Jayme is an artist and freelance writer who trained in the medical field and has worked as a caregiver, farmer, mom, and DIY'er.
Are Long-Term Marriages Ending More Often?
"My grandparents stayed married because they loved each other and respected their marriage."
Or maybe not. New studies are revealing that today, long-term marriages are breaking up even faster than new relationships. Why? According to some experts, we should blame longer lifespans.
Now that we are more likely to live longer, fewer people want to waste their time being anything less than satisfied. Which means that back in the good old days, Gramma and Grandpa may have just stayed together because they didn't figure it was worth the trouble to break up.
I guess we all think to ourselves that today's divorce rates pertain to "short-lived marriages." You know, five years or less. I remember when I was younger, people would advise newlyweds: "If you can just make it to five years, you will probably be okay."
The problem is, that is exactly what people are doing! They are meeting that five-year goal, then saying "if I did that, I can surely make ten!" Meeting goals is great when you are talking about becoming debt-free, earning a degree, or achieving some other milestone.
But when it comes to affairs of the heart, sticking together just to hit those special anniversaries can leave a marriage cold. And, according to the new divorce statistics, those marriages are coming to an end at around the 25-year mark.
The good news is that marriages don't just suddenly end overnight. And they don't end without some warning signs. There are also plenty of tips that both partners can employ to make sure their relationship doesn't fall victim to the 25-year Itch.
Reasons for Divorce
According to Huffington Post, the number one reason for divorce these days is unreasonable Behavior. Here are some other potential relationship killers:
- Lack of Intimacy
- Lack of communication
- Abuse (of any type)
- Controlling behavior
- Substance abuse
Signs of Marital Problems
Whether a relationship is one year old or 50 years old, it can't break up without some warning signs. Here are some of the most common symptoms of a marital illness.
- Discussions, even those about mundane issues (such as where to eat dinner, end in an argument. More often than just "occasionally".
- Resentment starts to appear frequently. "Well, isn't it nice that you got a three-day vacation when I only got two? I guess you spent your extra day doing something fun."
- One or both partners would rather spend time apart than together. That doesn't mean they should spend 100% of their time together, but they shouldn't resent having to spend 20 minutes together either.
- Compromise becomes about shutting one partner up rather than reaching something agreeable for both. Or it doesn't exist at all.
- Blame is used more often than communication. Effective communication sometimes has to be proactive. For example, saying "We only have $300 budgeted this week for groceries." is communication. Blame is when one partner doesn't disclose this information, then accused the other or recklessly overspending.
If caught fast enough, these issues can be addressed in a reasonable tone of voice. The yucky parts of the relationship can be cut out, and the marriage can go on to thrive. If they aren't caught soon enough, they can fester, and the whole relationship can turn toxic.
Is Your Relationship Rocky or Toxic?
All marriages and relationships have their highs and lows. But sometimes those bad times are far more serious than just a few missing elements such as communication, respect, and laughter.
If a relationship has reached a toxic level, it is never far from becoming an abusive relationship. Here are some warning signs that need to be heeded:
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
- Personal growth or changes in your likes and dislikes are not accepted. Everyone grows and changes when they age. We change a little every year, but it is so gradual that most people don't realize it. In a toxic relationship, a partner may be pressured to stay the same.
- Gifts or kind acts are presented like a punishment, usually with some personal guilt attached. (Here, I am getting you this . . . even though I had to do without. Hope you are happy.)
- One partner demands unreasonable changes in the other. These may be sudden demands to change behavior, interests, hobbies, or other traits.
- Suddenly you can't do anything right. Do you feel like you lost IQ points overnight sometime? You used to have great discussions and asked each other's opinions, but now your opinion is brushed off or laughed at. Your contribution to a discussion is always met with a "No, you are wrong."
- When you ask your partner's opinion, they may scoff at you for not knowing the answer already or may become angered because you "bothered" them about something so insignificant.
- You feel uneasy. Perhaps your partner has started flying off the handle anytime you ask a question or do something without asking permission. You can't do the things you have always done well enough anymore, and even the tiniest inconvenience can lead to a full-blown argument.
Naturally, there is going to be a permanent air of tension in the home under these circumstances. Sadly, many couples fall into a pattern where they live with the tension and try to avoid situations to exacerbate it, rather than digging deep to find the cause.
Fortunately, many toxic relationships can be avoided when both partners understand and implement one simple word. Respect.
Say It in Writing
Having trouble discussing issues? Try writing your discussions. It is easier to write certain feelings.
Don't just write negative stuff though. Take the time to write a note telling your partner something special you like about them every now and then.
Respect: The Solid Foundation
What does respect mean in a relationship? You could say that it means:
- Nurturing each other
- Supporting each other
- Finding compromise
- Working as a team
- Listening to each other
Quite simply, respect means not being mean to each other. It is really that easy. I have seen and heard some amazingly disrespectful things that couples do to each other.
- Eye-rolling: Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me want to thump someone's ear more than when I see them rolling their eyes at something their spouse says. Not that it can't be done in good humor. If both people are laughing and the eye-roll looks part of the joke, then it probably is. But when someone rolls their eyes in a way that clearly indicates they think their partner is stupid and an embarrassment, that is disrespect.
- Bringing up shortcomings: Nobody is ever 100% amazing and perfect. And most people are so willing to overlook that when they first marry. How cute that she doesn't know how to make toast! Somehow, in the years of marriage, whatever that shortcoming was, the person was supposed to magically overcome it. Forget all the stuff they can do! That toast is the main issue all of a sudden.
- Bringing up shortcomings in public: Both parties know what their shortcomings are, and they know their partners know as well. But that doesn't mean it should be thrown out every time there is a disagreement or used as a joke at every party. In fact, it should never be brought up outside the home at all unless absolutely necessary.
