A lot of people have a hard time putting their finger on exactly what went wrong in their marriage — or when. Unless there was a shocking act of betrayal, infidelity or addiction, most marriages simply breakdown slowly until there just doesn’t seem a good reason to stay married any longer.
But, why? Well, researchers have found that there are essentially four behaviors that tend to drive marriages into a grave. Here they are in a nutshell:
1. Assigning blame
Another way to phrase this is, “jumping to conclusions.” For example, when you get home from work, and the house is a mess, and dinner isn’t ready, do you ask your spouse, “What happened? Is everything okay?” or do you automatically assume that your spouse got distracted by a book or a new Netflix series. Giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt is important. If it turns out that your spouse did lose track of time, acknowledge that it could happen to anyone and offer to help — rather than throwing all the responsibility for fixing the problem back on your spouse.
When you’re defensive, you escalate every fight into something more than it started out to be. Essentially, defensiveness leaves no room for a couple to pull together and puts them both on their own side of a personal barrier. It’s particularly destructive when one or both spouses are more interested in being “right” or “winning” than they are in getting along.
Validation from your spouse is important in any marriage. Every spouse needs to hear (or feel) “I hear what you are saying, and I care about your feelings.” When one spouse constantly invalidates the other by essentially dismissing or denying the reality of their feelings, that can actually be a form of emotional abuse.
Does your spouse end up just walking away from every argument? Do you? That’s not resolving any issues. Instead, it leaves them to fester under the surface of the marriage until they eventually bubble up again, worse than before.
If your marriage is falling apart because of one or more of these issues, counseling may help. If it’s already too late, however, it may be time to talk to a divorce attorney about your future.