People often ask me what the biggest problem affecting marriages is. They usually expect me to say something like, “poor communication”, “infidelity”, “drugs and alcohol” and the like.
All of these are important problems, of course and they are, unfortunately, common. But they are not the most common or even the most serious problem undermining marriages in my estimation. In fact, the real problem is what often causes all of these other issues. So, what is the most common marriage problem couples present with? Namely; it is that husbands and wives tend to love their own comfort zones and preferences more than they love each other.
There isn’t anything wrong with having preferences and wants. In fact, respecting each other’s preferences and desires is key to a healthy relationship. The problem is a matter of degree. Inevitably, our desires and preferences conflict from time to time. The healthy couple learns a dance that enables them to be sufficiently generous and accommodating in their day to day interactions–even when they are being asked to step outside their comfort zones–that they each don’t mind when the other occasionally needs a break from the self-donation that represents the norm.
By contrast, the less happy couple tends to double-down when one perceives that his or her comfort zone is being threatened. Instead of looking for ways to take care of each other, they get selfish and try to push what they want without regard for how it makes the other feel.
Dr Scott Stanley has a great example of this in his description of a couple’s conversation he witnessed. Long-term love and commitment—and definitely marriage—require long-term, consistent sacrifices one for another. Sure, there are times when we don’t sacrifice (too many of them in most marriages). But I wondered if this incident was part of a pattern. I hope not. If it is a pattern, and they stay together, she’s in for more cold times ahead.
He also describes the antidote to the problem. Check out his post.
(For more ideas to make your marriage great, check out For Better…FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage)