No one intentionally sets out to wreck a marriage. Everyone wants your marriage to work, at least at first. That’s why weddings are beautiful and divorce proceedings aren’t. When counseling couples about to get married, I share with them four things that can wreck their marriage if they’re not careful.
1. Family of Origin – How you saw your parents interact is going to be the default mode for how you treat your spouse. If your home was broken or dysfunctional, then that is a hurdle that you can overcome but needs to be dealt with. If you never saw a healthy marriage growing up, you don’t automatically learn how to have one just because you put a ring on someone’s finger. None of these issues are deal breakers, but an unhealthy family of origin means you’ll most likely to need to talk to someone professionally over a period of time to unpack your baggage and leave it behind you.
Family of origin also includes your current extended family. There can be family dynamics that aren’t conducive to a healthy marriage. Parents that are too involved, brothers or sisters stirring things up. If you’re in a remarriage, there may even be family members rooting for your spouse to fail. All of these issues can be a detriment to your marriage.
2. Money – There is no scientific number, but I believe that 85% of all spousal arguments have to do with money (or specifically the lack of money), and that percentage might be a little low. I don’t care how much money you make, there never seems to be enough to go around. In every relationship there is usually a saver and a spender. The spender has the power in this regard because his or her ability or inability to make sound financial decisions will either strengthen or strain the marriage. Unfortunately, if you and your spouse fight about money, you’re absolutely normal.
Poor financial decisions early on in marriage can lead to lingering debt that only increases as the number and age of children increase. Strong financial stewardship and shared guidelines are necessary for a marriage to overcome money issues.
3. Sex – Sex is a huge issue namely in that it’s something that couples rarely feel comfortable talking about. Typically the complaint is that sex is not enjoyable (her) or there’s not enough of it (him). Your sexual past, previous relationships, any abuse that might have happened earlier in life, pornography addictions, can all contribute to an extremely frustrating and unsatisfying sex life.
But unlike money, which seems to be much easier to talk about, sex is a taboo subject. So the frustration builds silently, creating an intimacy barrier that can hinder any marriage. Couples need to find a safe place to talk about their sexual issues and frustrations, whether just the two of them or with a counselor. Couples need to explore all of the non-physical issues that can contribute to a less than satisfactory sex life (including diet, sleep, stress, emotional health, spiritual health, relational connectedness, mutual respect, etc).
4. How You Fight – All couples are going to fight. It’s normal and natural for two strong-willed people to have differences of opinions. The problem is when couples don’t fight fair. In each marriage there’s usually one side who wants to talk and talk and talk through a problem and one who wants to shut down and avoid the issue. The talker gets frustrated by the lack of response from their spouse, which compels them to talk more, which causes the spouse to further withdraw, which . . . (you get the picture).
Just like in basketball you have fouls, you and your spouse need to establish ‘fouls,’ agreed upon rules of how you will and will not resolve a fight. And that’s the goal, to resolve a fight. If couples can’t resolve a fight, those arguments can eventually pile up into a mountain that can become unscalable.
QUESTION: What other things can wreck a marriage?