What factors lead to an unhappy and unhealthy marriage?
Relationships are complex and constantly changing, so they are tricky to manage. Marriages are one of the hardest types of relationships to maintain. Communication issues, the inability to ask for help, and lack of time and money all contribute to unhappiness and unhealthy marriages. Find out what our readers say contributes to marriage issues and how they recommend avoiding them.
Alicia Hite is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Springs Psychotherapy LLC.
Top 3 Factors that Lead to Relationship Dissatisfaction
Why do some marriages thrive while others fail? That is something that I get asked about pretty frequently as a huge portion of the population has either experienced a divorce or, according to statistics, may one day experience a divorce. While I can’t speak for everyone and every relationship, what I can speak to are the types of issues I see present in my therapy office. I work with couples and individuals, and relationship dissatisfaction is one of the main stressors many of them have in common.
This isn’t surprising when we look at how complex we are just on an individual level, so when we add another human to the mix, the complexity doubles. This is why couples sometimes complain that it seems like they just don’t get each other, or they worry that maybe they’re simply too different to be in a relationship.
Here’s the thing, two people can come from completely different backgrounds, have completely different personalities, and still have a happy and healthy marriage. So if it’s not just two people being incompatible that can lead to unhealthy and unhappy marriages, then what are the main factors?
Not Doing Your Growth Work
Regardless of how determined we are not to let our past affect our present, it typically isn’t that easy. This is why people will swear up and down that they’ll never have a relationship like their parents did or repeat the same mistakes as they did in their last romantic relationship, only to find themselves in the same situation time and time again.
Why does this happen? If we don’t dive deep into our psyche and process how past experiences have affected our view of ourselves, others, and the world in general, we will have a very hard time being able to see how those things are continuing to subconsciously show up. As you can imagine, this can have a direct impact on how healthy and happy our relationships have the potential to be.
This one is tough because until those things are brought to the surface, and we are consciously aware of how they are negatively impacting us, the chances of us having a happy and healthy marriage become less and less. For all we know, we might not even want to be in a relationship just yet, or maybe we’re in a relationship for the wrong reasons, or how to even know what is healthy and what is unhealthy when it comes to relationships.
Unrealistic Relationship Expectations
Is it any surprise that the majority of people in our society have unrealistic relationship expectations? Just look at your social media feed, television, movies, books, or the whole Disney franchise for that matter, and all we see are romantic, idealized, and some might say even unhealthy versions of [how] relationships “should” look.
The types of unrealistic expectations that typically go with those sources might sound like: “I can’t live without my partner, I would die if we ever broke up” or “they are my everything, my whole world and I should be the same to them” or “true love means that we should be able to meet every single want and need that one another has” or “if we truly love each other, we’ll never find others attractive” or “healthy relationships should feel easy.”
The list could keep going, but I imagine you get my point here. Don’t feel bad if you notice that you hold some of these expectations. With how much we are inundated with images of fairy tale lives mixed with the fact that we’re typically not taught what realistic relationship expectations are as kids, it’s no wonder that these are the types of expectations we’re operating from.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your relationships is to begin to get very honest and curious about what types of relationship expectations you are operating from, where do they come from, do they line up with your values, and do you feel more relaxed and at peace when you think about them or more anxious and fearful when you think about each one of those expectations?
Not Seeking Outside Help Soon Enough
The words couples therapy typically brings up all kinds of negative associations for people. It is not uncommon for people to believe that is where you go when things have gotten really bad or as a last-ditch effort to save a relationship. What is so interesting in how we view therapy, in general, is that we believe therapy is only meant to be used in times of crisis.
What’s even more interesting is that many of those crises we face in life may have been avoided if we sought help sooner than later. It’s very similar to why we do things like go for regular check-ups with our doctors, dentists, or optometrists. We do that to prevent severe illness and sickness, so why do we not do the same when it comes to our mental health and the health of our relationships?
If I had it my way, every couple would have some form of therapy pretty early on in their relationships, or at the very least take a workshop or class on how to have healthy communication, connections, and relationships. We take all kinds of classes to prepare ourselves for whatever profession we might be in, but most of us are never taught a single thing when it comes to how to be in a healthy relationship.
Seeking some sort of outside help sooner than later is vital to stopping the little things from becoming really big and unhealthy things. That outside help will teach you things like how to properly communicate, how to become self-aware, so you’re not being emotionally reactive and hurtful during the conflict, how to deepen emotional connection, and how to make sure our unresolved stuff is not getting projected onto our partner or the relationship in general.
So my best piece of advice: do the work! Do your work, do the work as a couple, and stay committed to a lifetime of personal growth and development, and you will be well on your way to having healthy and happy relationships!
Codependency and Irresponsibility
The major factors that can lead to an unhappy marriage are usually things that cause a rift between you and your partner. Two of the most common reasons are that one person becomes too dependent on the other, or one or more of the partners becomes irresponsible.
When one person becomes dependent on their partner for the majority of their needs, this can often tear couples apart. Whether it is dependent financially, emotionally, or even physically, it can cause a rift between partners. The person who becomes the sole provider for these things can feel taken advantage of, become exhausted easily, and feel as though their partner is not helping their family.
The other reason is when one or both partners become irresponsible in life. Meaning they do not take work or their relationships seriously. They might also be irresponsible with money and not put time or effort into the relationship. These things can lead to a very unhappy marriage and cause major frustrations.
When you start to notice these things happening in your relationship, you need to speak with your partner to solve the problems before it is too late.
