After working for several years with students who were previously married or in a serious relationship I have learn that these are top 2 reasons relationships fail.
There may have been many things wrong with the relationship, but one or both of these two reasons were apparent early on. If they had heeded the warning, they could have avoided the relationship and long-term consequences such having a bankruptcy on their record or having to raise children with a lame ex.
Furthermore, these issues are difficult to fix if they exist to any significant degree and you may be best served by ending the relationship (or avoiding it all together).
However, if you are married (and especially if children are involved), I would recommend seeing a psychotherapist to give you an objective perspective on your relationship. Your therapist can also support you through the painfulness of a divorce if that is what you decide to do.
The top two reasons relationships fail are 1) issues with integrity or 2) issues with money.
Relationships Fail Because of a Lack of Integrity
A lack of integrity shows up as a tendency to cut corners and to fib or break the rules when no one is looking. It also shows up as a lack of transparency such as not letting you know who in your social circles was a former hook-up that they still hang out with — just on a platonic basis of course.
The reason why integrity is so important because people with integrity issues are at increased risk of cheating even when they don’t intend to. It’s their tendency to hide details like where they are going and who they are seeing combined with their “what other people don’t know won’t hurt them” attitude.
They also tend to value their own pleasure and interests over the rights of others. Here are some questions from my book, Don’t Settle: How to Marry the Man You Were Meant For, to help you know if someone has integrity or not:
1. He cheats at any kind of game other than to let a child win.
2. He runs red lights if no one is around, not just at 2am in a dangerous part of town.
3. In video games, he sets it on the easiest level to win as big as possible.
4. He tells little lies to make himself look better, not just to make someone else feel better or save someone else from embarrassment.
5. Your friends tell you he acts like he is single and flirts with other women if you are not around.
6. He brags about breaking rules or getting away with cutting corners.
7. He doesn’t respect anyone at his work and thinks they are all stupid and lazy.
8. He assumes other people are always trying to cheat him or lie to him because he mistakenly assumes everyone lies and cheats like he does.
9. He has actually lied to you about something serious, like a history of having affairs.
10. Your friends and family all think he is a bad guy and tell you to dump him.
11. He has already been unfaithful to you. (Seriously, what else do you need to dump him?)
If you spot any of these red flags or if he is one of the 3 most dangerous kinds of men to date, you need to take a serious look at whether or not you should be with him.
He may have many other wonderful qualities, but over time, these issues will eat away at your marriage and catch up with him in his career. Such men can be criminally prosecuted or fired with little notice. Often at critical times such as when you just quit your job because you are pregnant or the kids are going off to college.
If you do realize you shouldn’t be with him, you may need help saying NO or you may need to pull a disappearing act, because men who lack integrity can resort to vicious manipulation, threats, violence and even stalking to keep you with them.
If you have any suspicion that he might do any of these things, don’t tip your hand and have everything planned out whether it is going to a domestic violence shelter where they keep the location a secret or go stay with a friend or family member that he doesn’t know.
Finally, don’t trust a restraining order because many police departments don’t treat them as emergencies and will only arrest him if he is still present when they (eventually) arrive.
Relationship Fail Because of Money
In my book, Don’t Settle: How to Marry the Man You Were Meant For (Chapter 3 – Did He Eat The Marshmallow) I introduced readers to the famous marshmallow tests where the kids that ate the marshmallow right away had lots of problems as adult, while the ones that waited were highly successful as adults by comparison.
Then I presented using someone’s credit score as the adult equivalent of the marshmallow test. After all, to have a high credit score you have to resist the urge to buy things on credit and to not accept the constant offers for loans and new credit cards, not just pay your bills on time.
In the last chapter (Chapter 16 – Advice for a Successful Marriage), I also recommend that saving and living below your means is an important key to a successful marriage.
My students have really validated these points. Many of my divorced students have told me about how they ignored the warning signs that their ex was bad with money, from spending every dime they make to maxing out their credit cards while just paying the minimum.
They have told me how their ex spent all the money they had saved and maxed their credit out too. Some even went through bankruptcy because of their ex, but the worst cases were the ones where the ex wore down their good judgment and seduced them into wasteful spending just like them.
A few of my students had to go through a painful process of relearning how to manage their money well, before they were ready to start a new, healthy relationship.
But the one thing they all told me was how they ignored their ex’s overspending and freewheeling approach to money when they were first dating. Many of the ex’s justified their overspending because they in school or just starting out and that they would start saving when they made more.
The problem is that day of saving more money never really came. Rather, they just increased their spending as they made more, with little of value to show for it, much less a fat retirement or savings account.
So take it from my students and run the other way if you meet someone that will wine and dine you and shows up in a fancy car. Instead, go for the guy that drives a bucket even though he could afford much better (as long as he also has integrity).
Please leave your thoughts and comments below.