What follows is not the kind of humorous talk we'd prefer to give. Instead, the themes are deadly serious. But it does summarize in one swoop the core of how the average marriage dies:
- You meet. Most couples don't go further if they never meet. (You knew that.)
- You are attracted to one another and start to spend time together.
- You like this person, and it's mutual. Joy. Thrill. Sparks. Heat.
- You become a bit anxious about whether or not this person will stay in your life. You start to make commitments to one another because commitment reduces anxiety about staying attached.
- You get married.
- Problems happen. The just do, and they will happen to you. For some couples, they are easy problems, for others, they are very difficult and even gut-wrenching -- such as having a seriously ill baby.
Couples whose marriage are in danger will show early signs of poorly managed conflict:
- You have difficulty managing conflicts and problems as they come your way in life. You don't work as a team on problems. Conflicts become more frequent and more intense. The number of times you are together that become painful seems to go steadily up. You don't communicate well together, and you start to get nastier about it all. Danger ahead.
Most couples experience periods of conflict and/or neglect of the positive side of their relationship, even if the marriage is following a healthier path.
- Life gets busier. You have a home to take care of, probably kids that need time and attention; your work begins eating up more time, and money pressures mount.
- You begin to neglect the parts of life that bonded you together. You have fun less often. You go out infrequently. You don't just sit down together or take walks to talk as friends much anymore, and when you do, it often turns into an argument.
- This is the big turning point. One or both partners begin to associate the presence of the other with pain and stress rather than with support or pleasure. Friendship together becomes a distant memory. Danger is not just on the horizon, the bridge is out.
- The future becomes something to threaten in arguments: "Why should I stay with you?" "Maybe we need to get a divorce."
- Now you experience the total erosion of dedication to one another and investment in the relationship. You're forgetting why you went on this journey in the first place.
- In the absence of forces that constrain some couples to stay together (for example, poor alternatives), you divorce. If you have a lot of constraint commitment and you do not redevelop dedication and satisfaction, you stay married and miserable.
Clearly, we're hoping to help couples stay off this very common path. It leads to a destination that no couple seeks when the partners start out together, but many end there just the same. You don't have to be on this path.
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