Originally posted on The Family Greenhouse on September 15, 2016 by Abigail Doust

There is a major myth that people believe about marriage. And believing in things that are not true can get you into a lot of trouble. Myths have had major impacts on me- myths about what I should eat (or not eat), ideas of how to raise my kids, tales of how to succeed in business, illusions of how to get ahead financially.

People think marriages end because of infidelity

The myth people are believing about marriage is that as long as there isn’t some major betrayal or huge event, your marriage is probably just fine. In fact, a quick google search led me to an article in the Huffington Post from last September saying, “If you think that sexual infidelity is the leading cause of divorce, you’ve got it all wrong.” So here are a few of my findings about marriage, from extensive research and plenty of on-the-job experience.

Marriages end because they fade

Statistically, most marriages don’t end because of an affair, or because a child died, or because the couple went bankrupt. Marriages end because of a slow fade, and here are a few signs so you know what to look for (and fight against).

Marriages end when…

  1. One person or both people stop communicating. They stop sharing what matters, or they stop working to communicate effectively. For you to keep your marriage thriving, keep talking and keep listening. If your spouse tries to let you in or connect with you, try to “turn toward” them and embrace it as Dr. John Gottman describes. Build a bridge everyday.
  2. One person or both people give in to negative thinking. When you preoccupy yourself with the critical evaluation of your spouse, you are on a downward spiral. Before you know it you have a long list of reasons you are disgruntled and it feels impossible to feel happy together again. (please note- how do you melt a seeming iceberg? one day at a time, with a hairdryer if needed. there is always hope.)
  3. One person or both people think the way they see it is “right” and the way the other person sees it is “wrong” without question. They begin to be so entrenched in what they think and how they would do it that they forget a completely valid point or perspective is on the other side. They have blinders and favor themselves, and lose sight of how to see beyond their opinions. Remember to ask questions, offer clarification, listen carefully. When in doubt, say “Tell me more.”
  4. One person or both people have been in a season of struggle, and don’t return intentionally. When work is especially hard, the kids are going through a rough patch, the finances are strained, a parent is sick or dying, or any other kind of strain or stress, the relationship takes a hit. You might make it through the rough season ok, but when it is over you forget to get back on the wagon with the good and right things of your marriage. You can skimp on the relationship for awhile- you can leave your spouse in the dust for other priorities for a season- but when it is over you need to come back. Communicate about it. Make a plan together. Come back after a rough season.
  5. One or both people don’t feel cared for. Over time the little stuff begins to add up. You didn’t take the car in for an oil change like you said you would. You left your dishes beside the sink even though you know that drives me crazy. You don’t try to kiss me when I leave…you forgot I had that big meeting…you didn’t change the roll of toilet paper. And the list goes on and on. Dr. John Gottman has a name for this- the Toilet Seat Theory of Marriage. in his decades of marriage research, he has come to the conclusion that 80% of marriages that end in divorce get there because of the small stuff. The mundane moments of life. The small stuff that adds up (yes it all matters!) and people don’t realize it makes a huge difference in the trajectory of your relationship. This can lead to the marriage dying not in a big explosion, but with a whimper.

Know what strangles relationships 

So please take note- your marriage is not “just fine” if you avoid infidelity and major betrayal. In fact, I have seen countless marriages rebound successfully from gambling, drug addiction, adultery, pornography, and more. It is the sneaky every day stuff that is strangling our marriages. And it is these exact areas that we target in order to refresh and revitalize marriages everywhere. Will you join us in dispelling the myth??

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