By Brent Rinehart, Crosswalk.com
It’s widely stated that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. While there’s some controversy surrounding the data, you can’t argue with the fact that a lot of marriages don’t work out. We’ve all been impacted by divorce – whether it’s us personally, close family, or friends.
But, why do so many marriages fail? How can two people who are deeply in love with each other on their wedding day find themselves out of love with each other in the months and years ahead? Research shows a number of different areas that cause problems, but most issues usually generate from a place of selfishness and are magnified by a lack of communication.
Song of Solomon is a beautiful book of the Bible. It’s a collection of love poems, some of which may make you blush. But, we know that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). And, there’s a little verse in chapter 2 that has always stood out to me and helped me in my marriage.
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). What are the “little foxes” creeping in and nibbling away at your marriage? Small disagreements can become big problems if we let them. You have to be diligent to identify key areas, so issues don’t become catastrophic to your marriage.
Here are 10 things many couples fight about that, if unchecked, can destroy your marriage.
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1. (Lack of) Communication
Most of the problems we experience in our marriages can be solved (or prevented) if we just would do a better job of communicating. In a successful marriage, you have to fight the urge to sweep things under the rug. Don’t allow things to fester. Instead, keep an open line of communication. Bad things tend to happen in the absence of communication. Instead of giving our partner the benefit of the doubt, we assume the worst.
As a PR person, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the best ways (and the wrong ways) to properly handle a crisis. Companies who successfully navigate difficult situations, usually have this in common – quick, open, frequent, and honest communication. We can apply this to marital issues as well: communicate openly, honestly and on a regular basis.
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Kids have a way of bringing out the best – and the worst – in us. And no couple agrees 100 percent of the time about how to handle every situation concerning the children. The best ways to keep the act of parenting from damaging your marriage are to avoid undermining your spouse in front of your kids; spend time talking and getting on the same page regarding the big things, and pray, pray, pray.
Here’s another important point on the topic of parenting: it’s easy to let our lives revolve around our children. The problem, which is well documented, is that when we do that as parents, we grow further and further apart as husbands and wives. I’m sure we all know people who have gone through a divorce or separation later in life after the kids have grown up and left the home.
It’s because the past couple of decades were spent focused on the kids. We all grow and change – if we aren’t paying attention, that’s how we can grow apart instead of growing together.
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Money itself isn’t the cause of many divorces in America; it’s disagreements about how to handle it that causes most strife. When my wife and I first got married, I was an idiot. I was so concerned about money. Perhaps it was the unfamiliarity with the whole thing: combining our finances, buying a house, paying bills, and more.
We made the mistake (as I see it) in the early years of not merging our bank accounts. I never had a clear picture of her monthly income and expenditures, and it sowed distrust under the surface. She would come home from a hard day’s work, and sometimes my first greeting to her was not “how was your day?” Instead, it was about money – how much did she make and how much she spent.
In a healthy marriage, partners can talk openly about finances and they have a shared long-term vision on where the family is heading. There are tactics to employ along the way to minimize disagreements on spending, but it’s important to keep the big picture in view at all times.
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What has your attention, has you. There are so many things that can divide our focus in a marriage. Jobs, bills, stress, work, kids, and the list goes on. But in our current age, I would say one of the biggest focus-robbers is the smartphone. Research shows that last year, the average person spent nearly three hours of their day on a smartphone or mobile device. Three hours!
Dave Boehi writes for Family Life: “When you’re with someone, make that relationship your priority. Establishing this value will require some retraining if anyone in your family is addicted to their devices.” Make no mistake, many of us are addicted. We need to take a breather from our devices. Step away from social media for a while. When you spend time with your spouse, let them have your undivided attention.
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5. Work/Life Balance
According to CNN Money, Americans work more than any other country – on average 34.4 hours a week compared to 32.4 in next closest, Australia. Obviously, to many of us, it doesn’t seem too bad. But, most of us working full time work even longer. The average full time worker works 47 hours, or the equivalent of six days, a week. Forty percent work 50 or more hours a week. We also take fewer vacation days than our counterparts in other countries.
As a result, we are often tired and irritable, which makes “quality” time at home evasive. To the best of our abilities, we need to leave work and work and be home at home. And, as much as it is possible, we should find more time to be with our families.
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This is a difficult topic in a lot of marriages. When you marry your spouse, you marry his or her family. At the same time, you start your own. When you have “discussions” in your home pertaining to extended family, everyone should keep that in mind. Priority one is your marriage and your own immediate family.
Marriage expert Dr. Judith Wright (who co-authored with her husband Dr. Bob Wright the book The Heart of the Fight: A Couple's Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer) says it this way: "It's time to stop defining yourself as your parents' child. It means both of you really growing up and claiming, 'This is my woman; this is my man; we are a family. That's where the bond needs to be.
It doesn't mean you can't visit families, but you have to decide your own values, and how you spend your holidays, and what are your traditions and your rituals as a couple. That's what builds the relationship."
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Change isn’t easy. Change is stressful, and it (along with how you deal with it) can wreak havoc on your marriage. The unexpected can and will happen. Unforeseen medical emergencies, the loss of a job, financial stresses, disasters, and more – these life changes happen. Change is a part of life. The thing to remember is that you don’t have to face change alone. You have your partner and God on your side.
The other truth about change is this: it can and should end up being a beautiful thing. God has called us to change, and we are continually being pruned and shaped into the image of Christ. I’m not the same person today that my wife married 12 years ago. I’m different, and so is she. The important thing is that we are growing together.
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As time marches on, a marriage can unfortunately start to deteriorate in the intimacy department if you allow it to. It’s because we get lazy and intimacy is not a subject many of us are comfortable talking about or dealing with. I’m not comfortable writing about it, to be honest.
But, it’s important that both partners feel loved and connected to the other. Men, we need to step up and take initiative to show our wives how much they mean to us, even when the reward of sex isn’t awaiting on the other side. When intimacy is lacking in a marriage, the door is opened for a husband or wife to find it elsewhere.
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This one may seem silly, but every couple usually encounters disagreements in this area. One feels like they do more than the other and harbors resentment. Fights about chores aren’t usually fights about chores – they are actually fights about feeling valued and appreciated. Marriage is a partnership.
If household chores are a problematic area in your marriage, maybe you need to take it “old school.” Think back to times when you were single. Perhaps you had a roommate and created a chore chart. Divide and conquer is always the best strategy with household duties. It’s the only way to ensure that both partners feel appreciated and contribute to a successfully run home.
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“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16). Paranoia and jealousy will destroy a marriage. On the flip side, we know that “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Jealousy can look different in each relationship. There could be jealousy regarding certain friendships. Or, it could be jealousy regarding how one spends their free time. Combating this evil in your relationship takes two. It’s incumbent on both partners to weed it out through prayer, communication, trust, and selflessness.
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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