Failure in a Marriage
It is such an unfortunate realization that as many as 40% of marriages end in divorce, depending on the circumstances. Unfortunate because all of the marital and relationship strife is entirely unnecessary. Since inception, we learned the wrong way to think about and behave in relationships. I know this because I used to be part of the “we.” I had a mindset that almost guaranteed relationship failure. Failure isn’t measured in any statistics, however. We will never truly know how many well-founded relationships exist. We tend only to view relationships as failures once they have ended, for marriages, that is in divorce.
Just what is failure, then? Failure is when the full potential of a partnership between two is not achieved. Relationships that fall into perpetual resentment, lack of intimacy and boredom are failures, whether or not the two individuals decide to take the necessary action to end it. Failure is settling for anything less than perfection. Relationships that have not yet failED, may be failING. Relationships fail when partners voluntarily choose to give no longer without condition. Partners clock out at work, never to clock into the relationship at home.
It is of my opinion that there is no inherent criterion that is met that eliminates any possibility of a relationship or marriage to once again find bliss. Relationships have moved on and prospered after being faced with physical and emotional violence and sexual and emotional affairs. The true criteria for when a relationship must inevitably end is a person one to each couple. What are – typically points of no return are addictions (porn, drugs, sex), infidelity, and an utter lack of effort. However, it is giving up, the lack of effort, which allows the wedge to be driven between partners. While there is no particular point horizon in a relationship, that does not mean that couples should have no self-imposed standards. After all, the purpose of participating in a relationship is to give and receive love. I deserve to be loved, and my gifts of love deserve to be received. Otherwise, just what are we fighting for? We aren’t fighting to maintain financial partnerships at all costs. We are fighting to be happy, together, at all costs.
I recommend individuals in relationships or marriages to set up expectations, not on their partner, but on the partnership. Expectations are one of the greatest precursors for divorce. That said, expectations for the relationship serve as self-motivations to fulfill the ideal and goal of happiness. The primary focus should not be on one’s partner, but on themselves. It is no surprise that so many relationships that were formed by compatible individuals inevitably fail when partners choose to not actively participate. Failing relationships participate in a quid pro quo, this for that, mindset. Successful relationships are characterized by unconditional gifts of love and acceptance. Successful relationships are with minimal effort.
I advise individuals to perform a logical test and transfer their current relational dynamics into a new relationship and imagine whether or not it would have lasted long. Of course not. Early relationships are characterized by a pure and unconditional focus on enjoying the moment. As the relationship progresses something interesting happens; there is a agreement to transform the sheer bliss and uncontrollable desire for togetherness into a relationship business. Partnerships leave the playground, put on their loafers, slacks, sports coats, ties and head off to the cubicle of a sweatshop. The transformation from playground to sweatshop, itself, went unnoticed. Although, partners inevitably feel something is wrong and long for the passion and excitement of the early days of infatuation.
I ultimately define failure as knowing that there is so much more that may be attained and fail to act to realize it. Again, the choice of inaction is a result of the quid pro quo mindset, in which one partner will only commit if their partner participates and at an equal level of effort. What engendered bliss in the early phases is what creates and maintains the passion in long-term committed relationships. Partners may do this, thinking that the husband or wife can’t or won’t, leaving one’s actions mired in complacency. There is always tomorrow or another day, right? Wrong. In time theory, the only actual time that exists is the present moment. If the only piece of time that exists is today, then why do partners not seize and enjoy every second?
The infatuation that characterizes early relationships is attacked by the professional community, as if this is a phase that clouds all judgment, creating the helpless attraction between two individuals. I propose that this may be the case in some instances where the physical and sexual desires crowd out any building of intimacy. Younger adults tend to equate the physical and sexual intimacy with love, getting themselves into downright dangerous relationships. The incompatibility that sows the seeds of relational destruction is the result of blind love, not intimate love. Helplessness and insecurity typically accompany infatuation, which results in the inability for young lovers to give up the fight. Infatuation is also associated with a drug-like (hormonal) high that masks itself as love. It is this high that partners feel will inevitably wear off, never to show its face again, unless an affair or new relationship is entered. The high always serves as a carrot, dangled in front of partners’ noses.
I propose that relationship and marriage failure is the result of lowering the expectations that are held for the relationship itself. Partners no longer think it possible to experience those above high, and as a result, their efforts follow suit. It is the gift of romance and love that elicits these drug-like emotions within an individual. Relationships with tenure attribute the passionate gifts of romance with infatuation, which eliminates the possibility of the high, as a result. It is my conclusion that the statistics are analyzed in a manner that misattributes positive emotion with the transitory phase of infatuation. Couples, as a result, don’t act in the manner that engenders love and intimacy, thinking that feelings must drive actions.
Failure in a relationship is when an individual violates their contract – the commitment to the relationship or marriage. The implications for this reality are vast. Just as they may be in a state of failure with ease, they may also rehabilitate themselves in the same ease of effort. Failure is letting preoccupations with the past, an over-empowered pride, excessive expectations, and false ideals obviate partners from standing hand-in-hand, towards the shared vision of the relationship. Failure is a belief in the conflict resolution model instead of the conflict mitigation model. Successful relationships use the inherent differences of either partner to work towards common goals. Failing relationships use the inherent differences as points of contention.
When couples don’t have common enemy (vision), they fight each other, because we believe we are warriors. We show up to the battleground clad in armor, branding steel. When no enemy arrives, the instinct is to fight someone – being one’s partner. Couples can find a shared vision, or, alternatively, realize that love is not war, and lovers are not warriors. The best way to avoid conflict is to not show up to the battleground, entirely. Show up to a restaurant instead.