling and emotionally exhausting, so many people avoid much-needed therapy sessions, hoping they can just slap a relationship on their problems and they will all go away. But, essentially, if you are not a well-adjusted, whole person that has worked out his or her issues, any little problem in a relationship will cause you to overreact by getting angry, cheating, leaving or doing something detrimental to the relationship.
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