Why So Many Poor Marriages?

May 7, 2013

in Good Marriage, Marriage Killer, Seeing Clearly

Why are there so many poor marriages?

I’m not (just) talking about the bad marriages headed for divorce; what about all those marriages that will never end that are neither good nor happy? Why are so many people living in marriages that are somewhere between barely tolerable and just okay? 

© renjith krishnan | freedigitalphotos.net

I see three possible causes – at least one spouse:

  1. Does not know/believe that it can be better
  2. Does not know how to make it better
  3. Is not willing to do what it takes to make it better

In a society where a marriage has a significant chance of ending in divorce, one could conclude that people do not know it can be better. While I think most people have no idea how good marriage can be, I doubt there are many who honestly think marriages cannot be any better.

The second point has some validity, but there are plenty of resources for those who want to make their marriages better. Some resources are free, some cost a bit (books) some cost a lot (seminars and some counselling). Even if someone has no idea how, he or she can easily find help.

My gut feeling is that the third point above is the most significant of the three. I think not being willing to do what it takes is what most limits marriages. I think many men and women either are not willing, or feel they do not have the time, energy, or money necessary to make their marriage better.

How much do you want your marriage to be better? What are you willing to do to make that happen?

Image Credit: © renjith krishnan | freedigitalphotos.net

Rosemary West / forbetterorwhat.com
Rosemary West / forbetterorwhat.com

Not being willing seems to be a big point for many people. They just want their spouse to change, without investing any effort themselves. And yet, the most effective way to get someone else to change is to change yourself first. People just don't want to do that. Perhaps they really don't believe that it will work. But mostly it seems that they let resentment and a sense of entitlement get in the way. "He's the one at fault, so why should I have to do everything?" "She's the one behaving badly, so she should be the one to change." And, of course, the other spouse is thinking the same thing, so they remain gridlocked, each one stubbornly holding out for the other one to make the first move.


I would think that all three points play out in every marriage, each point to a different level depending on the individuals in the relationship. However, the fact that marriage requires two individuals both willing to strive together to overcome these issues is what really reduces the odds of it happening often. 

If I had to pick one thing I might have to go with a general lack of knowledge of what "real" (Christ modeled) Love is, and the commitment to this type of  "Love" when they get Married.


Totally true. Part of the issue is that at least one of the spouses don't love their own self, so it is almost impossible to love another - and since they  don't know how to love their self it makes it easier to accept a bad marriage. After all, that's what my unloved self deserves right?

This is epidemic everywhere, even among pastors. http://choosetotrust.com/2013/05/when-numbers-are-not-enough/


I would actually lean towards the first. Folks have a disposable mentality. If my marriage is bad, it's my spouse, so just get rid of him and I will find a better husband. They don't believe they are the problem and don't believe in their spouse so they naturally don't think their marriage will get better.

Of course that does lead to the third because they don't value their spouse enough to invest in their marriage.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@RosemaryWest / romanticmarriage.orgI agree hardily! 

The other version of this is to do a bit then wait to see a response  Of course we define what qualifies as a good response and ignore anything else that really does show our spouse trying to change.

When one person decides to do what is right, and keeps doing that regardless, it almost always has a good effect on the marriage. Usually when this does not work, it's because the effort started too late.


@RosemaryWest / romanticmarriage.org  

I do understand the mindset of not wanting to do anymore work.  After over a year of my ex-wife's affair, and observing no end of the affair, no change in her behavior, no support from my church, and no change in the situation, eventually you get to the point where it appears pointless to keep trying to address your side of the street when your spouse is actively taking a wrecking ball to hers.

Sometimes, no matter how much you address your side of the equation, unless the other person begins to do her part, things will really not get better.

Rosemary West / forbetterorwhat.com
Rosemary West / forbetterorwhat.com

@TonyB Yes, unfortunately sometimes there are hopeless situations, and that is heartbreaking. If one spouse has disconnected themselves from the marriage to the point where they just won't engage and can't be reached, then these probably isn't anything you can do.  Still, I think in most cases it isn't hopeless, at least not at first, but neither one is willing to make the effort unless the other one goes first. And so things just keep getting worse until they fall apart.

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