Divorce can happen for a huge range of reasons, and every couple is a little bit different. In most cases, though, dissolving a marriage is – to some degree - the “fault” of both members of the relationship. You both contribute to the climate of the marriage that leads to divorce… But sometimes one party is doing far more damage than the other – even if they don’t know it.
With that in mind, men and women can do this in pretty different ways. Again, every relationship is unique, but some behaviors are more common among each gender.
For women, there are some common mistakes that can drive husbands away, damage the quality of the relationship, and may ultimately lead to divorce. To keep your marriage happy and healthy, it’s important to be on the lookout out for these behaviors in your own relationship.
First and foremost, this issue needs to be tackled head on. Some women get into the habit of talking down to their spouses, criticizing his decisions, making him feel bad about himself, and so on. This typically results in damaged self-confidence and/or resentment.
Lack of confidence becomes a vicious cycle – where he makes mistakes, is indecisive, etc. – which can lead to more criticism. It can also result in conscious (or unconscious) distancing from his wife simply as a means of self-preservation.
The confidence problem is a serious one… And it can happen to anyone. If he’s constantly under scrutiny for his work, his contribution around the house, how he interacts with the kids, and so on, he may react by trying less – since it likely feels like none of his efforts are good enough.
Men tend to thrive on admiration and approval – to know that they are providing for their families, and that they have the respect of the people around them. Chipping away at that sense of approval (and therefore, identity) will only damage how he feels about himself, and about the marriage.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t offer constructive criticism – but be aware of how you go about it. There’s nothing attractive about feeling like your wife is a nagging mother.
2. Kids First, Always
Parenting is important, and for mothers, there’s a natural inclination to protect and care for the children over anything and everything else. We’re not telling to ignore the kids, but for men, a wife totally focused on the children (and not focused at all on him) can put tremendous distance in the relationship.
When the role of “mom” totally overshadows the role of “wife,” the marriage suffers. This happens when the kids’ activities, weekend plans, homework, and the like become the constant focus, and no effort is made for quality time together, dates, intimacy, or adult conversations that don’t involve what’s going on with the children.
As the marriage slips down the priority list, it also affects your ability to co-parent with love and connection. The more connected you are to one another, the more of a unit you can be for raising your children. The kids are certainly important, but don’t let their needs overtake the needs of your marriage!
3. Hurtful Arguing
Disagreements happen. In any relationship, there is bound to be some conflict, but how you handle it will make a huge difference in the quality of the marriage.
Now, this is something both men and women can be guilty of, but for one reason or another, it seems to happen more with women… One of the worst ways to argue is trying to tackle too many subjects at once. Instead of addressing the problem at hand, some people will use a fight as an opportunity to dredge up everything their spouse has ever done wrong… They use the heat of the moment to let loose on all of the little things that have gone unmentioned… They bring up the past… They make accusations or speak in absolutes…
All of this is unfair, and doesn’t actually lead to resolving the issue that started the argument. These “bad tactics” can also include personal attacks, being defensive and changing the subject when you’re in the wrong, and so much more.
The point is to do your best to keep things civil, to focus on one problem at a time, and argue with the intent of solving problems, not hurting the other person.
4. No Parental Boundaries
Unlike the topic above, this is about YOUR parents, not how you raise your kids. This isn’t necessarily specific to men or women, but seems to be a more common complaint among men. This problem arises when there are no boundaries between older parents and their adult children – like dropping by unannounced, offering unwanted “advice,” insisting on “helping” when it hasn’t been asked for, and so on.
For men, the overbearing presence of his wife’s parents (even more so than his own) can feel emasculating, embarrassing, or just downright annoying. This isn’t to say that he can’t love his wife’s family, or that they are totally unwelcome, but setting some boundaries is important.
You’ll have to figure out those boundaries for your unique relationship, but keep these things in mind… And as always, communicate about it!
Whether you’re male or female, keep these things in mind as bad behaviors that can push your spouse away, create rifts in the relationship, and move you closer and closer to divorce.
Watch out for these behaviors, and keep yourself in check. Simply recognizing (and stopping) these things can help you maintain a happy and healthy marriage. Don’t push each other away – or let anyone else get between you!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com