Why Marriage Ties Are Breaking Down
MARRIAGE counselors of this world give many reasons for the breakdown of marriage ties in our time. Yet, few of such counselors take into consideration the most fundamental cause.
Without considering this root cause, their advice, while it may be helpful, often is not enough. In fact, the advice may even be contradictory, since opinions vary so much.
The situation can be likened to that of a person who takes aspirin for a toothache. It may help to relieve the pain, but it does not get at the root of the problem. When the basic cause is determined and properly treated, the pain can be eliminated.
So, too, there is the need to get at the root cause of marriage problems. Then the problems can be solved without having to eliminate the arrangement itself. One need not, as it were, ‘throw out the baby with the bath water.’
But before analyzing the root cause, what, briefly, are some of the more apparent reasons for marriage failures today?
Marrying Too Young
A fruit picked too soon, before it ripens, can be bitter to the taste. Similarly, those who marry too young often reap a bitter harvest. The highest rate of marriage failure is found in very young couples, especially teen-agers. The younger the couple, the higher the risk.
Australia’s Women’s Weekly bluntly put it this way: “Marrying at 18 is stupid. You are so young. You haven’t lived enough. You don’t know who you are and you make immature decisions. Little things that are important then are not important later on.” Yes, it takes time to get to know oneself, and also to get to know one’s prospective mate.
Much of youthful “love” is not real love at all, but infatuation, physical attraction. But that is not enough in marriage. This can also be seen where passion is given free reign before marriage and the girl gets pregnant. The couple marry, only to divorce soon.
In France, “85% of couples who divorce before two years of marriage were expecting their first child before marrying,” says the book Le Divorce a la Carte. Neither the sexual attraction nor the baby was enough to hold the marriage together.
Many people have unrealistic ideas about love, sex and marriage. These may come from television, movies, books, magazines, friends, or the person’s own fantasies. When these ideas are not realized in marriage, the individual blames the mate or the marriage arrangement, rather than the false expectations.
In some, the desire to marry overpowers the need to find a truly suitable mate. They feel that although the person they marry may not be so suitable, ‘somehow it will work out.’ They feel that any marriage is better than none. Or they think that they will change the other person after they marry.
But the staggering divorce statistics show that these expectations are so often unrealistic. Many times it does not ‘somehow work out.’ The anticipated changes do not take place. The couple find that ‘just any marriage’ is not better than none. Their later desire to divorce shows that they regard the bad marriage as being worse than no marriage.
How a person is raised often influences the course his or her marriage will take. A bad home atmosphere can threaten future marriage. Many who even had despised the bad actions of parents often find that they imitate the bad behavior later. In this regard, one wife said:
“My mother used to criticize my dad and throw things when she got angry at him. Although I hate myself for it, I tend to nag my husband and throw stuff when I get upset. It’s as though Mom ‘taught’ me to live with a husband this way. I wish they had taught me how to solve problems with a husband, not make them.”
Another aspect of a couple’s background has to do with their interests being too different. At first, such differences may seem intriguing. But, later in marriage, when the newness of these differences wears off, they can become points of friction. The more differences there are in likes and dislikes, such as tastes in food and clothing, or attitudes on work, money, politics, religion and other things, the greater the likelihood of arguing over them after marriage.
Opposites may attract at first, but they can repel later. It has been found that the more things people have in common to begin with, the fewer their areas of conflict later in marriage.
Employment and Money Pressures
When a husband becomes too involved with his work and the people at his work, he neglects his wife. The wife begins to resent this, and may feel restricted by having to care for the home and children.
On the other hand, some wives who work to make life ‘more interesting,’ and not because of economic necessity, can create resentment in their husbands. A man may feel that his wife is neglecting his interests, the home, and the children’s upbringing.
In these days of high prices, many wives go to work to help to support the household. Problems have developed in such circumstances when the husband has expected his wife to do all the housework anyway. She feels that this is unfair, which it is, and their relationship becomes strained.
