The 10 Plagues of marriage that lead to divorce and how to avoid them

We were watching a bunch of movies this weekend and one of them was the girly The Duchess with Keira Knightly, which, I believe, is where I got the term “plagues of marriage” although, at this point, I can’t be altogether sure. In any event, as with any other exotic sounding word or phrase I hear, the phrase stuck in my mind and I wrote it down for further exploration on Divorce Saloon. I have no idea if said plagues really do exist and if they have already been identified. But I thought about it for myself and came up with ten things I think could plague a marriage to its death. And they are as follows:
1) Infidelity: This is obvious and foremost, wouldn’t you say? I have observed (and I could be wrong) that infidelity is even more of a deal breaker when it is the wife who is the malfeasor. I don’t know why that is, exactly, but it seems the male DNA is just not usually equipped to say, “ok, let’s do counseling and get past this” once he finds out that wifey has been getting fixed on the side. Men are very possessive in this sense. But even for women, this can be a major problem that plagues the marriage to its demise. It is really a question of trust that breaks down, I think. Cheating breeds suspicion and insecurity and it erodes true intimacy in a relationship (even if just bf/gf). What can you do to avoid this problem? Well, don’t cheat. You can at least control 50% of the problem. As for your partner? I’m not sure realistically what you can do there. I mean even the most “beautiful”, “sexiest”, ‘nicest” girls get cheated on sometimes. I just don’t know what one can do to control the behavior of one’s partner in a marriage–except to say try to marry someone who feels the same way about this issue as you do?
2) Insolvency: A marriage can be insolvent financially as well as other ways such as emotionally, spiritually and sexually to name a few. I think any type of insolvency–this inability/or unwillingness to meet one’s obligations in an agreement/marriage is a recipe for big trouble. It is one thing if one is “unable” due to reasons beyond one’s control, vs “unwilling” to perform one’s marital duties, obligations and expectations. And what those are will vary marriage to marriage, person to person. It is really a question of expectations, and getting what one bargained for. It’s like someone presents him or her self as this “slow to anger” person during the dating phase and then that all changes after marriage. Or, a sweet girl becomes this incredible nag after marriage. Or a generous man becomes a miser who “constructively” gives you things like jewelry. Or someone won’t help out around the house even though it is clear that you expected help–or the person becomes this big time slob who just won’t pick up after themselves. Or the job of parenting falls disproportionately on one parent even though a joint decision was made to have children….How does one avoid these problems? Get as much in writing before marriage as possible. Date long enough to get a real sense of who you are marrying. Consider living together before getting married. And for yourself, vow to act reasonably at all times. Reasonable people can always reach a compromise.
3) Infertility–Many couples’ relationship cracks up because of the inability to have kids. Often, the woman is blamed even though a lot of times it is shown that the problem is really with the man. Sometimes infertility could be the inability to conceive the right gender–usually a son–such as was the case in the Duchess. The frustration of infertility is really what seems to do a lot of couples in. They cease making love to each other and it’s all about schedules, ovulation kits and basal thermometers. This takes away the spontaneity for sure. But it also takes away something basic and primal and maybe even sacred in certain circumstances. What to do? Jeeze, I’m just a divorce lawyer. I don’t have a clue. And you don’t know how true that is. I mean, I would think, maybe a couple like this needs to try to keep perspective. The kids are the icing on the cake. The cake itself is the two of you and the relationship that you have. Plus, if you are more spontaneous and less frantic about your body temperatures when you should be thinking more of your O’s, then I am sure getting pregnant will be easier and infertility will be the least of your problems. I mean, look at Nadya Suleman…oh, that’s right. She’s single and she had in vitro. Alright that wasn’t a good example. But you know what I mean.
4)Addiction–Extreme behavior can be very detrimental in almost any context and that is how I see addiction; as a form of extremism. And that implies a lack of balance that is often unfixable. Marriage, to me, has to be all about balancing equities between two people at all times. But a person who is addicted can’t have this conversation and he or she, even if capable of having the conversation, can’t deliver and follow through on any promise. Marriage, to me, has to be about keeping promises. Too many broken deals and you are looking at a failed marriage. How to avoid this problem? Yikes. I am really asking myself tough questions that I don’t have the answer to, aren’t I? Why to I keep doing that? Well, look, the person who is addicted needs help and should seek professional help. And really, this may be a problem that both parties need to work on. Because sometimes we play the role of enabler. And the question then becomes, why do you continue to enable this person with this damaging and destructive behavior? And there are so many things that people are addicted to. It’s not just the usual sex, drugs and alcohol. It could even be something like depression. Some people are addicted to saying, “I am depressed” and using it as an excuse for inexcusable behaviors and failures. And then the other person enables it by accepting the excuses and continuing the cycle. But ultimately, the marriage will suffer and will probably die. So, first of all, do not be an enabler. And the minute you see this might be a problem, seek help.
