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8 Important Lessons You Can Learn from a Failed Marriage

8 Important Lessons You Can Learn from a Failed Marriage

Nobody says “I do” hoping that their marriage will fail. Yet, even with only seven out of every 1,000 couples walking down the aisle,[1] many marriages are still ending in divorce.

There are many signs that a relationship is on its way out, people just don’t catch them fast enough to save their marriages. This is bad news since research reveals what everyone who has been through a divorce already knows – divorce triggers psychological distress and a decline in life satisfaction.[2]

What are the signs that your relationship is unhappy? What can you do about a failed marriage? Is there anything you can learn from it? You will learn all of these in this article.

Signs of a Failing Marriage

You don’t have to experience a divorce to learn how to save your marriage. If you feel that you need marriage advice, look no further. Here are 14 signs of a failing marriage:

  • You feel annoyed to be in the same room together.
  • You’re always arguing.
  • You fantasize about being without your partner.
  • You often consider cheating on your spouse.
  • Conversations are awkward or overly formal.
  • You don’t enjoy spending time together.
  • You’re not happy, ever.
  • There is constant infidelity in the relationship.
  • You are always blaming one another for your problems.
  • You no longer communicate together.
  • Your sex life is dismal.
  • Your partner is verbally or physically abusive.
  • There is substance abuse in the marriage.
  • You’re only staying together for the kids.

How to Cope with a Failing Marriage

If any of the above sounds like your relationship, your marriage is definitely on the rocks.

Seek marriage counseling, open up the lines of communication, and commit to a weekly date night together. This has been proven to improve communication, intimacy, and reduce marital boredom. Couples who have a regular date night are also 20 percent less likely to get divorced.[3]

The relationship advice below will be useful for you too:

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What If Your Marriage Failed Already? 8 Lessons to Learn

Of course, it’s always good if you can save a marriage that is falling apart. But even if you failed to save it, there’re still lessons to learn from it:

1. Phones Can be a Killer

One thing that divorce will teach you is the importance of putting your phone away. Did you know that in a survey on phone use, 1 in 10 couples admitted to checking their smart device during sex?[4] A further 85 percent of surveyed smartphone users say they use their device while speaking to friends and family.[5]

Research shows that multitaskers (such as those who used their phones while watching television or trying to have a personal conversation) are less empathetic. MRI scans of their brains reveal less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, which controls cognitive and emotional control, as well as empathy.[6]

People who snub their partner to play on their phone (referred to as “phubbing” or “phone snubbing”) are at risk of divorce.[7] Phubbing as a term was coined as a part of campaign by Macquarie Dictionary, where phubbing is described as a habit of choosing to give more attention to mobile phone as opposed to the spouse or a friend.[8]

Studies show that phubbing directly contributes to a decline in marital satisfaction and an increase in depression. This behavior of snubbing someone over their mobile phone is the root cause of several relationship problems. The phubber makes the phubbee (victim of phubbing) feel ignored, disrespected and experience a stinging sense of relationship dissatisfaction and even hatred.

2. Gratitude Is Necessary

Studies reveal that partners who express gratitude for one another have greater relationship satisfaction.[9]

They also enjoy better communication, commitment, relationship investment, intimacy, support, and self-expansion. Gratitude in relationships promotes relationship satisfaction by prompting the partner who receives gratitude from one partner to replicate the gesture of generosity by signalling gratitude to their partner, who initiated this expression of gratitude.

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Expressing gratitude also prompts a sense of responsiveness and reciprocal behavior, where both partners respond to each other’s needs, willingly.

3. Communication Is Really Important

When soliciting marriage advice, we often hear that communication is the foundation of a great relationship and this is true.

Your level of communication determines how well you and your spouse will be able to resolve arguments, how deep your marital friendship is, and how vulnerable you are willing to be with one another. Studies also prove that great communication leads to great sex and increased orgasm frequency in women.[10]

In your next relationship, find someone who isn’t afraid to give you their undivided attention, listens to you without interrupting, looks for ways to solve problems as a team, and loves to talk to you about their day.

4. Your Happiness Matters

Focusing on your happiness or self-compassion is not shallow or selfish.

Of course, when you love someone, you want to spoil them emotionally and physically. You want to lavish them with attention, affection, and respect. These things come naturally. But until this happens, you must look out for your own interests.

Find someone who gets you, who respects you, and who makes you feel special. Find someone who makes you laugh. Studies show that couples who laugh together are more likely to stay together.[11] They also feel more supported and satisfied in their relationship.[12]

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However, it is important to note that you do not force laughter, and create more chances for spontaneous and shared laughter. Letting loose, revisiting places where you share laughter, playing fun couple games and creating inside jokes are few of the things to help you both break into spontaneous laughter and improve your relationship.