At times trouble comes when the husband is unable to find suitable employment to provide a good living for the family. In this situation, he may develop a lack of self-respect and may even begin drinking heavily. This makes the bad situation worse, with the wife growing more frustrated.
Money problems, a chief cause of marriage difficulties, frequently come because people will not curb their appetites for unnecessary material things. Their wants far exceed their needs, and they buy more than they can afford.
This is often true of many young couples who want the goods they see advertised or that they see older persons enjoy. They forget that these older folks had to work many years to get them. So the young couple goes heavily into debt, spending more money than they make. Both may have to work to support their life-style, and often even this is not enough income. Too, at this very time the wife may have a baby and may be unable to work. So there is not enough money for the bills. Bitterness and faultfinding follow.
Lack of Communication
This common reason centers on the unwillingness of marriage mates to talk things over between themselves in a calm, open manner. It has a deadening effect on many aspects of marriage.
Usually it is the wife who feels that the husband is not interested in what she thinks, says or does. She may complain that the husband is not listening to her when she expresses herself. So, she feels isolated, unloved, without a companion (which a husband should be). Thus the couple drift apart.
However, in many instances the lack of communication is not the cause of the problems. It is the result. Something else has gone wrong, and one manifestation of it is that the couple has less and less good conversation.
Alcoholism is one of the foremost home wreckers. Tens of millions of persons throughout the world are alcoholics. Tens of millions of others are close to alcoholism.
The drinking may be due to a desire to ‘have fun,’ or to ‘feel good.’ But it may also be the result of other troubles that the person has difficulty coping with and tries to ease or escape by drinking. But the heavy drinking is certain to make worse whatever problems there were in the beginning.
The mate who does not drink too much is usually repulsed by the one who does. A large percent of divorces list alcoholism on the part of one mate as the chief cause.
Sadly, children of alcoholic parents later have a higher degree of drinking problems themselves. This early home “training” or “conditioning” carries over into marriage, where they experience many of the problems their parents had because of drinking too much.
Sexual incompatibility is another major reason given for marriage breakdowns. The husband may express dissatisfaction because his wife is not as interested in sexual relations as he is. The wife complains that the husband is selfish and does not consider her emotional needs.
Today’s permissive attitude toward sex has not helped. Many men, particularly, feel that they should be entitled to the gratification of all the sexual desires they have, and when the wife does not satisfy these, they seek outside partners. The wife, in turn, may seek an adulterous relationship with someone whom she considers more understanding. But, in time, these outside infidelities poison the marriage.
In many lands, it is considered an expression of a man’s prowess to have affairs on the side, even to have illegitimate children. Men may spend much of the family’s money on these affairs, making less available for the wife and the legitimate children. Wives usually express deep anger at this.
In recent years, changes in the law have made divorce much easier. In some places it is now ‘divorce on demand,’ with no reason necessary other than the desire to obtain a divorce.
With such easy divorce laws more and more the rule, many people adopt the idea that ‘they can always get a divorce if the marriage doesn’t work out.’ But that very attitude can be damaging. It can cause a person to be more careless about the way he chooses a mate. And when difficulties do arise in marriage, there may well be less of an inclination to work hard at solving them.
These, then, are some of the more common reasons for the flood of marriage failures in recent years, and, of course, there are others. To help people to cope with these, marriage counselors of this world give much advice—some good, some inadequate, some contradictory, and some just plain bad.
Why this confusion? Because few of such counselors come to grips with the root cause. Until that is done, and the proper remedies are applied, the threat of marriage failure exists.
We have seen some of the more apparent reasons for marriage failure. But there is a deeper cause. What, then, is at the root of marriage problems? And what does it take to find happiness in the arrangement?
[Picture on page 13]
Is your marriage marred by . . .
. . . Money Problems?
. . . Silence?
. . . Alcoholism?