1. Poor boundaries. Engaging in intimate conversations with members of the opposite sex leads to emotional experiences that cloud judgment, trigger fantasy life, and progress toward physical intimacies outside of marriage.
The connection and acceptance found in an illicit relationship diverts energy away from solving problems with one’s spouse. Confiding about marital problems with a sympathetic listener provides a contrasting experience to whatever dissatisfactions might be present in the marriage.
2. Selfishness. There needs to be fairness in the distribution of work and responsibility within the relationship. This willingness to extend oneself also pertains to meeting emotional needs. Placing one’s desires consistently ahead of a partner’s emotional needs and responding only when it is a matter of convenience, demand or negotiations leaves a spouse feeling unloved.
If too many important needs are neglected over time, the unloved spouse feels used or taken advantage of. Consistent lack of love interferes with a spouse’s willingness to give unselfishly in the relationship. When marriage partners don’t trust their needs will be met, they tend to meet their own needs first and become hesitant to share freely of themselves.
Selfishness in its most destructive form involves control, manipulation, jealousy, possessiveness, demands and abuse in order to get one’s way. In milder forms, it is lack of consideration and respect.
3. Disrespectful judgments. Marriage needs acceptance, admiration, appreciation and emotional safety. Feelings of anger and hurt follow when the process of exploring differences or contrasting opinions consistently degenerates into criticism, impatience, labeling, contempt, or discrediting one’s thoughts or feelings.
It is disrespectful to try to change a spouse’s thinking by lecture, ridicule, threats, brainwashing, or negative aspersions. These perceived attacks on personality, character, intelligence or values undermine the mutual respect that forms the basis of love. The tendency is to retaliate in kind or else to withdraw and not share one’s ideas. It becomes hard to love or give of oneself when one feels unfairly judged or mistreated.
4. Explosive, angry outbursts or rages. Anger can have a useful purpose if it is listened to and leads to dialogue and constructive problem-solving. However, anger can either create more anger or withdrawal, both of which interfere with effective communications.
Unbridled and unpredictable tempers interfere with emotional safety and trust when spouses need to engage each other on emotional issues. The issues behind the anger get lost as the angry response is perceived as unjust, abusive and unwarranted. It is intimidating and controlling.
5. Lack of emotional intimacy. The lack of sharing one feelings, goals, hurts, struggles, joys and emotional details of one’s life lead to loneliness and sadness. Feelings of friendship and partnership come from being connected through interest, deep listening and empathy, mutual support, and sharing perspectives as confidants.
Expectations for marriage include a desire for this soul-satisfying experience of being known, understood, loved, accepted and valued for who you are and having a place to turn for comfort and support. If this component of marriage is lacking, marital partners feel cheated of the essence of what they truly expect marriage should provide.
6. Lack of affection and sexual fulfillment. When needs for sex and affection are not met, problems mushroom. Without affectionate gestures and words, love seems hollow and not as believable. People don’t marry to get a roommate. They expect to have an active and fulfilling sexual life. Chronic anger and conflict dampen a couple’s willingness to be affectionate with each other.
7. Leading separate lives. Relationships also suffer when couples don’t mesh their lives through shared activities, recreational companionship or spending enough time together.
Living too independently from each other takes away connection and joy from the relationship. Couples need to function as a team when it comes to parenting, managing a household, sharing finances, and relating to relatives. They need to consult with each other about important decisions and coordinate their schedules.
Time needs to be set aside to enjoy conversation, adventures, common interests, vacations and fun. Time spent together should be anticipated with pleasure. Without this component, couples drift apart and have little in common.
8. Communication is a painful process. A marriage with too much conflict, hostility, blame, criticism, defensiveness, and belligerent verbal attacks seems like life with an enemy instead of a friend. Marriage needs to be a place of safety, a haven, a place of love and refuge, not a war zone.
Always being “right,” being rigid, judgmental, or easily angered or flooded with emotion disrupt communication before problems can be solved. Avoidance of conflict is even a bigger problem as the emotional connection is lost when couples don’t share opinions and attempt to resolve conflict. When repeated attempts to solve problems fail, one partner gives up and starts to withdraw emotionally.
9. Destructive habits and addictions. Addictions have great power to be placed in front of the needs and happiness of a partner. Betrayal, hurt, anger and pain follow the wake of addictive behavior. Addictions need to be treated to protect the integrity of the marriage.
10. Dishonesty, laziness and other character defects. Basic trust and respect underlie love and form the basis of relationships. Lies, deceit, disloyalty, secret habits, or emotional dishonesty about thoughts or feelings destroy trust and respect. Spouses who willingly don’t take or follow through with their personal responsibilities unfairly shift those burdens to their partner. Marriage is a partnership between equals, not a parent/child relationship.
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