THE BLOG
02/29/2016 02:57 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2017

The Number One Mistake Men and Women Each Make That Dooms a Marriage

Your perspective is your reality. My perspective comes from the suburbs. You know the place? Vista Ridge Oaks, Bent Willow Park, Highland Estates: they are all the same. Gray shingles adorn every rooftop and the neighborhood pool is full of screaming kids and pee. Subdivisions all look the same in Anywhere, USA. I hated living there. That said, it was a good place to raise my kids and it was close to where I worked. As soon as I could, I escaped and I am never going back.

There is a generic feel to life in the burbs if you stop to think about it. That generic feeling seems to permeate into everything, even marriages. It may sound silly to describe a marriage as generic, but when you live a lifestyle in the suburbs, with all the other couples who are constantly attending a youth sporting event and then hitting up the neighborhood Applebee's, your life can devolve into something bland. If you love the suburbs, and are happily married, this article isn't for you. Move on. Additionally, I don't know anything about life in New York City or small town America. Life there is not my reality.

Now that I've told you where my perspective comes from, I want to share with you what I consider, again from my perspective, the number one mistake men and women each make that can very likely lead them down the road to divorce. Here we go.

Men: Failure to grow and evolve.
I wish I had a cold beer for every time I heard a guy tell me this:

"This is how I was when she married me! She knew what she was getting into. I'm not changing for her because that's not who I am. I've already changed enough and I'm done."

So you got married when you were 27 and now you're 37 years-old. I'm going to let you in on a secret. When your wife married you at 27, she didn't expect you to stay 27 forever. At some point, she will not be happy being married to that same 27 year old man (boy?). That's the truth. She most likely assumed that life's experiences would improve you as you aged, kind of like a fine wine. It is not a badge of honor to stay unevolved. Your wife will become bored with you. She will not only become disinterested in you, she will notice some other guy who seems far more interesting. A man might be feel just fine living this way. To many of us, it just isn't a big deal.

To be clear, change is not necessarily evolution. Just because you are now driving a minivan and helping coach your kid's t-ball team instead of hanging out with your old buddies does not mean you have evolved. You've changed because that's what you signed up for. It's called being a husband and a father, and don't get me wrong, it's a fine thing. But, it's not enough because that just comes with the marriage/family territory. At some point your wife may wonder if there is more to it all? Women have an evolution gene that a lot of guys do not. I realize I'm generalizing; I get it. But make no mistake, married couples stand a far better chance to stay in love if there is an understanding that you will grow together, as a couple. Making this evolution journey with your wife is sexy. There are a million ways to grow and change for the better. Pick a few.

Women: You married the wrong guy and/or for the wrong reasons.

Perhaps you feel you married the right guy initially, but because of what I wrote above, now you don't. Not so fast. I'm not letting you off the hook yet. Here's why.

Most likely, your guy went out, bought you a diamond ring, and either devised some YouTube worthy proposal or, at the very least, dropped down on one knee and asked you to spend the rest of your life with him. You will never have the faintest clue how hard, not to mention how brave, this singular act is. However, some of you should have said, "no". Not an easy thing to do for sure. The fact remains that no one forced this guy to do this; I'd contend that his intentions were driven more by his true love for you than other influences. What other influences? Here are a few:
  1. You were caught up in the moment and didn't want to embarrass your man by rejecting his proposal. Maybe you really liked the ring. You could have said you needed time to think.
  2. The idea of a wedding, not to mention that perhaps some, or many, of your friends were either married or on their way, was too much for you to resist. You were excited.
  3. Time. You had invested too much time on this guy, and you did have love for him, so the idea of starting from scratch with someone else seemed overwhelming.
  4. You wanted kids.
  5. The guy had a great future. He had a good job, made good money, and you knew he would most likely be a good provider.
  6. You hate being alone. You are the kind of person that always needs to be coupled and the thought of being single and alone is scary.
  7. He's just a really good man.
Or, perhaps you just thought marriage would change him. He'd be different in some area that bugged you or you thought "things will be different once we're married".

I have many female friends. Most are a product of working in a predominantly female industry over several decades. I wish I had yet another beer to add to my cooler for every time I heard these words spoken to me in confidence:

"I married the wrong guy."

I don't recall a guy buddy of mine ever saying that to me. Not once.

Perhaps NONE of the above apply to you. But, there is no way you could convince me that you don't have at least one friend in which one of the above would apply. Although I will concede that, at the time, a woman might not realize this consciously. Doesn't matter; doesn't earn a pass. A women doesn't get a pass because, in the end, the guy loses and he shouldn't. Yes, saying no is hard and it may cause pain. But by not accepting his marriage offer you are essentially launching a preemptive strike that will save so much heartache later. Much more. In the words of Nancy Reagan, "Just Say No".

Divorce happens for many reasons. Sometimes the road to divorce is complicated and has many factors. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes good people are left holding their heart in their hand wondering what happened. Sometimes a spouse Titanics the marriage with "deal breaker" behavior. Consider what would happen if men were consciously and intentionally willing to grow alongside their partner; and women said "yes" for all the right reasons instead of diving in when they knew deep inside it wasn't right? What if?

Writer's Note: I've never actually eaten at an Applebee's.

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