There are many reasons marriages collapse at a rate of over 60 percent these days. Some reasons are evident, such as breaking vows and infidelity, while others are not so obvious. Here are some hidden clues that will help you protect your marriage from critical damage:
1. Projected interference
It is easy to blame finances — the #1 reason for divorce — meddling in-laws, unruly children or step-children, and even the “other person” for the collapse of your marriage. Abuse, neglect or addiction may drive you away. But the ultimate decision to stay or leave comes from the two of you; the individuals in the marriage. Both marriage and divorce are choices. Outside circumstance can have an encouraging or encroaching effect, but only if you and your partner allow it.
2. Controlling interest
No one has control of your physical life except you. If you try to exact control over your spouse on personal, spiritual or social grounds, your marriage will run into trouble. Even if you believe your partner is wrong, misguided, ignorant or willfully defiant, you cannot remedy this by compelling them to do what you want. Allow your partner to do, say, think and feel as they please. Then, decide if you are OK with this or if your marriage may be due for some reevaluation.
Sometimes spouses can become domineering, aggressive and even abusive when their partners show independence. Others become nagging, critical and condescending — especially over violated expectations and unfulfilled responsibilities. Talk through your issues with your spouse. Let him or her know what you would appreciate from them, and what you would not. But focus on your own feelings. You don’t need to control or change your partner. Put peace and harmony in the spotlight in your marriage.
3. The C word
Compromise may be the backbone of a good marriage to you. But to me “compromise” is a four-letter word. I am of course an advocate of give and take and working together to create harmony. But, in the art of negotiation, compromise essentially means both partners give up something they want. Collaborating means both people gain something they want. And I much prefer to gain.
Hopefully you haven’t felt the need to compromise on what you want in a partner, in yourself, or in life. You don’t need to compromise who you are, your integrity, your needs and your personal fulfillment for the sake of smoothing the wrinkles in a rocky relationship. Collaboration may mean amending what you thought you wanted in a partner, in yourself or in life. But, your spouse doesn’t change who you are. They help you discover and become more of who you are, live with integrity, fulfill your needs and find deep satisfaction in life. They never take these things away for their own sake, their own comfort or their own whims.
Unconditional love is an absolute requirement for a healthy marriage. It means you accept that person for who they are, and see through anything you don’t like or don’t agree with, all the way to the core of them. Unconditional love is based on the inside or who you are. Unconditional tolerance, however, is based on the outside or what you do. And a life-partner cannot do anything and remain in a relationship with you. Relationships have boundaries and limits. Loving someone doesn’t mean you need to remain tied to them. Especially if they are abusive, neglectful or are no longer interested in putting in the work it takes to continue a healthy marriage.
5. Cold pursuit
Never stop dating, especially after you’re married. Never stop pursuing, especially after you’re dating. Today’s dating culture can be difficult to navigate. Especially for people who believe once they’ve hit a benchmark, the work that went into achieving it goes by the wayside. Dating, relationships and marriages all take work. If you hooked your mate by pursuing them, there’s a good chance you’ll lose them if you stop. And pursuit is distinct for each individual. It doesn’t mean one is hopelessly chasing as the other runs away. It means putting in effort every day to show the one you love that you love them, care for them, appreciate them, and most of all want to keep them.
My most recent ex stopped pursuing me immediately after acquiring the title of “boyfriend.” And it was soon clear what we expected to get out of the relationship was completely different. Mainly in that I knew what I wanted, and communicated it clearly. He didn’t know what he wanted from me, then blamed me for his unhappiness when these mysterious “needs” weren’t being fulfilled. While he didn’t put in the effort to fulfill what I needed from the relationship. He also tried to control my behavior, and asked me to hide my feelings about certain topics. We both compromised too much on what we wanted. He merely tolerated me, and I allowed myself to be with someone who merely tolerated me. But this isn’t just a peek into my personal history. This anecdote is a warning for married couples seeing flashing lights in this passage. Let this be a warning.
If you want to protect your marriage from hidden threats, let your husband or wife be who they are. Don’t try to control or change them. Just let them know what behaviors and attitudes may be negatively affecting the marriage.
Collaborate in lieu of compromising. So both partners become more of who they are and gain the things they want in the marriage and from life. You can accept someone for who they are without tolerating their abusive or neglectful behavior.
The pursuit doesn’t stop when you’re dating. And the dating doesn’t stop when you’re married. The continuation or collapse of your marriage is totally within your hands.