Marriage is scary. When approaching it, you’re (hopefully) looking at spending the rest of your life with someone. Through all the changes and stages of adulthood, this is the one person you’re determined to brave it all with.
Divorce has become so common that it’s natural to wonder: What is the main cause of failed marriages? Some people cynically sit back and scoff to themselves about how marriages are made to fail. Or how marriage was originally slavery, so of course “free” women wouldn’t want to stay in them. But that mentality is a front. It usually comes from people who fear commitment or who never got over their own parents’ divorce.
It’s so easy to say these things, but as we mature we realize why societies across the globe and nearly every culture throughout history have unions of marriage. It builds strong ties, a healthier approach to life and family. But then, what about divorce? It’s still a common concern.
Having feared divorce and then going through one, it’s not fun, but it’s also not the end of the world. Even so, preventing divorce is a goal that all married couples can benefit from, and the main sign that a marriage is headed toward the trash can isn’t what most women would think.
The Main Issue: Contempt
Marriages fail for many reasons, but they all stem from the same root cause: contempt. When partners start speaking and treating their spouse with contempt, it’s a clear sign that things are not going well. It displays a lack of trust, respect, and care, and conveys you think you’re better than your spouse.
Forms of contempt are treating your spouse with disrespect, mocking or mimicking them, using sarcasm and hostile humor, calling them names, and displaying body language like rolling your eyes.
Contempt can be sparked for different reasons. If a man cheats on his wife, she may act out to “get back at him” instead of going to therapy or figuring out why he stepped out on her. If a woman is always off in her own little world completely ignoring her husband, he’s likely to grow jealous of whatever she’s fangirling about.
However it breeds, contempt is deadly to a marital bond. It’s impossible to build connection when there’s no respect in the relationship. It’s the reason people realize they’re done, and how women get “fed up” or men just check out.
It’s impossible to build connection when there’s no respect in the relationship.
When I realized things weren’t working before my divorce, I tried to talk to my husband. I kept hinting that things were off, but he just didn’t get it. Then I suggested therapy, and he acted as if this came out of left-field and kept saying “No!” Then he started drinking in the dark, alone.
I already felt like I was pulling most of the weight in the relationship. He screamed at the kids to the point that they were afraid to have him put them to bed at night. He hadn’t cut the grass or taken out the trash for ages. I had to repave the driveway myself when I was five months pregnant because he just refused to put the video games down and get off the couch.
His reaction to my therapy suggestion sealed the nail in the coffin. Instead of working with me, or proving that he could still make an effort, he just sank into self-pity, further neglecting me and our two children.
I grew resentful of this. He stopped trying and showing he cared as soon as I got pregnant with our second child, and instead of fighting for us, he just gave up. Suddenly I was done. I couldn’t stand him anymore. I thought, “If he doesn’t care, why should I?”
That mentality was what did it. I sought the divorce. He wanted to stay married. And why wouldn’t he? I did everything for him, and he got to remain a manchild. See…my contempt for him still exists.
All couples fight. Everyone bumps heads and disagrees sometimes. Men procrastinate and that’s okay so long as they eventually get a little something done. Women sometimes forget to dress up for their husband or expect more than a person can do. But for married couples who wish to stay together, they need to actively work to see the other person’s point of view and help each other through the rough patches.
There’s a reason couples are now called partners. Even when assuming traditional roles, in order to maintain a healthy marriage you need to be partners who can lean on each other when life gets too real. This means expressing your needs when things aren’t right. Women are known for hinting or asking for men to do things, but if something’s wrong in a relationship, men deserve to know the whole story. Hints don’t tell them exactly what’s wrong, and asking for favors doesn’t lay everything out the way men understand.
Instead of getting mad or getting even with a man for screwing up, a true partner – someone who honestly cares about their marriage – will fight off the resentment and work toward a better coping with what’s going wrong in order to move forward. They will openly discuss issues and seek out solutions. Getting back to dating, trying new things together, and just remembering what it was that brought you together in the first place have the power to overcome all the struggles a marriage can face.
Instead of getting mad or getting even, fight off the resentment and work toward a real resolution.
It’s not easy. Women are very emotional. Sometimes we can’t look past our own pain to see the bigger picture. It’s also why 70% of divorces are initiated by women. And a woman’s contempt for her husband takes a toll on every aspect of their relationship. It destroys physical intimacy which degrades appreciation and trust, and can even encourage men to cheat (not that it’s okay).
Yes, sometimes a split is necessary, but quite often it’s because contempt has taken over and pushed out the love between a married couple. I couldn’t see my own recipe for divorce because I hadn’t yet realized how wrong everything I had been taught by modernity was; that I needed a strong man, and that passivity is not a good quality to find in a husband. When met with a scared, passive approach to my direct declaration that therapy was needed, things were over.
How To Prevent Contempt
The best way to avoid divorce is by preventing contempt altogether. It’s hard to keep respect for a partner who doesn’t argue with you when you’re wrong, especially a man. Women have been brainwashed to think they need to control everything and “wear the pants” in relationships, but that doesn't satisfy us. Deep down, even the most “strong, independent woman” needs a man she can submit to, someone who is brilliant and challenging, someone who makes her think and helps her see things from a different point of view.
But it’s not enough to just find the right man – even the best guys fall short at times, just as the cutest, happy homemakers can neglect their husband’s needs. The main force that prevents and destroys contempt is sharing fondness and admiration for each other.
The main force that prevents and destroys contempt is sharing fondness and admiration for each other.
This can be as simple as rubbing your husband’s shoulders or saying thank you for washing the dishes. Or it can be as elaborate as when a man surprises his wife with a spontaneous night out. Little gestures and bids for affection open up the lines of communication, and they also show partners that the person they love still cares and pays attention to them. Marriages take effort from day one “until death do you part.”
If only one person is keeping things going, they will get burned out, so never let someone you love carry your slack. If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety over changes, a loss of a friend or family member, career issues, or just life, be honest. Don’t just assume that the person you love knows what’s going on. Women’s intuition only goes so far. We can sense when something’s wrong, but we’re not mind readers, and men shouldn’t be expected to play guessing games or take tests they didn’t know they were taking until they fail.
Divorce is scary. It’s a much more terrifying prospect than marriage. It’s not something anyone wants to go through.
The biggest indicator of divorce is when one or both parties in a marriage display contempt for their partner. It’s cold and hurtful. Combating anger and resentment, or preventing it altogether, with love, honesty, and affection for each other breeds fondness and admiration, which are key elements to a long-lasting marriage.
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