The Three Big Mistakes
There are bad marriages out there.
Self-help books and web sites will try to convince you otherwise, usually in an attempt to keep the divorce rates down. They will maintain that if we all just communicated a little more, if we all just sacrificed a little more, and if we all just took a deep breath and let things go, we could materially improve our marriages and, indeed, live happily ever after.
But in spite of all this sage advice, marriages are not being magically rescued by such advice. People are breaking up just as often as they ever did. You will hear every possible excuse for it, everything from the vague and meaningless "things just didn't work out" to the equally empty "we just grew apart" to the quasi-scientific but ultimately false "romantic love only lasts three or four years, just long enough to wean a child." None of these give you any solid idea as to why something went wrong. I believe that no outsider ever can tell you why your relationship soured, since marriage is a highly personal experience unique to every couple. But I do believe that there are some very real, very objective reasons why many marriages are doomed from the beginning, regardless of what transpires in later years.
Both men and women often marry for entirely wrong reasons, or commit big mistakes after the wedding.
Men commonly make these three big mistakes regarding marriage:
They focus too much on physical appearance.
There are a lot of men who marry only for the sake of what they find attractive about a woman. It doesn't occur to them that for a marriage to work, there has to be more than something pleasant to look at in their wife. Attractiveness doesn't help when you're having a fight, or when you're both sick with the flu, or when you want to have an insightful conversation about important issues or values with the person you are most intimate with. When a man fixates on the physical attractiveness of a woman, to the detriment of every other quality she possesses, he reveals his own shallowness, and the fact that he doesn't really want a life partner to share his thoughts and dreams with, he wants a trophy to admire and a doll to play with when the mood strikes. More marriages have ended because he either found someone more attractive, or he stopped 'loving' her (if he ever did) when time or circumstances took away some of her beauty.
They see marriage as a trap and the end of sexual pleasure.
Our culture constantly reinforces the idea that marriage is a prison sentence and that sex with one person forever couldn't possibly satisfy a healthy man. Stand up comedians make their living badmouthing marriage so that it's now fashionable to hate being married...or to pretend that you do. A lot of men bring this attitude with them to marriage, and are consequently afraid of walking down the aisle. While engaged women are often congratulated by their friends, engaged men are often warned - "are you sure you know what you're doing?" by men who see marriage as the death knell, the end of their sexual adventures in life, the beginning of the end.
Many men buy into the myth that someone who was formerly a sexy and adventurous girlfriend will be magically transformed into a sexless, frumpy wife as soon as she gets the ring on her finger, and so live with the belief that as long as you avoid marriage, your sex life will be good. This is not true for the vast majority of women, but many men don't even bother finding that out before condemning marriage as little better than castration.
They have sex outside marriage.
Throughout most of history, marital fidelity applied strictly to women. Men, it was thought, had natural urges and were to be excused if they strayed. These people also thought the sun revolved around the earth.
But up until the sexual revolution - and even today, to some degree - a lot of women grudgingly accepted that husbands would sleep around and wives were supposed to grin and bear it. This encouraged men to behave this way, it condoned their behavior and fostered the vague belief that men have now: that sex is somehow removed from marriage. Sex is like a secret little personal vice, some dirty little habit that doesn't really touch their marriages. They lie to themselves, driving home to their wives and kids, carrying on as husband and father, content in their nice home and neighborhood, forgetting completely about the woman they just had sex with in the back of the van. There is an unreality to their lives. They sleep well at night, have sex with their wives, pretend that the marriage is in tact.
This breach of primacy, this violation of marital trust and exclusivity, ruins the possibility for true marriage. Adultery violates the sanctity of marriage, and so men should not be surprised when their wives divorce them because of an affair. As much as men would like to believe that they should be excused for these 'meaningless little dalliances" and allowed to remain in their marriages, the truth is their dalliances mean the end of their marriages.
But men are certainly not the only ones who make mistakes. Women are just as likely to make mistakes in marriage.
The three biggest mistakes women make:
They marry for the trappings of marriage, not the man himself.