- Brushing off a partner's accomplishments: When people disrespect each other's accomplishments, it can lead to disaster. Whether these are personal or academic achievements, everyone has worked hard to get what they have. If you treat your partner like they are less important you than you are based on these principles, then you are more focused on social value of your partner than you are you're actually relationship with someone you love.
- Brushing off nice gestures: If you watch closely, you may see this in a lot of relationships. Not just marriages. One person makes a nice gesture, and the other person responds (maybe with the dreaded eye-roll) "Yeah. That's nice I guess. What am I supposed to do with it?"
Really, even if someone gave you a pet porpoise the least you can do say thank you for thinking about me, right? In marriage, this is so important, because no matter how small or weird the gift is, it shows that even when your partner wasn't with you, they were thinking of you.
25 Marriage Boosting Tips From Real People
To make this article more helpful, I asked several couples who have been together for over one year what their secrets are. The very best advice, I will place at number one.
1. The secret to a happy marriage changes constantly. Like a password. If you are in tune with your relationship, then you will know when to change a few things.
2. Respect each other equally. You don't have to sing each other's praises, but always (even if it isn't true) act like your partner is an expert in at least one thing, and ask their advice on it.
3. Don't compare each other to different people. Ever.
4. It is great to remind your partner why you fell in love with them. But also tell them what you love about them now, even if it is the same trait.
5. If it isn't a life-threatening crisis, don't treat it like one. Just relax. Learn to tell the difference between "have-to" tasks and those that can be done later.
6. Use the same manners that you insist your kids use. Say you are sorry when you do something hurtful.
7. A joke isn't funny if it hurts or humiliates someone else. Always take care when you are talking about your partner to someone else.
8. Admit when you are wrong. Don't wait for your spouse to tell you. Don't wait for others to point it out. Wake up at least once a week and ask yourself if you have done everything right. And be honest with yourself. Then you can fix it.
9. Choose your battles wisely. There is a time and a place to "put your foot down". There is even a right time to nag or nitpick. But it needs to be over something very important...not over whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher.
10. Remember that it is rarely one person's fault. Individual things might be, but the whole relationship depends on both partners.
11. Let it go! Don't keep re-hashing mistakes that were made years ago. Especially very small misdemeanors!
12. Put your marriage first. If that means saying "no" to everyone and everything else when you need each other...then do it.
13. When you say you love your partner, it should be for something that they are or something that they do that is unique to them. Not how well they cook, clean, earn money, look, dress, etc.
14. If you can't say it in words, then say it in writing. It is too easy to lose your temper when talking. Too easy to be interupted. Write it. Edit it down to just the facts. Delete the negativity. Use paper, email, text . . . whatever.
15. Do unto your partner. If you don't want to be treated a certain way, then don't do it to them. Don't repeat a bad action by them just to "show them what it felt like". That leads to a vicious cycle.
16. Keep your relationship problems off the social networks. Keep a lot of the good stuff off of there too.
17. Never belittle each other's ideas. Dreams are often just that, dreams. But you don't have to puncture them intentionally just because they aren't the same as yours.
18. If you make a promise, try to stick by it as much as you can. If for whatever reason you couldn't come through, explain what happened and apologize.
19. Don't look at middle age as the time to do "all that stuff you wanted to do back then." Stop and really think about what you want to do now. You may have new dreams that you aren't paying attention to because you are still resentful about not fulfilling the old dreams. Don't give up either and think that all the good times are over. Make new good times, new traditions, and new goals.
20. Don't worry about who is right.It isn't about who is right...it is about finding the right solution for the issue at hand.
21. If you can't say something nice, then you need to shut up and try to figure out what is wrong with you.
22. If you can't say something in a nice tone of voice, then see the above advice. Why are you being impatient? Snappy? Angry? Was it the question that was asked, something else on your mind, or something that your partner did last week? Get to the bottom of your problem, then you go from there.
23. Silence is not always golden. Sometimes it is sludge. If there is something bothering you, then you need to bring it up. Don't wait for the other person to guess, don't just hold it in to avoid an argument, and don't save it up to use in later discussion. Cough it up now. But think about how you say it. Stick to the point.
24. If your parnter brings up the issue that is bothering her/him, then your job is to listen. Then both of you need to work on a solution. Immediately getting defensive and saying "I did not! But you..." isn't going to get either of you anywhere. Its okay to point out when the other person has done something hurtful too, but not as an excuse for what you did.
25. Seek counseling if you just can't seem to get it together. Sometimes talking to a third party can make all the difference, especially when it comes to those really touchy subjects that just can't be resloved on your own.
|Healthy Behaviors||Hurtful Behaviors||Toxic Behaviors|
Using Please and Thank You
Ignoring kind gestures
Sneering or Yelling at kind gestures
Showing sincere affection
Obligatory affection only
Brushing off affection
Listening to concerns
Pretending to listen
Rolling eyes or scoffing
Respecting personal differences
Downplaying personal preferences
Forbidding personal differences
Ingredients for a Strong Relationship
- Saying "I love you," either the words or a gesture, as long as it is sincere
- Goodnight kisses
- Personal compliments
- Responsibility for actions
- At least one common interest
Marriage Is More Than Vows and a Ring
Marriage, or any relationship, is about more than vows, ceremony, rings or traditions. When you agree to share your life with that one special person (and I do hope you consider them to be special) you have to consider them as a friend.
Ironically, in many cases, people are actually kinder to their friends than they are to their partners. Maybe they are more afraid of losing a friendship than a relationship. More likely though, they get into a habit of taking their partners for granted.
Just as friendships can tire quickly if abused, so can relationships. Treat your partner as more than your best friend. Treat them as the person that you fell in love with, even if that was "eons" ago. Treat them as you wish to be treated.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.