The One Thing That Kills Most Marriages

My wife, Carlin, and I were enjoying a wonderful dinner at the new vegan Caribbean restaurant in Willits when a friend and his wife saw us eating outside. “How’s the food here?” Henry wanted to know. “It’s great,” we told them. “It’s real, authentic, handmade, and delicious.” As we chatted they introduced us to Henry’s brother and his wife. They were in town for the wedding of Henry’s daughter. “I just happen to have a picture,” Henry said as he scrolled through his smart phon

There was a lovely shot of his beautiful daughter in a stunning wedding gown looking up at her new husband. There is so much hope and desire in their eyes. As a marriage and family counselor who has been working with men and women for more than 40 years, I can’t help but see both sides of the future: Marriages that end and marriages that last.

  • Approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years.
  • However, 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Everyone who gets married says, “I do.” No one says, “I do…until…I don’t.” Everyone who gets married wants the “I do” to last “until death do we part,” but too often it ends before then. I know. It happened to me. Being a therapist, presumably an expert in understanding love and marriage, I thought I would beat the odds. But my first marriage lasted less than ten years and produced two great children. I followed the pattern and remarried after three years, but that marriage was short lived.

Before going for number three and facing the 73% divorce statistic, I decided I’d get to the bottom of what kills most marriages. I think I found the answer, at least one that made sense to me. I fell in love again and got married for the third time to a woman who had also been married twice before and had spent time learning how to have a marriage that lasts. All I can say is “so far, so good.” Carlin and I have been together now for 37 years. I can say we’re more in love now than ever and looking forward to another 37 years together and if there’s life after death, we hope to enjoy that together, as well. [Read more…]

The One Thing We Need That Will Either Make or Break Your Relationship

make-or-break-picThis is a special year for me and I’d like to share it with you. I’m 72 this year. My wife Carlin and I have been together for 36 years. She teaches a class called “The Perks of Aging” where she explores the upsides of getting older. I’m continually reminded of the challenges of aging. I’m just recovering from a leg injury that has kept me from enjoying my usual physical activities. I had a small cancer removed from my nose and I look a bit weird with a nose bandage. And there are more serious challenges. A number of friends our age are dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

One of the upsides of aging is having a successful, long-term relationship. As a marriage and family counselor I’ve always been disturbed by the statistics that tell us that around 50% of first marriages end in divorce. I was a part of that statistical group when my ten year marriage ended. Like most people I went through the grieving process, got back out there eventually, fell in love again, and re-married. That marriage lasted less than three years. I joined another discouraging statistical group. 66% of second marriages end in divorce.

Before giving it another try I decided there were some things I needed to learn. I was determined not to be one of the 73% of third marriages that failed. I read everything I could on what makes a successful marriage. I interviewed couples. More importantly I went back through my relationship history, all the way back to the family I grew up in, and began to see a pattern that I was subconsciously repeating.

My parents divorced when I was five years old. My father had been suffering from bipolar depression, which eventually lead to his attempted suicide. My mother suffered from constant worry and anxiety. Getting a better understanding of my relationship roots helped me heal some of the old wounds. Therapy was helpful, even for a therapist like me who thought he had all the answers.

After 36 years of learning and growing together, Carlin and I share what we learned in my new book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, and a new course, The Enlightened Marriage Master Class. It’s not easy to capture the core practices that can turn good marriages into great ones and get shaky ones back on track, but I’ve found that there are eight effective ways you can connect with your lover and fix problems in any relationship. Here they are: [Read more…]

How to Know if It’s Time to Go: 10 Signs You Should Leave Your Relationship

I’ve been helping men and women improve their love lives for more than 40 years. Most everyone I know wants a long-term committed relationship. But most everyone finds it difficult to achieve. We know that around 50% of first marriages end in divorce and 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years. But 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Too many relationships fail when they could be saved. Most couples have a faulty love map and so get lost on their way to finding real, lasting love. In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I describe five stages for having the joyful, intimate, juicy, sexy, comfortable, adventurous, relationship most people long to have:

  1. Falling in Love
  2. Deepening Love and Making a Life Together
  3. Disillusionment and Incompatibility
  4. Real, Lasting Love
  5. Finding Your Calling as a Couple

Stage 3 is the most misunderstood stage and without guidance too many relationships falter and go under at this time. I’ve developed an on-line program to help people get through to real, lasting love. I’ve learned that most marriages can be saved, but some are beyond repair. Here are the signs that your relationship is unlikely to be healed:

  1. Love has turned to hate.

Many couples will tell me there are times they feel like killing their spouse, but they still love them. Others say love has been lost, but they still care and want love to return. But if love has turned to hate, the relationship may need to end.

  1. Blame and shame rule the relationship.

Care and respect are key components of a good marriage. Troubled relationships often fall into blaming the other partner and putting them down or calling them names. [Read more…]

Love 4.0: Five Surprising Discoveries About Love That Can Save Your Relationship

3320409558_0b46b90f4c_zWe all know the feeling. When we least expect it, we fall in love. Our hearts pound and we only have eyes for that special someone. We’re ecstatic and alive in the presence of our loved one. When we’re apart we experience agonies of longing. We obsess about every detail of our time together and our nights are full of dreams of togetherness. This is love 1.0.

If we’re lucky, the one we fall in love with is “a keeper.” We hope its “love” we’re feeling and not “love addiction.” In my article “Is It Love or Love Addiction?” I offer twenty-one ways to distinguish the two. Love nourishes our lives, love addiction leaves us feeling depressed and can even cause our hearts to function improperly. If it’s love, not love addiction, we experience of comfort and joy of Love 2.0 as we build a life together.

But even the best relationships have trouble in Stage 3 when we go through disillusionments and wonder “Who is this person I’m with?” The things that used to be so endearing to us, now feel like irritations that drive us up the wall. We wonder where our loving partner went and why they’ve turned into Mr. Hyde or the Wicked Witch of the West. Many people bail out of relationships during this stage, but it’s really love 3.0, which I describe in my book The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Stages of Relationships Why the Best is Still to Come.

We want to believe that our love is real and everlasting when we fall in love in Stage 1 and we start a life together in Stage 2, but if we’re honest with ourselves we realize that we haven’t fallen in love with a real person, but with the hopes, desires, and illusions we project onto them. We aren’t seeing the whole person, but the ideal that captures all our dreams of that perfect mate that will love us like we’ve never been loved before and make up for the wounds we have experienced in our past love lives, going back to the family we grew up in. We’re, inevitably, disappointed and often feel betrayed. [Read more…]