Many women are so anxious for the trappings and outward appearance of marriage - the wedding, the diamond ring, the new husband they can show off - or even just to get out of the shark infested waters of dating that they deceive their way into marriage, or else decide to marry anyone who will have them. They feign interest in his hobbies, tolerate behavior that in him that they plan to change after marriage, conceal some of their own thoughts and opinions on things until after the wedding. They plan everything down the colour of their bridesmaid's dresses or the size of the font on the wedding invitation, and think this means they're being romantic.
Many women make marriage a career choice in life, and pursue the coveted diamond ring with enthusiasm and vigor but without determining what it is they really want in a man. A lot of women don't consider anything past the wedding - as long as the big wedding goes smoothly, they don't care how the rest of their married lives will work out. Men see right through this, and can't be expected to want to commit to someone who is so preoccupied with the superficial, and meaningless, trappings of marriage.
They try to control the marriage, their households, their husbands.
Once married a lot of women establish "rules" they wouldn't have dared attempt during dating. Everything from decorating the house to who their husbands may associate with comes under their direct control. The man begins to feel powerless when his wife determines the course their life will take.
It usually starts with his favorite wildlife painting or hockey poster being surreptitiously moved out of sight, likely the basement. Then his possessions get mysteriously thrown out. Before long, his wardrobe, diet, bank account and free time end up being directly supervised and controlled by his wife. Saturdays that could be used for relaxation or hobbies or spending time with his kids are suddenly transformed into "let's fix things up" day, when she gets to direct how and what will be cleaned, painted, sanded, paved, stripped, moved, removed, or purchased in order to fit her ideas of what the home should look like. If he complains, he is deemed 'selfish' for not wanting to do what she wants him to do.
This kind of relationship bears little resemblance to a mutually respectful, fun, loving marriage. It's no wonder men are hesitant to enter into something like this, or why they rebel when they find their lives changing into it.
They change their sexual behavior or attitudes.
It may seem like a contradiction: I just finished saying that men should not assume women will lose their sex drive, yet here I am saying that this is precisely what some women do. The truth is, some men only believe that their wives will lose their sex drive, and so therefore refuse to marry. Other men don't know that their wives will lose their sex drive, and don't find out until after the wedding. The reality is that some women, not all, do change their attitudes towards sex; men just shouldn't assume this is true of everyone.
Some women regard their wedding day as the day they can let their hair down. Women who were wild and adventurous, sexy and sensual before marriage, suddenly lose interest in sex, turn their noses up at their husband's continued desire for it, and let the demands of house and family overshadow sex completely. Some women see motherhood and sexuality as incompatible, forgetting, somehow, that sexuality is how they got their children in the first place. Even childless women decide that it isn't necessary to be so sexually available anymore, probably under the mistaken impression that once they're married, the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior that attracted their husbands to them in the first place are somehow now dispensable.
This is especially problematic if a woman feigned interest in sex before marriage in order to get the diamond. It leaves her in a position of either having to continue the lie - which her husband will see through anyway - or revealing the truth, which will make her husband feel cheated, and guilty for making her do things he thought she enjoyed.
This is not the same thing as admitting that the changing demands of life - the exhaustion of new motherhood, the stress of a new job, the care of growing kids - can deplete your energy and therefore your sex drive. Most husbands are completely sympathetic to this, and don't expect a full time mom and full time worker to have the energy for a boisterous lovemaking session twice daily. The problem lies in the attitude toward sex. Even the most stressed out woman can spend a few minutes before bed caressing her husband, talking sexily to him, filling his mind with images of love and sexuality, even if they're both so tired they drift off to sleep in the middle of it. A woman who doesn't even bother to do this, though, sends a strong message to her husband that she is no longer interested in him as a man, something that will definitely damage the marriage and cause resentment to form.
These things ought to be considered by anyone contemplating marriage. If these mistakes are noticed before they're even made, the chances of surviving the ups and downs of marriage will be greatly improved. Even if you've already made them, just knowing that you've done so may help you put your marriage back on the right track, and help you deal with the less obvious problems that only you share, and only you know how to fix.