By most accounts, two reasons more than others cause marriages to end. Close relationships fold when one or both partners get one or both of the two “Big F” grades: Fidelity failures, and Financial shortfalls.
Both of those kinds of problems span a wide range of degrees. Infidelity, for example, can be alleged when a spouse is resented for being too eager to flirt with someone outside of the boundaries. And at worst, infidelity can infect the more faithful partner with a venereal disease. Studies of such flings and affairs consistently show that a tenth of all married people cheat on their mates, and that cheaters are up to a third less likely to use condoms. So the rate at which such lapses cause the spread of infectious diseases is unfortunately significant.
Ironically, today’s hardened economy is probably causing the rate at which marriages end to continue to decline, as it has for the past twenty years. Folks are marrying older now, and the two-earner household has buffers against financial disasters that the single-wage-earner household that was the model for the previous generation is now out of vogue. So here’s an unexpected surprise: bad times mean good times for the average marriage’s endurance prospects.
So can we provide any hard and fast counsel on when to pull the plug on a relationship where either or both of the two “Big F” problems have made their unwelcome appearance? Nope. Situations like these are always buffered by nuances. Excuses aside, unless you can’t forgive your partner’s addictions, to gambling or to promiscuous sex, it’s impossible for anyone to second guess the right course of action for any third party. Especially when we haven’t met, when we can’t review your experiences, let alone review your life options, with you in person.
All we can say with confidence about the ending of a relationship that has been prompted by “Big Fs” is that somewhere between the instant it takes to act on an impulse all the way to the end of years of suffering, one party or the other to a failed relationship will decide: “it’s over. It’s time I acted to end my life losses. I’ve got to get out of this.” And so one chapter concludes, and another begins.
But there’s one cause of relationship failure that we don’t need to explore at any depth before we will offer our counsel: “Get out! GO NOW!”
What cause would lead us to make such a snap judgment? When your “lover” inflicts physical violence on you, any act that leaves any kind of a mark on your body. Don’t wait for to be cut or have a bone fracture. Reddened or bruised skin is enough. Get out.
In the immediate wake of such an event, your partner will do one of two things. You will either be accused of having “brought this on yourself,” by causing their outrage. Or your partner will repent, and express extremes of remorse and regret. Neither reaction is “better” than the other. The original act of violence has give you a message that no one can afford to ignore. You are dealing with a partner whose character is flawed. They don’t have enough impulse control to deserve your trust.
Do you really wish to hang around and see if your partner’s impulses won’t escalate to actions that might prove to threaten your life? Do you really think that because you happen to be a man that you can restrain her? Do you really think that because you’re a woman he won’t ever do even worse things to you? The statistics on marital violence show a remarkable parity between both genders in the rates of such physical assaults. Studies show that while women are less often reported to authorities than men as perpetrators of such assaults, the difference in rate is a fairly small one. And that difference may be the result of men feeling to ashamed to claim being the victim of what at one time was called “the weaker sex.”
Now on to the question of psychic violence. If you experience a consistent program of critical belittlement by someone you once loved, if you feel they are deliberately trying to destroy or diminish your sense of your own worth, then you too may want to head to the door. How can you “love” someone who wants to hurt you? How can you love someone so insecure that he or she must “cut you down to their size” in order to feel comfortable with you?
It’s a somewhat more subjective situation than physical violence. And you may be able to reform your partner’s behavior with diligence and discipline exercised over time. Perhaps a third party therapist may be needed to help intervene. But if such a course of mental violence seems too deeply entrenched in your partner’s patterns of behavior, this too is a very good reason to call things to an end. How does that old song go? “Know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em!”
And in extreme circumstances, just remember: a hit is no accident, it’s a good reason to run
Happier landings: Mike Riley