Marriage isn't easy - it takes constant dedication, commitment, effort, energy, tolerance, respect, unconditional love, no judgement, and a painstakingly selfless heart (to name a few). Just like having to constantly monitor a toddler as they roam around the home, marriage needs to be constantly monitored to ensue health, success, and fulfillment. There are a gazillion causes for marital breakdown, but this article will discuss the most prevalent causes and remedies for each.
The top causes of marital breakdown are:
•basic needs aren't met
•lack of polarity (passion)
Let's look at each and how to remedy them.
Constantly criticizing your spouse will wear down his/her spirit. This leads to loss of motivation, inspiration, and the desire to please you. Criticism breeds contempt (we'll talk about contempt in a minute). The same holds true for complaining... no one enjoys being around a 'Negative Nancy', so if all you're doing is complaining about every little thing, your spouse won't want to be around you. And then when you wish to speak to your spouse about an important issue, they won't want to listen because they know a hefty dose or criticism or complaint is on the way. This leads to stonewalling (we'll get to that shortly as well).
It's not just a face value scenario that kills. Criticizing your spouse behind their back does just as much damage. This is a form of gossip. Gossip hurts your spouse, it hurts people's image of your spouse, it hurts your marriage, and it hurts YOU. To learn the effects of criticizing your spouse behind their back, please read my article on gossip HERE. You really are in for a surprise!
Since criticism breeds contempt, let's jump in. Allowing yourself to be critical slowly desensitizes you to contempt. Contempt is when you deliberately say or do something to cause pain in another. Not only is it disrespectful and unloving/hateful, but many classify it as passive-aggressive and abusive. Contempt usually occurs when a person's needs are not being satisfied (see next issue below), when one is filled with resentment, or when a person is not living with gratitude. Contempt is a habit and you can correct it.
Remedy: The remedy for criticism and contempt are the same... Be grateful for what you DO have in your marriage and verbalize it to your spouse often. Realize that your spouse isn't perfect and neither are YOU. Hold yourself accountable for the sinner and mistake-maker that you are; give your spouse the same amount of slack you give yourself. Beef up your tolerance by acknowledging all the good attributes your spouse offers; keep a running list of all the positives about your spouse so when you're feeling hurt, disappointed, or frustrated, you read this long list to help put things in perspective. When you need to discuss an important issue, instead of using criticism, plan ahead what you want to say in a positive, loving, and healthy way - watch your disposition as well (tone of voice, posture, breathing, facial expression). To work on being grateful, I recommend two excellent meditations:
Tony Robbins' practice of Priming. It can be found on YouTube HERE.
Master Steven Co's Meditation of the Twin Hearts found HERE.
BASIC NEEDS AREN'T MET
We all have needs, not just for basic survival, but 6 profound needs that must be fulfilled for a life of quality. The needs are: Love/Connection, Variety, Significance, Certainty, Growth, and Contribution. The first four needs are necessary for survival and a successful life. The last two needs (growth and contribution), are necessary to experience a fulfilled life.
These needs are also important within marriage, as partners should help each fulfill the other's needs for a happy and healthy relationship. If both partners don't help fulfill each other's needs within marriage, connection suffers, communication goes sour, passion dwindles away, and the marriage goes south from there.
Remedy: To learn about the 6 Basic Human Needs and how to fulfill them in yourself as an individual and in your spouse, please start with this intro article and then read the subsequent articles on the needs that follow.
Stonewalling is the act of becoming completely closed off to your spouse. You are no longer able to hear (or even listen to) what they're saying. A person withdraws from their spouse to avoid more criticism, hurt, frustration, arguments, and disappointment. It can be a form of fear or it can stem from long-standing frustration. Stonewalling is dangerous because it disconnects husband and wife, breaks down communication, and creates more frustration, pain, and fear.
