What Causes Marriage Meltdowns?

As I reflect on this post, my heart is torn. I don’t want to seem insensitive to the pain and trauma that many people have experienced. However, I am also concerned about what seems to be an upsurge in the number of couples in crisis in our midst.

In my previous post I asked for your input regarding the making of a good and godly marriage. If you haven’t shared your thoughts on this topic, I sure would like to hear from you. In this post I’d like solicit your input concerning the challenges facing married couples.

In his research into marriage disasters, University of Wisconsin Professor Emeritus John Gottman reports that there are four behaviors which produce disastrous consequences for marriage relationships. These are:

1. Criticism
2. Contempt
3. Defensiveness
4. Stonewalling

Dr. Gottman has a brief explanatory video concerning these bad behaviors, which he calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, that you can view by clicking here.

So, I’m wondering what readers think on this topic. In your experience, what additional causes for marriage meltdowns have you observed?

Thanks, in advance, for your input.

Blessings in Christ,

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Blogroll, Christian Living, divorce, Family and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What Causes Marriage Meltdowns?

  1. John M. Kenney says:


    [One word speaks volumes. Thanks, John!]

  2. If I’m remembering right, 90% of couples who lose a child end up divorced. I don’t really know what the specific underlying principles are, though. Different ways of grieving? Anyone else know?

  3. Lacy says:


    I’ve been noticing lately that other things are clamoring for my attention. Loudly.

    It’s hard to balance the calls of daily life (working, chores, fun) with a relationship (that takes daily work).

    If I get too busy, something has to slip off the list. Hopefully it’s not the connection with my better half.


    [Thanks for this excellent observation. What you and your “better half” need is a long vacation in Florida! Blessings, -bill]

  4. Neva says:

    I think loss of focus—when my focus shifts from a godly christian home to making money, ie work, then I am headed for trouble. When my focus shifts from being a godly christian woman to PTA, soccer and manicures, then I am headed for trouble. When my focus shifts from my eternal destination to possession attainment and maintenance, —
    When we do premarital counseling, we talk a lot about focus–what does each partner think the focus of the marriage should be? Do they share that same vision? How much effort, time, money, emotion etc are they each willing to put into that vision?
    Marriage is much more difficult when either partner loses sight of that, When their focus shifts that means the things they decided together were important become less visible, blurry and often out of sight completely, Which means they are then out of mind.
    It is a recipe for disaster.
    If both partners are focused on life eternal and on being the best Christian partner, father, etc, they can be, then the rest of the stuff, falls into place.

    Maintaining focus is an integral part of building and keeping a healthy marriage.


    [Rich thoughts here, Neva, especially against the backdrop of your December 4th post. I’d recommend that everyone spend a few minutes to read this post. Blessings, -bill]

  5. preacherman says:


    I have wondered if the church has done all it has could to help their ministers have the best marriages they could have and help them nurturer and mature their relationships.

    Or if that relationship was beyond repair as I have seen some ministers and youth ministers and have ended in divorce. Would that ministers or youth ministers ministry be doomed or over? Can you help me answer this question as I have seen other ministers suffer with question (not naming names on purpose because I don’t want to spread or harm them any more than they have been already). What do you think on this issue? Can you address it for me.

    [You have a way of slicing through to the salient points, Preacherman. There is more to this than I can go into here, but I believe it would be worth doing so at some time in the not-too-distant future. I’m going to pop this comment into my “articles in process” folder and come back to it.

    What I will say for now is this: the “one another” passages apply to ministers in the same way they apply to every other member of the body of Christ.

    In general, I think we (preachers, elders and the membership) need to do a lot of growing in this area. But, there are some bright spots. Not too long ago, I was discussing an issue that was impacting the members of the church I was working with in Delaware with one of the spiritual shepherds. After we had talked in general terms, he asked how I felt about the way this was impacting me and my family. He then stated, “You’re members too, you know.” I think he got it. On the other hand, I once told an older sister how I felt about a sensitive issue. Her dismissive response was: “You’re a preacher. You’re not allowed to have feelings.” I don’t think she got it.

    More to follow, Lord willing.

    Blessings, -bill]

  6. Kathy says:

    Society in the USoA has made a huge shift from being demanding and supportive of marriage to the extreme; “no marriage is necessary and we’ll try it first, including having children before we decide if this relationship warrants marriage.”

    Unfortunately the church universal has not done a very good job of filling the ‘marriage is sacred and God-glorifying” void left by the above societal attitude and practice.

    Christian couples are just a bombarded by society’s lies as are non-believers. But do we as a church family offer support and a filtering out these wrong images for our marriages? The “I-ME” syndrome has destroyed many a family. Rather than working together to glorify God through our marriages, to show His great love for us through our loving dedication to our marriage vows, we seem as bent as the world on serving self and how “I” feel than as has been written, “Will this word, act, deed, demand, attitude help the spiritual growth of my spouse?” If so, we’re in safe harbor, but if not, discontentment and disaster are lurking over our shoulders.

    Of course, this being said by an expert in marital failure, guys. Take my word for it, if our marriages aren’t triangles with God as the third partner, we’re doomed. Neva has written exceptionally well about the importance of focus. There are other factors, but here’s my ingredient(s) to be added to the mix.

    [You’ve hit virtually all of the nails on the head in this comment. I especially resonate with your observation about the “I-ME” syndrome destroying many families. Selfishness is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?]

  7. preacherman says:

    I just don’t know if elders have done all they have could have done in helping ministers taking time off, being with wife and kids, vacations, letting the couple go to marriage enrichment seminars, etc. taking care of their marriage and spiritual health. Understanding that they are a part of the flock as well.

