When we walk down the aisle to get married, we are not thinking that one day, we will be divorcing this person whom we are so over the moon in love with. Or that we may remain married to them, but we will become very unhappy in our marriage.
When we walk down the aisle, we do so because we believe that this is love. We believe this is forever. We believe our future with this person will be full of joy. We believe we are entering into a lifetime of bliss.
We are often very wrong.
As I was going through my divorce process, I was discussing divorce with my therapist, and I said the following:
“The divorce rate is about 50%. But I know a lot of women in relationships who complain about their husbands all the time. A lot of people seem to be staying in miserable marriages, mainly because they have kids. I bet if all the people got divorced who really wanted to get divorced, the divorce rate would be more like 70% or 80%.”
“Yes, definitely,” my therapist said
I pondered the reasons. Why do so many people get married and then end up miserable? What goes so wrong with all these relationships?
As I thought about my marriage, and about the marriages of other people I know, these are the six main reasons that came to mind.
Staying With the Wrong Person Due to Societal Norms and the Biological Clock
As the typical story goes, you meet someone in college or shortly thereafter, date for a few years, get engaged, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after.
This was exactly what happened with me and most of my friends (minus the happily ever after part).
Many of them are still married and are happy. But not all of them.
One of my friends, who is now divorced, told me, “I don’t think I actually ever loved him. But we were dating, and marriage just seemed to be the next step.”
When you desire marriage and a family, it can be difficult to end a relationship if most of your friends are getting engaged and married. In that stage of life, starting over can feel scary and daunting. So our reservations about our relationship are pushed down and ignored.
I have also seen friends who are in their mid-thirties to early forties marry someone because they really want to have children, and they are afraid if they do not marry this person, they will never have the opportunity to have children.
Sometimes we know we are with the wrong person, but we hope that if we marry them, they will become the right person.
A Lack of Understanding of What a Healthy Relationship Should Be Like
In the situations above, we know at some level, that we are with the wrong person. But sometimes we do not realize we are with the wrong person because we do not know the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.
We unconsciously learn about relationships from observing our parents’ relationships. If our parents had an unhealthy relationship, it is likely that we will go on to have unhealthy relationships because we do not know anything different.
But even if our parents had a healthy relationship, there are a variety of other factors that can lead us to be drawn to unhealthy relationships.
It is rare for parents, or any adult, to sit down with kids or young adults and explicitly teach them the hallmarks of a healthy relationship. And given that so many adults are in unhealthy relationships themselves and may not even know it, there may not be an adult in someone’s life who can teach them what a healthy relationship is.
An unhealthy relationship is going to be an unhappy relationship.
John Gottman writes about “The Four Horseman” of a relationship, which are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. According to his research, these behaviors can predict the end of a relationship.
They are hallmarks of an unhealthy and unhappy relationship that are unfortunately prevalent in many marriages.
Emotional Immaturity and Dysfunctional Behavior Patterns
Unhealthy people are not capable of having healthy relationships.
Even if you know what a healthy relationship should be like, if you are not emotionally mature and emotionally healthy, you will have maladaptive coping mechanisms, and you will engage in any number of dysfunctional behavior patterns.
Or if your partner is not emotionally mature or emotionally healthy, they will also have maladaptive coping mechanisms, and they will engage in any number of dysfunctional behavior patterns.
This will create a volatile relationship.
We attract people who are at a similar level of emotional maturity as we are. If we meet our partners when we are young, we may both be emotionally immature due to do our youth.
And although it is possible to grow and mature within a relationship, often people do not grow or mature.
They continue to ignore their issues, or they conveniently blame their issues on their partner, instead of taking responsibility and doing the inner work necessary to heal their dysfunctional behavior patterns.
They believe that if only their partner would change, then the relationship would improve.
Sometimes one partner grows, but the other partner does not. And since a marriage is between two people, it requires the effort and growth of both parties to be healthy.
If one person matures and becomes emotionally healthy, but the other person does not, then the relationship will continue to be unhealthy and unhappy.
Incompatible Attachment Styles
Attachment styles predict satisfaction in relationships.
