Statistics tells us that 53% of first marriages end in divorce. There’s a divorce in the United States every 36 seconds. And 41% of marriages involve one or both parties guilty of infidelity. That number is generally acknowledged to be conservative because…well, people lie.
What are we doing wrong? Has marriage become “going steady, with furniture”? Whenever we get bored or unhappy, do we just “break up” like middle-school tweeners and move on to newer, greener pastures at the local gym? Is it a nationwide epidemic of “Wedding Fever,” where the couple puts ridiculous amounts of time and money into the ceremony, but think the marriage should take care of itself? (Pay attention, Kardashian girls.)
It appears that no matter how much two people love each other, the odds of going the distance are not in their favor. We may never know all the reasons couples don’t last, but we do know some of the most common.
1. One of you saves; one of you spends. Financial problems are considered by many marital experts to be the Mac Daddy wrecking ball to lasting happiness as a couple. If Hubs thinks tracking the return on his investments is the most fun he has all day, but you insist that a cruise to the Bahamas with your besties is a quality-of-life issue, you two are headed for a smackdown. And if he uses the account you opened for three-year-old Bitsy’s college fund to buy an expensive fishing boat, hopefully he left enough money for his extended stay at the local Shilo Inn.
2. One of you wants it and one of you doesn’t. Yes, I’m talking about sex. If he’s chasing you down the hall every night, wearing nothing but a smile and a stiffy, and you’re more of a once-a-month-and-I’m-good type of woman, he might just give up and quit asking altogether. If you shimmy into a garter belt and push-up bra five nights a week, and all he wants to do is grab a beer and watch an hour or two of Pawn Shop before he hits the rack, eventually one of you is going to complain. Loudly.
3. One of you feels like you “married up.” While this may be kind of thrilling in the early stages, it’s demeaning to constantly feel like your spouse is “out of your league.” Maybe he has more education than you do. Maybe you come from a wealthy family and he doesn’t. Whichever partner is experiencing this insecurity tends to get defensive and on guard for little slights. He says, “I don’t think you’ll like this wine.” You hear, “You don’t know anything about fine wine. Here’s some ice. Make a spritzer.” Or you say, “I wish we could go to Italy, but it’s just not in the budget right now,” and he hears, “You can’t even make enough for a trip to Italy, you loser.” You’ll recognize these marriages when you see them. One of the spouses is always hurt or pissed off, and the other one just stands around looking confused.
4. Addiction problems. Whether it’s alcohol, gambling, drugs, shopping, or any other option from a long list of emotional and pharmaceutical possibilities, addictions can torpedo even the strongest marriages. It’s extremely difficult to feel the love for Hubs after he lost your house in a crap game during a weekend guys’ trip to Las Vegas. And his love for you may wane a tad when he begins to wonder if you’re doing the UPS guy, because he’s at your house every afternoon, smiling and bearing packages from your drunken midnight shopping binges on QVC.
5. Crazy families. He can’t stand your mother. You hate his kids. His mom passed away and his aging father (the groper) is moving in with you. Your sister hit on him at last year’s Christmas dinner, and she seems hell-bent on giving it another go this year. Families range from somewhat complicated to full-on freak shows, but we can’t break up with them. He may have to learn to smile as your mother uses every conversation to remind you that Howard, the doctor, would have been able to take you to Italy. And you need to send his kids’ birthday gifts. On time. With a card.
6. Best friends. Both parties often bring BFFs into the relationship. But if he doesn’t like Susie, your BFF since high school, and she’s over all the time, he’s going to start fencing off a Susie-free zone around the house perimeter. If his obnoxious college frat buddy regularly shows up unannounced, toting two six-packs and planting himself on the couch with Hubs, spending the rest of the evening in raucous drinking, watching the Big Game, and foraging through your refrigerator like Yogi and Boo Boo on crack, you might eventually end up moving to another state. Without the two of them.
7. Unrealistic expectations. This is more often seen in younger marriages. Young love is starry-eyed and all-consuming. The blissed out couple believes that their love is “special” and they’ll be this enthralled by the other person’s breathing every single day. Forever. When that heart-stopping intensity wears off (and we get back to Real Life, before we’re homeless, friendless, and unemployed), people often think the best part of their marriage is over. These couples constantly refer to their wedding as “the happiest day of their lives.” We can only assume from that comment that it’s all been downhill from there.
8. Cheating. There are thousands of books and articles on why people become cheaters. It’s exciting. It’s forbidden. You feel desirable again. To the “cheatee,” it doesn’t really matter why. It’s just matters that you did. Tired cliches like “I never meant to hurt you” are stupid and grounds for matrimonal murder in 38 states. And even worse, the proverbial “It didn’t mean anything.” So you’re saying that you sacrificed our marriage for something that was meaningless to you?? Wow. I’d rather you left me for your soul mate. That’s less insulting. Some marriages get through this one. Most don’t.
Now, go hug your spouse.