    [see above]

  8. Mominator says:

    Financial issues

    When my husband and I did our pre-marital counseling, one of the personality surveys we took pointed out to us that the subject of finances would be where we disagree the most. That survey was right. Anytime we discuss money, whether it is a lack of it or a surprising surplus (never a lottery amount!), there is an indescribable level of tension in the air. The best I can explain it is a discomfort over our differing opinions about how the situation should be handled — not that one of us is right and the other wrong — but our ways of dealing with money are simply different.

    It is something we have to be diligent about handling carefully, or it could really become a point of contention for us.


    [Thank you for pointing us in this direction, Lisa. Thank you, also, for your candor. I heard someone say that, while the reasons for divorce are many and varied, more than three fourths of the couples who divorce are having financial problems. Love ya’, Sis! -bill]

  9. Glory Bloom says:

    It started when we have different goal.

    “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 5:24).

    Thus, the couples who should be as one body but they have 2 minds. Then, in any ways, they will end up with separation.

    These may not be true for every one but it’s just from my experience T_T

    [G.B., You are spot-on with this comment. Unfortunately, it sounds like you lived it too. Our hearts go out to you. Appreciate you joining the discussion. Blessings, -bill]

  10. mattdabbs says:

    If you are looking for some good curriculum on this that is preventative and even has a Christian version have a look at PREP. They discuss danger signs, communication, sexuality and sensuality, and a whole range of other topics. We have done this course at Northwest St. Pete with some really good results. Gottman usually does really good work.

    [Thanks, Matt!]

  11. preacherman says:

    I really am enjoy this series.
    I also would love for you or anyone else to check out my new post. I think you would enjoy it. I think alot have thought about it but have never said it. Keep up the great work.

    I do think that communication is a great key to a successful marriage especially when you have 3 boys under the age of 6. 🙂

  12. cwinwc says:

    As Joe Beam would say, it’s deposits and withdraws in our “love bank.”
    In “His Needs / Her Needs” (or whatever they’re calling it now) we learned that all of us have a “love bank.” Nice complements and actions will make deposits, the opposite or lack thereof cause withdraws. All of us are looking for folks to make deposits and when our spouse isn’t the one, we’ll find someone else that will or they will find us. Thus, the start of an affair.

  13. donna-in-ny says:

    I see you have two donna’s that partake here, so I added that little in-ny- to the end of mine…not because I want to draw attention to me or ny…

    There must be a milion reasons for marriage meltdown….and I wish I could be like John and answer in one word or even be as knowledgeable as the others here…but instead, i will ramble…….

    there was no God when my husband and I married…he was raised Baptist, I was raised Catholic, but once we left our respective homes to marry, there was no God in either of our lives…so to speak…so we entered into marriage keen on fun, children, a house, cars, vacations, careers…mind you, this was my second attempt at it….and I didnt want to fail twice….but after about six months, I think we both thought it was the biggest mistake we had ever made….but remained determined to stick with it…again, I didnt want to fail…

    After 14 years of marriage, I was saved….and I can honestly say that when I began to read the scriptures and fell in love with jesus…and realized what God desires for two people in marriage and how we had let him down, I must have cried a river….my heart was more broken than by anything my husband had ever done to me….yet for some odd reason, I began to think I could fix things and expected things from my husband that, not only had he not provided in the past, but was not capable of providing in his current state of mind…

    After 20 years of marriage I fell into depression and as you know Bll and some of your readers here know, I left the marriage in June of 2006. I returned in December and went through a counseling and support group called divorce care and after the third of fourth visit, God softened my heart in many ways, not only towards my husband, but in many areas of my life….

    We celebrated 23 years this past April and we remain unspiritually yoked, but God has taught me through many tears, many mistakes and many prayers, that when I bring my life into alignment with Him, when I stay grounded in His word, when I truly love Him first, more than my husband, more than my own agenda…then that is when my marriage glorifies the Lord…..

    I failed to understand my purpose…. in everything… through everything… I am to glorify the Lord. It was and still can be the missing link……if I get too haughty..

    sorry I took up so much space…..


  14. donna-in-ny says:

    I can’t believe I wrote that like that….LOL

    “unspiritually yoked”……….

    but you all knew what I meant…..RIGHT????

  15. In my previous post I asked for your input regarding the making of a good and godly marriage. If you haven’t shared your thoughts on this topic, I sure would like to hear from you.

    1) Respect for each other as individuals and each with a private relationship with God. Respect for each other’s individual interests, desires, hobbies, etc.

    2) Trust – without trust in each other, in dealing with finances, to discuss openly and honestly all issues involved in a marriage

    3) Communication – to share ideas, hopes, God, the issue of children, etc.


  16. stan wayne says:

    As a divorce attorney and part time minister I would say that the analyses on divorce lack one huge cause:

    In New York where I live it is a grounds for divorce and is called Constructive Abandonment.

    It means the attitude by one spouse (usually wife) that now that life is difficult the other spouse does not have to be granted sexual favors.

    The wife (or husband) that refuses sex to her partner is one of the most common and disgusting causes for this plague that I see day to day.

    This is rarely addressed by the spiritual experts.

  17. Thanks for your wonderful insight, as with any form of life changing events we should always study and look for the right solutions and follow our hearts… and it is never to late to say “I am sorry” for anything! Healing takes time, but worth it when you can forgive others.

    Both premarital counseling and marriage counseling are great place to start to open the lines of communication. And as we know, that the lack of communication is the number one reason, relationships begin to fail…

    Thanks again,


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