After spending years working with couples and individuals who have been through a breakup or divorce, I see the same problems coming up over and over again. Wouldn't it be good to know where to really concentrate our efforts so we can give our marriages the best chance at survival?
Here are six marriage mistakes that can easily lead to divorce:
1. You talk to friends about the rotten thing you think your husband did to you. Research suggests that friends are often more upset when they think their bestie is being mistreated than when they're experiencing the same mistreatment themselves. Besides, most of us don't really understand how our conditioning and wiring as women differs from our husbands' conditioning and wiring as men. That's why conversations about men with female friends often lead to husband-bashing, which helps nobody. The solution is to limit talking about your marital problems to just two people: For example, a trusted friend along with a coach or therapist. (See what a coach at The Relationship Place has to offer here.)
2. You think that talking about these problems with your husband is the answer. All too often, women think that talking to our husbands is the way to make them see how their behavior affects us. If the behavior doesn't change when we first bring it up, we want to talk more, longer, or louder because we think maybe they didn't get it the first time. One of the biggest pet peeves for men is that feeling of being nagged or badgered, especially if they don't know what the problem really is. Also, the rules of polite, kind, nice conversation that women try to follow often come off as indirect, manipulative and mysterious to men. Women often conclude that their husbands don't care because they haven't changed after a particular conversation. The solution: learn communication skills designed specifically to talk with men and spend more time doing fun activities.
3. You believe that your happiness depends on your husband changing. Research has shown that happiness does increase when your husband changes for the better, but that change originates with you. Paradoxically, the women who focused on becoming the person they want to be, rather than on how to get their husband to change, were happier down the road. The solution: focus on being the best you. To understand more about the art and science of being happy, check out my class here.
4. You live parallel lives. Living parallel lives with your husband is the slippery slope to disconnecting completely. The bonds of marriage thrive on having interest in one another, working toward common goals and spending time with one another. Couples who are trying to reconnect after their children have left home often come to realize that they don't know each other anymore. The solution: take the time to know what's important to your husband and let him know what's important to you.
5. You focus on what's wrong. One of the most difficult scenarios I come across is a couple in which one or both people are stuck viewing each other through a negative lens, expecting the worst. Our brains do a wonderful job of seeing what we expect to see, and we are much more likely to view our husbands as doing everything wrong when we have developed a negative view of them. A relationship coach can help you regain a balanced view. The solution: balance your concerns with a positive view. A relationship thrives when we see our partner through rose-colored glasses.
6. You utter these deadly words: "I deserve ... " These words need to be banned from your vocabulary. The mentality that goes along with using these words includes a form of entitlement that kills the softness needed for a couple to cherish one another. Saying "I deserve" is inherently a demand. It's very different from knowing internally that you are worth more, and having the communication skills necessary to ask for more. Knowing what you're worth helps you inspire your husband to cherish you. The solution: focus on knowing your own worth. Get clear about what's important to you in a relationship, and learn how to ask for it.