As discussed in the book “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, there are three main attachment styles. These styles are secure, anxious, and avoidant.
Someone with a secure attachment style is comfortable with intimacy in a relationship, does not become overly worried about the relationship, does not get easily upset over relationship issues, can effectively communicate needs and feelings to a partner, can read and respond to a partner’s emotional cues, and is able to support a partner.
Someone with an anxious attachment style has a strong desire for emotional closeness but fears their partner does not desire the same level of closeness, becomes overly worried about the relationship, tends to be very sensitive to a partner’s mood and behaviors, tends to take a partner’s behaviors too personally, and becomes easily upset about the relationship.
Someone with an avoidant attachment style prefers autonomy to intimate relationships, can become uncomfortable with too much closeness, does not spend much time worrying about romantic relationships, tends to not open up to partners, and often looks out for signs that their partner is infringing on their independence.
Secure people tend to gravitate towards secure people, and their relationships will typically be healthy and calm.
Anxious and avoidant people tend to gravitate towards each other, and their relationships will be volatile, as they each constantly trigger each other’s insecurities.
The below excerpts are taken from “Attached.”
Secure people make up about 50% of the population. Anxious people make up about 20%. Avoidant make up about 25%. And combinations make up about 3–5%. Women tend to make up a higher portion of the anxious population while men are more likely to be avoidant.
That means that a high amount of the population is not securely attached and is potentially falling into the anxious/avoidant pairing trap. This attachment pairing is indicator of an unhappy relationship.
Not Understanding the Differences Between Men and Women
In the age of feminism, it can often seem discriminatory to highlight the differences between men and women. But in the context of cisgender people in a heterosexual relationship, men and women are very different.
We have biological and physiological differences. We process emotions differently. We communicate differently. We have different needs in a relationship.
We often fail to acknowledge and understand these differences, and we give to a relationship what we would like to receive, not realizing that what we are giving is not what the other person needs.
And while both men and women have many needs in a relationship, women often have higher needs for love, safety, emotional support, and emotional intimacy, while men often have higher needs for respect, affirmation, appreciation, and physical intimacy. Also, men typically have a higher need for independence and autonomy in a relationship, which women can take offense to if they do not understand that this need for space has nothing to do with them.
When we treat our partners the same way we would treat a friend who is the same gender as we are, and we expect them to act the same way one of our same gender friends would act, our expectations are not reasonable. And when we carry unreasonable expectations that our partner is unable to meet, this will create resentment in a relationship.
A relationship full of resentment and unmet needs is an unhappy relationship.
A Misalignment of Values and Goals
An alignment of values and goals is one of the most important indicators of a successful relationship. You can take two emotionally healthy adults with secure attachment styles who understand the differences between men and women, who have many similar interests, and who have attraction and chemistry, but if they have misaligned values and goals, the relationship is going to be ridden with conflict.
When two people are working towards similar goals, and they have similar values, it is much easier to resolve conflicts and disagreements. And there tend to be less conflicts and disagreements to begin with.
Although your approaches to various situations may be different, if you desire the same things, it is easier to achieve a resolution without incessant bickering.
But when you’re working towards different things, and your viewpoints differ widely due to conflicting values, incessant bickering is going to become the norm.
And a relationship rife with bickering is not a happy relationship.
When we marry someone, we are often clueless about what is actually necessary for a relationship to work, and we end up in marriages that are doomed to become miserable due to these main six reasons:
1. Staying with the wrong person due to societal norms and the biological clock
2. A lack of understand of what a healthy relationship should be like
3. Emotional immaturity and dysfunctional behavior patterns
4. Incompatible attachment styles
5. Not understanding the differences between men and women
6. A misalignment of values and goals
Although divorce is painful, and no one expects to have to go through it, the great thing about divorce is that you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and choose a more suitable partner the next time around.
We can also take our newfound knowledge and teach our children what we wish we had known when we were younger.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
You Might Also Like These From The Good Men Project
|Compliments Men Want to Hear More Often||Relationships Aren’t Easy, But They’re Worth It||The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex||..A Man’s Kiss Tells You Everything|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock