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"CAN THIS MARRIAGE BE SAVED?"

That phrase is the title of a very popular column in a leading woman's magazine that has been running for years. Apart from this particular column, you can read virtually any advice column from Dear Abby to Dear Margo to anyone else's and find that the vast majority of questions posed to the columnist deal with marriage and its many troubles.

Which is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that this means that many marriages are struggling to survive. The good news is that if you are one of those having difficulties in your marriage, you are obviously not alone.

 

STATISTICS ON MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE

It's a common belief that roughly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce; in reality, that number has dropped off somewhat in the past few years. However, so has the percentage of adults getting married as well, so it may not necessarily be that people are finding it easier to make a relationship work, as much as they are just putting off marriage in favor of living together or just being in a relationship outside of marriage.

While 50% of marriages ending in divorce is not quite accurate anymore, recent census figures state that approximately 1 in 5 adults has been divorced sometime in their life. Notice that doesn't mean 1 in 5 that have been married; when you consider that out of those 5 individuals there are of course going to be those who have never married, you see that divorce is still quite common among people today.

And this of course doesn't include those who are technically married but separated, whether legally or just living apart from one another for reasons other than career or convenience.

Sometimes these statistics are hard to accurately pinpoint because people are often very private about these matters, and sometimes a separation will occur that is only temporary or that seems to repeat itself in a marriage, or is not yet legally recognized.

Perhaps these are the reasons that marriage is at an all-time low right now, according to recent research by the National Marriage Project, which predicts that as of right now, some 85% of young Americans will never marry. Also according to the Project, in the 1970s, 53% of people stated that they were "very happy" in their first marriage; today only 37% of people make that same claim.

It's probably not presumptuous to say that most people get married because they think it will make them happy, and yet they may look at the statistics and the reality of those around them - friends and family who are divorced, who are separated, who are contemplating either option, or who are just downright miserable - and wonder if marriage is all that it's cracked up to be.

 

COMMON REASONS FOR MARITAL PROBLEMS

It's often said that the two things that couples fight over the most are sex and money. In reality of course there are many, many things that can cause marital strife and a breakup; having a good sex life or lots of money obviously won't insulate anyone from considering divorce or separation.

Some of the common issues that plague marriages today may include:

  • Trouble with in-laws interfering with a marriage.
  • Differing values and goals in life; this might include the desire or lack of desire for children or a career, excessive materialism on the part of one spouse, and so on.
  • Different religious and moral views.
  • Different views on gender roles and responsibilities.
  • Deep-seated prejudices or strong opinions about cultures, politics, world events, and so on, that clash with the partner's views.
  • Substance abuse, including alcoholism and drug addiction, whether to illegal or prescription drugs.
  • Other addictions, including gambling, sex, pornography, or food.
  • Mental or emotional illnesses and issues, including clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or past abuse suffered as a child or previous traumatic events.
  • Stressful careers, such as being a police officer, firefighter, air traffic controller, or jobs that take one from home for extended periods of time.
  • Unemployment, extreme illnesses, or other prolonged issues outside the marriage.
  • Domestic violence on the part of one spouse or another.
  • Differing opinions on child rearing, including how to handle stepchildren and their particular issues.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the problems that many face in marriage, and often the real issues can be a combination of any of these types of things.

And while these are some of the more major problems that couples may face, there are of course everyday issues that may not be as serious and critical but that still seem to eat away at the marriage bond every single day, leading to an eventual breakup. These issues might include:

  • Extreme selfishness on the part of one spouse; the "It's my way or the highway" attitude.
  • A general lack of communication between the two; assumptions made by one that the other "should just know" what he or she is thinking or planning.
  • A failure to take into consideration one's partner and his or her feelings when making decisions or plans, or in one's actions overall. This might include thoughtless actions such as constantly teasing the spouse in front of others, degrading their decisions or actions, everyday criticisms or sarcasm, and other such calloused behavior.
  • A generally poor attitude on the part of one spouse; constantly finding reasons to complain or find fault with others or with life in general.

Do any of these things sound like you and your marriage? Can you easily see your spouse in any of these descriptions? And more importantly, can you see yourself in any of these descriptions as well?

 

THE REAL PROBLEM TODAY

While there is no end to the problems that can cause marital breakups, in reality they often boil down to one simple factor - selfishness. One spouse acts selfishly, or more likely, both spouses are very selfish, and this leads to friction, thoughtlessness, poor communication, and even downright abuse.

Think about how this is true today. Don't most people just want to do what they want, when they want, how they want, without any regard for the consequences or for those around them? The husband wants to play poker with the guys and doesn't think about whether or not his wife hasn't seen him in days and needs help with the children. The wife wants to buy that fabulous new outfit or piece of furniture she sees without any regard to the balance on their credit cards. Both get an idea in their head about what is the "right" way to discipline or train the children, and neither is willing to compromise or budge an inch.

Selfishness also manifests itself, not just in what people do, but often in what they refuse to do. A wife's or husband's mother may be insulting to the spouse, but she or he refuses to stand up to the parent because it's just too unpleasant or because it makes them feel good to know that they're still someone's child - without considering how this makes their spouse feel. A husband or wife refuses to set proper boundaries with their children from a previous marriage because they don't want to be the bad guy with their children, regardless of how this is affecting their marriage.

Even in little things, this selfishness manifests itself in what spouse's do or don't do. A husband doesn't want to help with the housework, so he just doesn't. A wife doesn't want to balance the checkbook, so she just doesn't. Toilet seats get left up, toothpaste tubes are left out, overdraft fees are racked up, the house goes without needed repairs … and so on. These seemingly small things can often add up to that proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back," with not just any one of them being the reasons for a marriage to be on the brink of divorce, but many of them together making a couple just grate on each other's nerves.

 

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