We’ve all heard the daunting statistic: 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. No one wants to be a cliché, and everyone wants to find themselves amongst the 50 percent that beat the odds. Although no test exists that can tell you if your problems are typical reactions to the stress and strain most marriages experience at one time or another, troubled marriages do tend to exhibit many of the same characteristics.
To see if your falls into this category, check to see how many of the following statements apply to your marriage:
Scorekeeping: The ease of give and take has been replaced with playing “Tit for Tat”, and you actively keep mental notes on how much you are contributing versus how much your partner isn’t.
Avoidance: Your marriage may be in trouble, if you both are using distractions to avoid dealing with core relationship issues. Do you always have one more thing to do before you can settle down, or is your spouse always hiding behind the newspaper, television, cell phone or computer? If yes, then it is time you both cut out the distractions and focus on your relationship, before it is too late.
Wheel-spinning: If discussions about the issues in your relationship seem to get stuck revolving around the same arguments again and again, it’s usually a sign pointing towards your inability to communicate thoughts and feelings effectively. Sweeping issues under the rug makes for a carpet that’s very difficult to walk on.
Lack of Intimacy: If you notice that intimacy between you and your partner has reached an all-time low, or is non-existent, you may begin to feel like roommates – you live together in the same home, but do not share the intimacies of a marriage. Intimacy levels directly relate to how well you and your partner are communicating. If you’re not talking, you’re probably also not having sex.
No Compromising: A major part of marriage involves trying to fulfill your partner’s needs while also making sure your own needs are met. It’s a lifelong dance, a give and take, and it requires constant communication. But if your partner continually refuses to listen to what you need (time, affection, sex/physical contact, help with children or chores), or refuses to share their own needs, this could indicate trouble in your relationship.
Power and Control: Partners who are rigid, inflexible and controlling often manipulate events to stop them from getting out of control, or making them feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable. As a relationship grows and changes, the balance of power shifts, causing couples to realign their roles and responsibilities. Relationships can see-saw out of control when issues arise such as educational inequality, personal dominance and control, differences in earning capacity, a wife returning to the workforce and becoming more economically dependent, or an imbalance in the power and decision-making process within the couple’s relationship.
Poor Communication. Many relationships can survive infidelity, but most will break down because of poor communication, verbal and nonverbal. Couples who use vague and unclear communication patterns as a way of avoiding closeness and conflict set the stage for misunderstanding, frustration and hurt. A survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 70 per cent of people surveyed whose relationships had fallen apart listed lack of communication as the major cause of their relationship failure.
Recent studies have shown that five years after the break up of their marriage, 40 per cent of individuals said they wished their divorce had never happened. They believed it could have been avoided had they only recognized the warning signs.
When couples see the signs that indicate that their relationship is struggling or “stuck” and are informed about the causes of their relationship breakdown and given solutions for how to deal with these issues, they are better equipped to avoid their dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors, and thus can effectively work toward improving and sustaining their relationship.