Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP
Why Do Marriages Fail?
Why Do Marriages Fail? was written by future Industrial Organizational Psychologist, Brandon Araujo, for D’Arienzo Psychological Group in March 2014.
After getting married, couples tend to go through a phase of pure bliss and happiness known as the “honeymoon” stage. After this stage, typically ending with the birth of the first child, many couples report a decline in their level of happiness. This scenario fits into what many psychologists refer to as the disillusionment model. This model was created by Willard Waller (1938), who suggested that partners tend to “put their best foot forward and highlight their good qualities” going into a marriage and eventually, “the romance begins to fade, particularly when the spouses discover that their mate is not as affectionate and wonderful as they were during courtship” (Huston, 2009). Huston conducted a study, which, over 14 years, followed multiple couples throughout courtship and marriage. After the 14 year period only 40% were both married and happy. Huston reported that in these lasting marriages, “the spouses had sweet dispositions, similar interests, compatible ideas about marital roles and a common trajectory for their relationship.” The other 60% of couples all struggled with certain difficulties; “Some were bad from the beginning and were quickly dissolved. Others differed in newlywed promises, in how much marital satisfaction increased and/or dissipated, and in the degree to which the partners’ views of each other became less favorable over the first 2 years of marriage.”
Joseph Ducanto (2013), a divorce lawyer for 56 years, provides four main reasons why divorces fail. The first being individual changes over the years. He mentions that throughout the development of the marriage the individuals may mature and develop at different rates or in different directions; for example, at the start of a marriage the woman may be unemployed and the man is the source of financial support, however, the woman may eventually become employed and earn more than the man giving her a sense of independence, which could possibly lead to her leaving the man. Another important factor is the amount of emotions shared by the two spouses. Contrary to many beliefs, men in marriages rely more heavily on their spouse than do women. The reason for this is that woman have many more sources of social support than men do, because of this men tend to be emotionally dependent on their wives. If a woman begins to provide less emotional support to her husband it may cause problems for the relationship as well as the man’s individual well being (depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse).
The next reason Ducanto lists is the exacerbation of pre-existing strains. This reason can be related to a small crack in a car windshield; over time as the car experiences large bumps and more violent conditions the crack grows until it eventually covers the entire windshield. As the crack grows the more difficult it becomes to fix and eventually the entire windshield needs to be replaced. Marriages in this sense are very similar; any small cracks in a marriage (fights, financial struggles, family difficulties) will worsen with the impact of a larger event (birth of child, loss of a job, death of a child), eventually causing the marriage to end. The longer the small problems in the marriage are ignored the harder they will be to fix in the future.
Ducanto believes that boredom is another reason why marriages fail and is also the cause of the final reason, infidelity. As the marriage progresses the partners will occasionally develop repetitive behaviors with each other. This causes them to become tired of each other and instead of trying to become more spontaneous with their partner, they will often find another man or woman to create excitement in their life, leading to infidelity. Infidelity is an extremely common cause of marriage failure. I talk about how this very common issue can be prevented as well as fixed in my article Recovering From Infidelity (/2014/01/recovering-infidelity/).
As mentioned above in the car windshield metaphor, it is extremely important to solve any problems with your spouse in a timely manner. Also, Huston discovered that many courtships do not last long enough to see marriage; it may be wise to meet with a marriage counselor or psychologist early on in the stage of courtship in order to discover each partner’s ideas and views of marriage. It is also quite helpful to take a marriage preparation course prior to marriage or a marriage tune up course if already married and having marital difficulties. These are just a few good choices for any couples that are experiencing a slump in the pre-marriage process and their marriage and are uneasy about whether or not the relationship will last. The most important thing to remember is that ignoring problems during courtship or marriage will only cause them to grow over time, leading to larger difficulties in the future.
Ducanto, J. N. (2013). Why Do Marriages Fail?. American Journal Of Family Law,
HUSTON, T. L. (2009). What’s love got to do with it? Why some marriages succeed and
others fail. Personal Relationships, 16(3), 301-327. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2009.01225.x
Dr. D’Arienzo, Relationship Expert and Clinical Psychologist at D’Arienzo Psychological Group, along with his team of marriage counselors and therapists are here to help you today. Contact us at 904-379-8094. We offer couples counseling by Skype, in our office, and through marriage tune up courses and premarital courses that can be taken online. Contact us today for more information.