5. Know Your Deal Breakers

If you have experienced a failed marriage, odds are you know the exact qualities that you don’t want out of a future partner.

It is good to know what your deal breakers are. Instead of going into a relationship thinking you can change the habits that you don’t like, find someone who shares your passions.

For example, are you a spiritual person who wishes to be with someone who shares their beliefs? If so, don’t settle. Studies show that couples who share spirituality are more likely to view their relationship as special and treat their partners better than couples who do not share a religious (or “higher power”) viewpoint.[13]

6. You Can’t Change Someone

Big problems arise when partners believe that once they are married, their partner will change their bad habits.

Wrong! One of the biggest pieces of marriage advice is this: Bottom line, you can’t force your partner to change. Only they can do that.

If you are in a new relationship with someone, make sure you love their positive qualities and are perfectly able to tolerate the ones that aren’t so great. Because odds are, they aren’t changing anytime soon!

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7. Maintain Your Friendships

One of the biggest lessons you can learn from a breakup is the importance of maintaining your friendships.

When we get into a serious relationship, there is a tendency to push our friends and family to the side. We’re in love, after all. Naturally, we want to spend all of our time with our sweetheart. But consider this piece of marriage advice – if your relationship does not work out, who will be there to support you?

Studies show that the support you receive from friends and family after a divorce, breakup, or other trauma can actually lower psychological distress.[14] If you have not built and maintained strong relationships with your loved ones, you will feel very alone after a breakup.

8. Sex is Essential for a Happy Relationship

One telltale sign that your relationship was doomed was if sex was missing from your failed marriage. It may sound shallow to say that if you’re not having sex, you’re not having a great marriage. But consider these facts:

Sexual satisfaction is one of the highest predictors in emotional intimacy between couples.[15] Men also report feeling happier in their marriages when their wives are sexually satisfied. This emotional intimacy contributes to marital happiness and the overall friendship, security, and vulnerability you feel with your partner.

The oxytocin released during acts of physical intimacy is essential for a lasting marriage. The oxytocin hormone is responsible for reducing stress,[16] promoting bonding between partners, raising trust,[17] and can reduce anxiety and act as a natural antidepressant for women.[18]

Final Thoughts

By following this marriage advice, you can learn the telltale signs that your marriage is failing so you can try to save it earlier. You can even prevent your next relationship from falling apart again by learning the cause of a failed marriage.

A failed marriage doesn’t mean that love isn’t in the cards for you, but it’s important to learn from the mistakes of the past relationships.

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] OECD – Social Policy Division – Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs: Marriage and Divorce Rate
[2] J Fam Psychol: Breaking Up is Hard to do: The Impact of Unmarried Relationship Dissolution on Mental Health and Life Satisfaction
[3] W. Bradford Wilcox & Jeffrey Drew : The Date Night Opportunity
[4] Microsoft Word: The Attachment Problem: Cellphone Use In America
[5] Bank My Cell: Smartphone Addiction Facts & Phone Usage Statistics
[6] EurekAlert: Brain scans reveal ‘gray matter’ differences in media multitaskers
[7] Personality and Individual Differences: Partner phubbing and depression among married Chinese adults: The roles of relationship satisfaction and relationship length
[8] Macquarie Dictionary: Ever been phubbed?
[9] Psychological Assessment: Personality strengths in romantic relationships: Measuring perceptions of benefits and costs and their impact on personal and relational well-being.
[10] Journal of Martial and Family Therapy: The Role of Sexual Communication in Couples’ Sexual Outcomes: A Dyadic Path Analysis
[11] Evolutionary Psychology: Sexual Selection and Humor in Courtship: A Case for Warmth and Extroversion
[12] Laura E. Kurtz & Sara B. Algoe: Putting laughter in context: Shared laughter as behavioral indicator of relationship well‐being
[13] Soc Sci Res.: Living and Loving “Decent”: Religion and Relationship Quality among Urban Parents
[14] Pers Relatsh.: Understanding Associations among Family Support, Friend Support, and Psychological Distress.
[15] J Sex Marital Ther. : Couple communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, and relationship satisfaction.
[16] J Health Soc Behav.: Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk Among Older Men and Women
[17] Nature: Oxytocin increases trust in humans.
[18] Biol Psychol.: Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity.

More by this author

Sylvia Smith

Sylvia is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt its principles in their relationships.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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