Not infidelity, shockingly enough. That’s just the second most common reason for divorce. The first, according to a study of divorced couples in the U.K., is falling out of love.
Damn. This is a bit scary, is it not?
Infidelity has been around just as long as the institution of marriage itself, and I doubt anyone is surprised that it continues to be a top reason for divorce. The face of cheating is ugly - instead of inspiring sadness and compassion, most of us get riled up and angry when we hear stories of wayward spouses and home wreckers.
It makes us angry because cheating is fundamentally preventable. It’s a choice! You don’t just, against your will, fall into bed with someone other than your spouse. It comes down to selecting between right and wrong, and those who cheat choose wrong.
But falling out of love? That’s entirely different. It’s not necessarily preventable, like cheating. Most of us would absolutely not choose to fall out of love with our partner. In fact, most of us would do anything to prevent that from happening. Yet, happen it does, sometimes against a colossal effort to stop it.
This is partially why marriage is such a scary notion to some people - how can you know that this won’t happen to you? How can some people go into a marriage madly in love, and with such confidence, and end up indifferent toward each other? Is there any way to ensure against this?
Well, I hesitate to say that there’s any fail-safe way to prevent you from falling out of love with your significant other. But I do know that to give yourself the biggest chance of success in any venture, you have to be fully prepared before you begin. Below, how to give your marriage the best chance to last, before you ever tie the knot.
Give it TIME!
I beat this dead horse on a regular basis, but that’s because it’s so critical: The best way to ensure your relationship will last is to give it time to fail (unlike Tara Reid - she got married hours after getting engaged!). It sounds counterintuitive, but time is singlehandedly the greatest tool you possess.
The longer you’re with someone before getting married, the longer you have to test your relationship in every possible situation. Marriage is going to come with significant trials, and you need to know how you and your partner will deal with them before you get married.
Many relationships crack under the pressure of real world strain, and time is the only way to tell whether or not yours will shatter or become stronger after facing life’s hurdles as a couple.
Sometimes, relationships don’t even crack. They just fizzle. The passion disappears, the love wanes and you’re left feeling neutral. It’s not anything you did wrong; it usually just means they weren’t the right person for you. This process doesn’t happen overnight. Once again, you need TIME to determine whether your relationship will fizzle, or if the spark will burn on.
Speaking of Spark
You’ll always love your partner, but you might not remain in love with them over time. If you can’t say, without a doubt, “I’m completely in love with this person,” do not marry them.
Oftentimes, people end up staying with someone even though they don’t feel a strong romantic connection anymore. It’s because they still love the person for who they are -- kind, thoughtful, generous, what-have-you -- and they still enjoy the comfort and content that their partner brings to the relationship.
Make no mistake, however. You need both ends of the spectrum in order to maintain a strong relationship or marriage. It’s as critical to have a partner who you love as a person and friend, as well as whom you love in a passionate, romantic manner.
Too much of either makes for an imbalanced and likely unsuccessful union. If you can't declare your romantic love for them, marriage is the wrong choice.
Don’t be afraid of work.
How many times have you heard your parents or friends say, “Marriage is hard work!” They’re not exaggerating. It’s not easy to stay with the same person for the majority of your life; to raise children with them; to undergo hardships together; to deal with their infinite quirks and annoying habits. It may prove to be worth it at the end of the day, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
What is easy is to allow your relationship to slip into a state of complacency - where you fall into a rut, get bored, become tired of the routine or take your significant other’s presence in your life for granted (or lose any and all sense of mystery).
This also means constantly evaluating your relationship. It’s not wrong to ask “Is this still working for me?” “How do I feel about my partner?” “Where do I see this going?” It’s also a good idea to have “state of the union” discussions with your partner. Are you two on the same page about your relationship? Is there anything that either of you need to work on?
What needs do you each have, and how are you doing at meeting those needs? If more people actively communicated about the state of their relationship before they got married, divorce would hardly exist.
And to harp on TIME again
This may be a controversial opinion, but it’s one I stick to: The younger you are when you marry, the more likely you are to divorce.
Most people take years to figure out what their goals are, what inspires them, what they want to spend their life aspiring to. There aren’t many people in their early 20s, or late 20s for that matter, who are already set in who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. Naturally, they’re still evolving, growing and changing.
To get married during that time is a huge risk, because there’s no guarantee that you won’t grow in a different direction than your spouse. A vast change in who you are means a vast change in the relationship. You could very well get married as one person, and feel like a totally different person five years later.
Over time, though, that process of change will slow. You’ll never stop growing, of course, but you’ll likely stop experiencing the extreme changes that make you incompatible with a partner. Get married after you’ve explored to your heart's content, and after you're confident in who you are.
What are your thoughts on this new trend in divorce? Have you ever just fallen out of love with a partner and divorced as a result?
Each week in "Relationships by Rachel," TMR columnist Rachel East tackles relationships in all their blissful, heartbreaking and mind-boggling glory.