Mar 102015 5 Responses

Marriage Won’t Fix Your Problems

Why do so many people rotate spouses? It’s not just one marriage that fails; it’s multiple marriages.

One bad marriage could happen for a variety of reasons. Someone wasn’t willing to do the work. One of the spouses cheated. Mistakes were made.

But multiple marriages raises different questions. (See: Why Nobel Peace Award Winners Get Divorced)

What is the main cause of someone having multiple failed marriages?

They expect marriage to fix their problems.

This isn’t the case in every situation. Of course every scenario is different. But the main pattern I see with people who are on a cycle of marriage and divorce is that they approach marriage from the wrong perspective.

They think marriage will solve their issues. Consider this thinking in the concept of divorce and remarriage. If someone enters into a marriage expecting the marriage to solve their issues, the marriage has little chance of surviving. Someone is expecting from it (and their spouse) that which marriage could never provide. So they get divorced.

Yet what does divorce do? It causes someone to have more issues. Few things are as life-altering and painful as divorce. Death is often easier than divorce, because while there is tremendous loss in both, with death the person isn’t around anymore. With divorce you lose them, but still have to see them, interact with them, and watch them move on with their lives.

Divorce causes pain. It creates problems. So a person looks for another relationship to solve the problems. And the cycle starts all over. (See: The First Step to Solving Marital Problems)

The issue isn’t the person or the spouse or marriage. The issue is the wrong expectation of what marriage can do.

Marriage won’t fix your problems.

Marriage will reveal your problems.

Consider the irony. A couple goes into marriage assuming the marriage will fix their problems. They are unaware that marriage is actually created, in part, to reveal problems. While they expect things to get better, some things actually get worse. Their problems begin to reproduce. In reality, the problems aren’t growing in number, they are simply rising to the surface so they are noticeable.

At this point, a spouse has choices in how to explain the unmet expectations:

1. Marriage is at fault.

2. My spouse is at fault.

3. My assumptions are wrong.

No one ever chooses the third option. They always choose one of the first two options and this choice leads to a cycle of unhappy marriages. (See: Three Mistakes Individuals Make After a Divorce)

But that can change.

It begins by understanding what marriage can and cannot do. It cannot fix your problems, but it can reveal the problems you need to fix.

This is one of the gifts of marriage which is often ignored. Without marriage (and/or parenting) there are many problems in our lives which could be ignored. We deceive ourselves into thinking we are better than what we actually are. (See: You Don’t Know How Bad You Are Until You Are Married)

Marriage revealing our problems is a gift. The revelation allows us to work on issues. We can improve in ways we otherwise would not be able to.

When a couple embraces this aspect of marriage, their potential is unlimited.

Yet the perspective has to be:

What does marriage reveal about me?

How can I fix it?

We can never view marriage as a process which reveals our spouse’s faults and our need to fix them. It always has to be about me and/or us.

Marriage gives me a chance to fix me.

It gives us a chance to fix us.

It does not give me a chance to fix you.

Consider this change of perspective.

When I assume marriage will reveal my problems, I am not:

  • surprised when it happens
  • tempted to blame my spouses for my issues
  • left to question the state of marriage

Instead, I am more likely to embrace the problems, get to work on them, and to see the revelation as a sign the marriage is working. (See: Divorce Is Contagious)

How sad it is that what is a sign of a healthy marriage—new revelations of my flaws—is mistaken by many as a characteristic that a marriage is failing.

Marriage won’t fix your problems. Only you can do that. It will reveal your problems, and for that you should be thankful.

 

5 Responses to Marriage Won’t Fix Your Problems
  1. Caleb Reply

    Great Stuff.

  2. Bryan Reply

    I have autism. The problems “revealed” are associated with autism and I am already quite aware of them. I am up-front about my problems. I am up-front about what it is like to live with someone who has autism. I know what I am like, and I am completely honest about how things will be with me. I say that I will often not understand conversations beyond the literal words spoken. I say that I will forget the needs of others without ever wishing to forget them. I say that I will misinterpret and take things too seriously and personally. I say that I will often miss when she is joking and act as if she were being serious with a flippant statement. I say that I will react very strongly (not violently, never violently–crying, hopping, shaking, rocking, smacking my head, shrilly repeating a short phrase multiple times) to being cut off from affection and contact. I say that I will blame myself first for any problems, that it is my presumption that I have done something wrong and bad, thus, that is why she cuts me off from affection and communication. I give fair warning for all of this. I leave nothing out about my flaws.

    But then when it actually happens, when what I say will happen in a life with me actually does happen, it’s a disaster, and it’s “too much”. Once again, I ruin a marriage. Once again, I am told to do and be things that boil down to “stop being autistic”. HOW DO I STOP BEING AUTISTIC? How is that done? NOBODY WANTS TO TELL ME HOW TO DO IT!

    Why do I deserve to be alone and lonely for the rest of my life? Obviously, I must deserve it. You won’t answer me. Nobody ever answers me. I’m not worthy of an answer. If I were worthy of an answer, one of you experts would answer me and answer the questions I ask.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Bryan, I have no doubt that autism causes challenges I could never imagine. But I do wonder if everything you are experiencing is because of the autism or if you are assuming everything is because of it. I would get with a counselor to think through these issues.

  3. […] 2. We must discern the difference between potentially fatal and non-fatal problems. Not every issue... kevinathompson.com/what-jenny-and-i-cant-do
  4. N. Brown Reply

    Kevin, thanks for this article. This much needed perspective is hard to come by. In cases such as these, what recommendations do you have for former spouses and friends and family of those who are continuing in oblivion/disregard in this manner. I am the 5th ex and have just learned my ex is entering marriage #6 in three days— les than a year after our official judgement.

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