In these throw-in-the-towel relationship days, you might think that Facebook or infidelity are the most common reasons that couples break up. Certainly they are often quoted in divorce papers. But the truth is a much more complicated one. There are essentially three categories of relationship distress that most often have couples calling the UHaul or marching into divorce court. They are:
1. Great Expectations
2. Conflict Avoidance
1. Let’s start with “great expectations.” While it’s wonderful to enter a relationship with great optimism, many people hold the secret belief that their relationship will make them happy in every area of their life. Sometimes, their expectations are so unrealistic they resemble the ending of a Disney princess movie. It’s important that both partners talk out their expectations before they move in together. There are a few things to keep in mind. Your husband will never be your girlfriend. Your wife will never be your guy friend. And happiness is baggage you need to pack and bring with you into a new relationship.
2. On the face, it sounds like “conflict avoidance” isn’t so bad. I mean, who wants to be in a relationship with constant fighting. However, the road to intimacy is paved with ruptures followed by repairs. It is during the repair stage that we grow closer, understand each other’s tender spots, and become more intimate. And intimacy is the glue that keeps people bonded. There are plenty of bad conflict styles, but the worst one is avoidance. If one partner continually dismisses the other, either by changing the subject, staring at the television, or even giving the silent treatment, I promise, the ignored partner will eventually find someone who will listen. And that person will be an attorney or a new lover.
3. There is a lot of talk about “toxic relationships” these days, but the kind that sends one to a family attorney is one that involves one of these things: domestic violence, child abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, or chronic infidelity. These factors make the nest completly unsafe for others who may be residing there. If your relationship has one of these toxic features, you must leave now.
Here’s an appearance on CBS Early Show where I talk about toxic relationships: