Imagine being a couples’ counselor and meeting with new clients for the first time. After 30 minutes or so, you have a basic understanding of what has gone wrong in their marriage. They have no clue. This is normal. It can take multiple sessions before couples begin to understand their issues. Only when they acknowledge what has harmed their marriage can they begin putting things back together.
The thing about marriage is that it does not succeed by accident. The emotions we normally refer to as ‘love’ are not enough to keep it together, despite what the Beatles wanted us to believe back in 1967. Marriage requires work and effort. It requires sacrifice. It also requires not doing those things that can harm.
Relationships & More is a Westchester County, NY clinic that offers marriage counseling, couples’ counseling, etc. They advise that the following five things can cause serious harm to a marriage:
1. Spousal Infidelity
The first issue, spousal infidelity, is pretty apparent. It is not one of those things that couples normally come into counseling being unaware of. It’s also one of the most destructive things counselors have to address. How common is infidelity? According to 2020 data from the Institute for Family Studies, some 20% of men have cheated on their spouses compared to 10% of women.
Infidelity is not just a physical issue. It is an emotional one as well. Both women and men can feel as though they have been emotionally harmed upon learning that a spouse has had an affair. And unfortunately, that emotional harm is very difficult to overcome.
2. Life Changes
As strange as it sounds, the natural life changes that every couple goes through can harm their marriage if they don’t know how to deal with them. For example, empty nesters frequently talk of drifting apart once the kids are grown and gone. The kids are what held them together. Now they have nothing in common, or so they believe.
3. Lack of Intimacy
Physical and emotional intimacy are vitally important to marriage relationships. As time progresses, couples have a tendency to let their intimacy lapse. They get so bogged down with the daily routine of life that intimacy is left by the wayside. Unfortunately, this can turn marriage partners into complete strangers over time. Equally unfortunate is the fact that a lack of intimacy can be the spark that lights the fire of infidelity.
4. Differences in Core Beliefs
A successful marriage requires working together to solve problems and meet challenges. That work is made a lot easier when couples share core beliefs. When their core beliefs are different, solving problems becomes harder. Financial problems are a good example.
One partner, with conservative core beliefs about money, might want to address financial issues one way. The other person, with more liberal core beliefs, might see a different solution. If they cannot come together, financial difficulties could be left unresolved.
5. Unrealistic Expectations
Finally, it is not unusual for couples in marriage counseling to express unrealistic expectations of one another. Perhaps the husband has been trying to change his wife since they got married. Maybe the wife has been waiting for her husband to turn into a knight in shining armor. Both are disillusioned because their expectations are unmet.
It is no secret that marriage relationships are difficult. Furthermore, saying ‘I do’ does not guarantee marital bliss. There are plenty of things that can harm a marriage right from day one. That is why it is so important to go into it with the right mindset and a willingness to put in the work.