According to recent University of Maryland divorce research, you’ve got about a 50/50 chance of growing old with your spouse. While that stat may not shock you, the reasons many couples decide to separate may. “People assume that most marriages fail because of big bombs—cheating, financial mismanagement, addiction, dishonesty,” says Jessica Elizabeth Opert, a London-based relationship coach. “But the truth is, it’s the small missiles—the everyday action or lack of action, that severs the connection between two people, resulting in a loss of love.”
Compiled from Prevention magazine, here is a list of six common, yet totally overlooked marriage problems that may be threatening your relationship, plus, expert advice to help you keep divorce out of your marriage.
- “When you ask most people about how they knew their partner loved them, they will often say that it was the way that person looked at them,” explains Opert. Having conversations without looking up from the phone or TV can sever that intimate connection. It may even prevent the release of phenylethylamine, a chemical that triggers feelings of romantic love, Opert says.
Try this: Set aside times for tech-free bonding. Have a cell phone-free dinner without any television background noise or vow to keep cellphones out of the bedroom.
- Avoiding conflict, especially early in a marriage, leaves you lacking the skills to deal with tough situations down the road. “The trick is to develop communication and negotiation skills to solve problems without building resentment,” says Valerie Golden, PhD, a Minneapolis-based psychologist. “Sweeping things under the rug because you’re too afraid to raise the issues is a common recipe for disaster.”
Try this: Fighting too little may threaten your relationship, but so do volatile blowups. Instead of pointing fingers, which can fuel anger and animosity, use “I statements” to explain how your husband’s actions make you feel when you’re upset. For example, don’t say something like, “You never listen to me when I ask you not to leave your dishes in the sink.” Instead, try something like, “I feel ignored and frustrated when you don’t listen to my requests.”
- Do nearly all the conversations with your spouse involve practical matters, like whose turn it is to pick your daughter up at soccer practice or what you need at the grocery store? “When communication almost exclusively revolves around the kids or the house, that’s a bad sign,” warns Sarah Allen, PsyD, a Northbrook, Illinois-based psychologist.
Try this: Make it a point to ask your husband about his day. It may sound cliché, but having this conversation every night can really improve your relationship, says Angela Hicks, PhD, a Utah-based psychologist. She’s found that couples who discuss recent positive events with each other have increased feelings of connection to their partners.
- Social media is a growing factor in divorce, says Sonya Bruner, a psychologist practicing in California. In some cases, it’s the time-sucking element—constantly giving into notifications from friends eats into the time you could be doing something with your spouse.
Social media also gives a distorted view of marriage. With so many posts showing “perfect” couples, people can set unrealistic expectations for their own relationships. And perhaps the most dangerous: “Facebook makes it easier to connect with past flings,” Bruner says.
Try this: If you feel like Facebook and Instagram are taking away from your time with your partner, tell him how you feel and see if he’d agree to delete the apps from his phone if you do the same. This way, you can each still log on when the mood strikes, but you’ll be far less likely to mindlessly scroll the second there’s a lull in the conversation.