5) Pornography- The issue here is that two people may have very differing notions and tolerance level for this “adult” activity. It is very uncool to say that there is anything wrong with pornography so I am not going to be uncool by saying that there is anything inherently wrong with, or that it is demonic. I think it is. But if this is what someone wants to spend their lives doing, viewing and thinking about, I will not cast judgment. I will just be silent. Because this is a personal choice. But I will say that for some people, porn borders on “demonic.”  If you and your partner have very strongly differing views on this subject, trust me that marriage is not going to last. Or, for it to last, one of you has to change and change big time in order for it to work out. One of you will have to die to yourself to save the marriage.  There is a saying: “be careful who you allow to head your house.” And that has many meanings but one is, if you marry someone who has an unusually strong interest in the “prurient”, you may feel pressured into developing an interest in these activities where you normally would not have. In short, you kind of have to  “corrupt” yourself in order to have a successful marriage; but is that  marriage really a success?  Ultimately, more than likely not. Solution? Well, I don’t know. This is one of those things, like domestic violence, that I’ve managed to avoid. I guess it is incumbent on the party who can’t tolerate this nonsense to try, pre-marriage, to ascertain this won’t be a problem. Check out to see if he has a stash of dvds or whatever before you marry him, I guess. I don’t know. I just feel that marriage should not “corrupt.” Marriage should save you from corruption. But more and more, it seems to corrupt and I really don’t know what to do about that.
6) Violence/Abuse I think it is pretty obvious why violence and abuse will plague a marriage to its death. Once again, pre-marriage observations are key. Don’t close your eyes to a person’s faults. Always look for hints and clues before you take the next step. I’ve always said “a man tells you who he is in four weeks.”  Don’t make excuses for inappropriate behavior. Call a spade a spade. Sure he may be the cutest thing you ever walked down the street with. Sure he makes you feel like no other man has ever made you feel. But he slapped you once and gave you a fat lip. And you weren’t married yet. This should be decisive. It doesn’t matter how annoying you were being when he slapped you. You should not marry a person who will slap you. Especially if you are the woman. Because statistics show that women are disproportionately the victims of domestic violence. Of course, abuse can also be emotional, psychological and other non-violent ways. And this eats away at a marriage like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve known women who have said “he never hits me but what he does is so much worse. I wish he would hit me instead.” Now you know that’s intense. Women can be very emotionally abusive to their men sometimes. Believe me, I see it often and it’s not okay either. It’s foul no matter which spouse does it.  When a spouse leaves you feeling so maimed emotionally, that you conclude that physical violence would have been kinder, that pretty much tells you where the marriage is heading.
7) Illegality: The illegal activities of one partner will poison the life of the other partner, and so infect the marriage that divorce is very likely. By illegal activity, it could be anything from running a ponzi scheme, to selling drugs to having inappropriate relations with underage kids. This is a plague. This destroys marriages. Enough said.
8) Nagging: Obviously, when one hears the word “nagging” one thinks of women, not men. It is women who are accused of being nags. Sometimes, I think this is an unfair characterization that serves to censor a woman in a relationship when her man is not pulling his weight and meeting his obligations in the relationship. He goes, “don’t nag me” and immediately she feels like she has done something wrong by asking him to do his fair share. This isn’t cool.  But other times, as women, some of us are big time nags. Let’s be honest. Nagging drives men insane. And I can see why. I hate it when someone drones on and on about something I’ve done wrong. These types usually don’t acknowledge when you’ve done something right. This makes me banchee as I am sure it would make you. If you are locked in a marriage with someone who only sees when you have done something wrong and who keeps harping on it (sometimes for years!) it can just be like this annoying drain and eventually, it makes the “victim” want to run, to find peace, to be free. What is the solution? Don’t nag. Just don’t. Communicate, ask, request, object. But once the issue has been “adjudicated” let it be res judicata.
9) Covetousness: Is there such a thing as covetousness? I am sure I spelled it wrong. But what I mean by that is that even among spouses, people can envy each other and compete with each other. I see that all the time. You may have two highly ambitious people who are equally driven in their careers and they want the best for each other, but there is still that element of envy and competition. In small doses, I suppose this can be motivating. But in large doses, it is just deadly. Envy is probably the deadliest sin. Envy is incredibly destructive and potent. It does damage even while just in the mind. It is more than just career, though. As parents, they may compete for the affection of their children. Once spouse may envy the closeness and bond that the other spouse shares with the kids. To me the only way to avoid this is to start before the children are even born to decide how you will parent, and to agree. When the children arrive, it is so important to be present both physically and emotionally from the beginning, to build a bond with your child. And to be able to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent. Try to remember that the children do not belong to either one of you. They just “came through you.”
10) Incompatibility: so many people marry others with whom they are incompatible that it is amazing. It is not something I personally understand. Why would you marry someone that you were incompatible with? That is what the dating process is for, to weed out people who are incompatible with you and who do not “balance” you, isn’t it? It is not enough to say, “he’s good in bed” or “he is a good provider” or “he’s good daddy material.” You need to inquire way beyond just one factor in deciding to marry someone. That is the only way to avoid incompatibility in a marriage. Don’t marry someone with whom you are “imbalanced” from the get go. Look at everything and then do a pro/con analysis on paper to see whether the marriage will make sense in the long run, or whether you are setting you up for a lifetime of “plagues.”
Oh, and I forgot apathy. But that is probably another post….
Originally published 4/15/09