“They got married and lived happily ever after”. Wouldn’t it be nice if life was truly like a fairly tale?
Unfortunately, in reality this does not happen. The divorce rate for first marriages has been very close to 50% for the past several years, and the rate increases to over 50 % for subsequent marriages.
What contributes to such high rates of marital or relationship breakdown? Unrealistic expectations are a major contributing factor. There are a number of misconceptions that people have when they marry including “love lasts forever”, “if she/he loves me then she/he will ….”, “once we get married (or have children), things will get better”, “he/she will change”, “I will be happier and have my needs fulfilled when I’m married”.
We were never told that marriage or living with someone is very challenging and requires a great deal of “work”, compromise, and acceptance. We are often seeking easy solutions in life and magical happiness. There is a general attitude that “I have to work at school, I go to my job and have to work, and I have to work on this too???”
People in relationships or marriages don’t realize how their partners often think, see things, communicate, and react quite differently. We often expect our partners to understand everything we feel, to understand our needs, and/or to always change. In addition, marriage or long term relationships continuously change over time as new stages of life and stressors develop. Having children could be a wonderful experience but it certainly alters the marital relationship in a number of ways including time alone and together, energy levels, the sexual relationship.
Another factor that contributes to marital or relationship breakdown is lack of commitment. Many time partners are looking for a new spark, the perfect relationship, or fall into the mythical trap of “the grass is greener on the other side”. Often, partners are not willing to work at the relationship, compromise, negotiate, or communicate.
A successful marriage or long term relationship can also be a very rewarding experience. Some helpful hints to a successful relationship:
- Be realistic. Realize marriage can be challenging and that it’s not just about love, sex, and common interests. Marriage often needs to include such things as friendship, respect, consideration, compromise, communication, effort.
- Pick and choose your battles. Prioritize what issues in the relationship (or about your partner) might need to be changed while accepting some of the others.
- Realize that there are definite differences between you and your partner, don’t always try to change them, and try to understand where your partner is coming from.
- Don’t always expect your partner to do the work or change. “Ask not what your partner could do for you (or your relationship), ask what you could do for your partner (or relationship)”.
- Stay committed to the relationship (don’t fall for the grass is greener on the other side trap) unless your relationship is truly harmful or destructive.
- Make the time to spend quality time with your partner. This includes time for communication and for enjoyable activities.
Written by: Eric Harris