Remedy: Have a weekly meeting with your spouse to discuss important issues in the marriage. For a few months, discuss difficulties during this meeting only (not during the rest of the week). This allows both partners a break from receiving criticism or complaints and helps people be more open to discussing difficulties during the meeting if they know they'll only receive criticism once a week. The rest of the week should remain fun. During your meeting, have rules: no yelling, no hurtful words/actions, be constructive, polite, and loving. Set a time limit on the meeting and don't ever talk about anything important past 7pm (nothing productive occurs verbally when people are tired). Maintain eye contact to help foster more connection. Point out the positives from the past week, not just the negatives. Show appreciation for the good things, and always end on a positive note.
Lack of humility and accountability produce pride. Pride tells you it's your spouse's fault. Pride tells you your spouse needs to change. Pride gives you all the excuses you need to place the blame on others. This lands you in one place only - hell (both marital and within yourself).
Remedy: Get over yourself. Stop being judgmental. Understand that no one is better than you. No one deserves love and forgiveness more than you.
When you are defensive, you can neither exert the creativity necessary to find a solution to problems, nor can you speak or act in love. Defensiveness is when you feel attacked or view yourself as the victim, and then reverse the blame to another, change the subject, make excuses, attack someone else, or become so angry that you either cannot talk at all or walk away in frustration.
Remedy: Listen to the other person with the intent of fully understanding their perspective. Listen to understand them, not to respond. Let them know that before you respond, you want to take a few minutes/hours/days (whatever is necessary) to fully process what they've said to you and give you the opportunity to formulate how you will respond. Then take the time necessary to center yourself, put yourself in a place of love, and then return to that person and give them your response. *letting them know that you need time to process and that you'll revisit this in x-amount of time helps them to feel heard and give them confidence that you will come back to discuss.
Marital connection can suffer for a variety of reasons. Common connection issues arise from communication differences, different life goals, drifting apart over time due to monotony (see the 6 Human Needs and Variety for this one), one spouse continues to grow throughout life where the other doesn't (causing misalignment), and the list goes on. If you can pinpoint the connection issue, head straight for that remedy, but if it's unclear, always default to the remedy below...
Remedy: Touch each other at a heartfelt level. Serve your partner and their needs in every way you can. Be thoughtful, polite, stop criticizing and complaining, and be a fun person to be around. Laugh. Work on the 5 Love Languages, figure out what your language is, what your spouse's language is, and how to speak each other's language. Learn more about the 5 Love Languages HERE and participate in the exercise I mapped out in that article. Also, set aside time for each other every day - uninterrupted time - an entire hour if you can - no devices/television - just to talk, listen to music, and did I mention.... talk? Lastly, go on more date nights. Try to go on date nights at least every other week - in home date nights count as well, but the purpose here is to set aside uninterrupted time for each other to enjoy, explore, or try new things. Bringing more variety into your life and marriage will also help. Healthy variety is a cure-all for many marital woes. Learn more about variety in that same link above.
There are so many types of communication amongst humans it's a wonder we understand each other as well as we do. Some people use metaphors, while others are quite literal. Fun Fact: 93% of communication is NOT verbal. 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tonality, and only 7% is the actual words you say. So unhealthy communication is typically born in body language and tone of voice, not the actual words you say.
Remedy: Healthy communication is such a big topic - much too big to condense into a little paragraph here. Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on communication. Until then..... Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be mindful of your body language (posture, breathing, disposition) and of your tonality. Are you relaxed, breathing easy, and with a smile on your face, or are you leaning forward (aggressive), with quick breathing (stressed/angry/fearful), and a do you have a scowl on your face? (if so those around you may dread your presence). Last on the list is being mindful of the actual words you say.
LACK OF POLARITY
Polarity, to sum it up, is the beautiful combination of masculinity and femininity. Both the masculine and feminine energy/characteristics need to be present in marriage. If both spouses remain in a masculine position, like two negative ends of a magnet, they will repel each other. But if one spouse is feminine in energy and the other masculine, polarity exists, opposites attract, and passion ensues. To learn more about Polarity, please read my article HERE.
I want to end this article by stating that you can't do any one of these remedies for a short amount of time (a day or a week) and expect great change. You must commit to your actions for a lengthy amount of time to see drastic results in your marriage. Remember, your marriage is like a 401K... if you put little in, you get little back in return. If you put a lot in, you'll get a lot in return. Make the effort, serve one another, be patient with each other, and live in love.