By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service.
Here’s a little fact that you might not know: most divorces are filed in January. I guess people don’t want their holidays messed up, so they wait until the big ball drops, and then they drop their own on someone who thought they were loved.
Here are ten reasons why divorce happens and ten ways to avoid it.
1. Bad behaviors– Maybe when you were young, it was cool to be “bad,” but as an adult, especially if you have a family, those old behaviors, whatever they may be (smokin’, drinkin’, chawin’ tobacco, or spending your children’s college tuition on Botox or fantasy football), have to stop. If you can’t do it on your own, your next step is rehab, so start now, and by next year you may be a new person.
2. Cheating- So now you have broken the most sacred of vows, if you are married, and certainly broken the heart of your significant other, married or not, along with his or her trust. That’s really a hard thing to rebuild, but it can be done. The trick is to avoid this pitfall in the first place. Just give up sex with other people completely, and your mate will be far more attractive.
3. Misdirected anger-How many times have you had a lousy day at work and come home in a bad mood? Guess what? That isn’t fair, and it’s going to damage your relationship. Coming home and bringing in a bunch of negative energy with you can only make things ugly. You can get the soothing you need and have your mood changed in a few moments by just asking for a hug and saying, “Honey, I’ve had a rotten day.”
4. Being unsupportive– If you cannot support the one you love when he or she is down, or overly stressed due to some life event, you are communicating that it’s not worth your time and energy. This makes your loved one feel invalid. If you can’t be there for your other half, and don’t care to change, then it’s time to leave. If you want to keep your relationship, learn to be supportive.
5. Toxic people– If you have friends that your other half can’t stand, it can be one of two things. Either there’s a control issue involved here or these folks are negative and should not be let into your lives. If it’s a control issue (on one or both your parts), then you should see a counselor together. If your “friends” engage in bad behaviors and are disrespectful to your mate, then you need to find some new folks to hang out with.
6. Withholding affection and attention– When you are not affectionate with the one who loves you, eventually he or she is going to stop asking for affection. After being turned down enough times, we become too embarrassed to ask. I’m not talking about sex _ just attention, like hand holding or cuddling on the couch. If you’d like more intimacy in your relationship, this is the place to start, slowly and sweetly.
7. Lying- Really, why? So you don’t look bad or have to admit to doing something your other half doesn’t approve of? Look, it only becomes worse if you lie about it. Give up dishonesty, and your relationship can change very quickly. Stay with it, and your mate will lose all trust in you and your partnership.
8. Stealing– Financial issues account for more than 30 percent of all divorces. The mere fact that “financial infidelity” has become a catchphrase speaks to how pervasive this has become. If you are going to steal from the one you love, then you have a problem and you need to get some help. If you feel entitled, or that your mate is a cheapskate, you still need to get some counseling. If you don’t work this out, you might as well just give up.
9. Giving up– I know what I just said, and it’s the couples who do the hard work and face the challenges who withstand the test of time. Giving up is not the same as giving in, which is a process that needs to be considered when you are at odds with one another. Relationships are all about compromise. Remember too that you can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.
10. Not communicating– When it comes to relationships, silence is never golden. The more you talk, the better you will feel. Communication is the single-most important thing in your partnership, bar none. If you do not have good communication, you cannot have a good relationship, plain and simple. So sit down over a cup of coffee and use your words. You’ll get a lot more out of it than you think.
Changing how you relate can be as simple as dropping a bad habit, or it may require that you get some outside input. If you are engaging in any of the behaviors listed above, then you need to look at what you are doing and why _ if you want to stay together, that is.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)