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What Breaks Up Couples
by Cate Russell-Cole
11/02/2015 / Marriage
All couples have issues they will always struggle with, but having conflicts doesn't mean there are problems or that they are on rocky ground destined to end in the divorce courts. It is the attitudes that matter. According to Dr John Gottman from "The Love Lab," the way a couple fights is a good predictor of whether they will stay together or split. If critical, defensive, withdrawing you have problems. If use humour, show affection for one another even in tense times and acknowledge the other's point of view, then can work through the tough times and remain a couple. Keeping a sweet spirit is the key: not blaming each other, looking out for each other's interests, honest but kind communication. Not retreating from issues, but working through them fairly. It is loss of love and connection, especially communication and the intimacy of sharing aspects of your life in a safe setting that breaks up most couples, not whether the cap is left off the toothpaste, or her constant obsession with keeping the house clean.
Other factors which lead to divorce are whirlwind romances where the courtship isn't long enough to last past the first euphoria, and life time decisions are made when passion is on a high. When the passion subsides with everyday life's demands, as it will, the relationship quickly fails. Great romances are hard to maintain, especially if there has never been a chance to come down to earth and deal with difficult and concrete problems before the vows are exchanged. Marital bliss based on an idealised view of a partner not fully known is not a solid base, and impossible to maintain. Romantic love can blossom into mature love, a steadfast love and caring if there is a basis of friendship and respect. Getting together because he is everything you have ever wanted, or because you have needs he/she seems to meet are not a secure bedrock on which to build a lifetime of shared companionship. Looking only at needs met can lead to selfishness, and when Mr Right proves to be Mr Normal, love can quickly die as the truth of who you really married becomes apparent in the clear light of day.
Build a partnership through trust, learning to balance needs for interdependence and dependence (own identity and don't become a doormat), and by learning to resolve conflicts and handle the changes that come along. (Crisis pulls you closer together rather than rips you apart.) Good choices made over a period of getting to know each other (which does not include living together, couples who live together then get marries are more divorce prone than couples who haven't statistically) and knowing what you want and what you are prepared to give is essential when deciding who to marry. Need to know who you are, be confident in your own strengths and abilities, and know who your partner really is and what she/he really wants. In joining together you are also affected by your spouse's problems, and if you can barely handle your own, consider how well you will do with the additional load of concerns which will affect you both.
Love can change, grow and mature into something lasting and wonderful. It will never look like Hollywood, but the quality can be better than anything any Movie Producer ever imagined.
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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