Five Factors Leading to an Unhealthy Marriage
In every relationship, mistakes do occur, but relationships last longer only if you forgive and move on. When couples do not give a chance to prove their intentions to each other, it leads to [an] unhealthy marriage.
Disrespecting Each Other
Mutual respect is fundamental in any relationship. However, if the couple constantly comments on each other’s beliefs, race, language, or even ideologies, it signifies an unhealthy marriage.
Busy After the Birth of a Child
Parenting can be overwhelming, and amid this, marital life may take a back [seat]. When couples get too busy raising a child, they might develop a difference in opinion on parenting techniques, further leading to an unhappy marriage.
Spouses can betray each other in several ways like cheating, spilling secrets, making fun in public, etc. When this starts rising, it affects the happiness quotient of marriage.
Addiction and Financial Instability
Substance abuse is a significant root cause of an unhealthy marriage. In addition, constant intoxication may lead to financial instability. Though money cannot buy happiness, it is essential for survival.
Believing Your Spouse is Responsible for Your Happiness
The following are factors that can negatively influence the happiness and health of a marriage:
A lack of open and honest communication, being afraid to ask questions, and not being open to saying what is relevant to you at the time can miss a window of opportunity for a deeper connection with you and your spouse. This is even if it’s a difficult topic to broach. Not permitting yourself [to be open] may create an internal negative dialogue within you, which your spouse may inadvertently pick up without actually having any information on what that feeling they’re experiencing is about.
Believe your spouse is responsible for your continued happiness and hold them accountable. This can place a tremendous burden, in the guise of responsibility, on a spouse.
Discuss your marriage affairs with others. This is especially controversially dangerous as no one knows the real dynamics, and there are two perspectives as to what might be going on for each of you. Therefore an outsider’s perspective may be counterproductive, adding fuel to the fire, even where there might be no fire to begin with.
Disrespect, Unwillingness, and Anger
In a healthy marriage that will be consistently loving and will last, the partners treat each other with respect, even when they disagree. They are both willing to work out solutions that support the marriage, not just one person’s desires. In a healthy marriage, both partners keep their agreements with each other demonstrating loyalty and integrity to each other.
They continue to nurture their love by dating regularly. They view their marriage as a living entity between them that requires regular attention and nurturing, especially during those demanding years of child-rearing or during circumstances that are challenging.
Several factors and signs lead to an unhappy and, therefore, unhealthy marriage:
- Arguing or fighting over a particular issue. One or both partners have difficulty discussing a recurring issue between you, even when you approach the conversation with respect.
- For one or both, there is an unwillingness to seek help for the conflicts, whether by reading books, taking a course, or seeing a professional. One or both partners are closed by the option of learning and practicing better communication skills.
- One or both vent anger by verbally or physically attacking the other.
- When a problem persists, your partner is unwilling to seek help to resolve it, but rather expects you to quit complaining or get over it.
Some of the factors and signs of a potentially unhealthy relationship can be identified early while dating:
- Your date consistently fails to show up on time or return a call or text.
- Your date shows disregard for his family.
- Your date flirts with others or fails to show common courtesy to you.
- When you want to talk about a concern, your date brushes it off as unimportant or fails to show remorse when [they have] hurt your feelings.
Lack of Quality Time Together
The world has gotten a lot busier than before, and people have gotten busy with it. Even when couples work from home, they only spend time under one roof, which is different from spending quality time together.
To keep a marriage from going on the rocks, partners need to spend quality time together, doing things they both love, and building bonds that will help them find the strength to stay together when things get tough. It is crucial to accept that there are bound to be problems in every relationship. The trick is to spend time putting together great memories so that when problems arise, you still have enough reasons to stay.
Communication, Trust, and Financial Problems
In every relationship, communication is crucial. You and your partner will feel distant from each other if you don’t have time to communicate for an extended period. This might lead to misunderstandings and a lack of trust between the spouses. Your marriage could end in divorce as a result of this.
Financial difficulties may lead to a strained relationship. Both partners cannot satisfy their expectations due to a shortage of money, and they begin to argue. An unhappy marriage can be caused by financial objectives, overspending budgets, and a lack of financial counseling.
Lack of Trust
When both spouses do not trust each other, they distrust and fight. As a result, they cannot agree on a course of action. It can also lead to betrayal. If there is a severe problem, it can lead to a significant crisis in which both couples lose their mental peace, resulting in an unhappy marriage.
In Your Ideal Match, You Do Not Find Your Partner
It’s easy to criticize your partner if you continually feel like they’re not your ideal match. Your continuous criticism may make you unwanted by your partner. It can also lead to infidelity and a strained relationship.
Lacking Trust, Blaming Each Other, and Comparing
Several factors could lead to an unhappy and unhealthy marriage. Lack of trust is one of the biggest culprits. Not believing or trusting each other is difficult when there has been infidelity in the relationship.
The second factor is blaming each other for mistakes. If one of you makes a mistake around the house, then it is better to accept it and not stay angry.
The last factor is comparing your relationship with other couples. This is something most couples do when unhappy and wish their lives were as happy as other couples.
Competition and Insecurities
Marriage can be comparable to a house. It looks beautiful outside, but there are hidden flaws that only the people living with it can see and understand. Infertility and unfaithfulness lead to an unhappy and unhealthy marriage. Those factors make married couples fight more often and make their relationship a competition.
Pride and Ego
Pride eats up a good marriage because marriage is a teamwork effort and if one puts pride first, no problems or challenges can be overcome. This can also lead to unnecessary arguments.
Ego causes insecurity and jealousy in marriage and any relationship. Ego can destroy a marriage because everything will become an issue that will cause arguments.
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