Relationship check-up

Men and women who sense future problems while they are courting generally find out after they are married that their concern was well-founded.

Some of these red lights predict trouble ahead at the outset of a relationship:

  • possessiveness
  • control
  • rigid beliefs
  • defensiveness
  • unwillingness to accept influence from the other
  • walking away from disagreements

Some of each of these traits can be good for a relationship. It is a matter of degree, how it is expressed and whether any of these already cause you trouble in the relationship.
These same issues, out of balance, will likely signal trouble. There are no generally right or wrong answers and circumstances change how we perceive the issues.

However, one coercing or the other faking agreement in order to keep the peace and make for ‘happy families’ or either skating over the surface of the question or assuming they don’t apply are not good plans at the outset and ongoingly in a lasting commitment.


The person who cares the most will always be the most prepared to compromise. In other words, any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least. Livingston

60% of divorces occur in low conflict marriages. Conflict avoidance is a predictor of trouble, which may or may not lead to separation depending on the conflicted issue and how it is avoided.

Conflict about children, sex and money are ultimately unavoidable but they are deniable for decades, until they crash your life.
Conflict prevention is altogether another matter.

Each of the statements below are like a leading edge. THEY GROW. Over time and unmanaged, conflict grows in its size, reach and power. Caught in the first three years of a committed relationship with pre-marriage education and coaching, these have little power to consume a relationship.

When conflict is ignored, the issues can become predictions like: ‘I know what you’re going to say’ or ‘Of course you’d do that’ or ‘There’s no point discussing it’ or ‘We never get anywhere with this so let’s just forget it’. By then each person has invested more and more in maintaining and defending their version of the issue.
In this way, two movies of the one relationship are scripted and played out, each sure they have the right one.

The 15 statement quiz

The more of the following statements that you disagree over, the greater the challenges you will face in your marriage:

  • Being married is the first or second most important thing in life.
  • Mothers have more natural ability than fathers in relating to children.
  • Married couples do not need to share many hobbies with each other.
  • Sexual intercourse in marriage is a key to marital satisfaction.
  • Sharing my feelings and concerns about our relationship with family and friends is OK.
  • Money may not buy happiness in a family but it does help.
  • A couple should delay having children until other important issues are worked out.
  • Relationships are unpredictable.
  • When I’m upset with my partner I ignore him or her for a while.
  • Time will resolve any problems we have as a couple.
  • It is important for a husband and wife to have many of the same friends and to like each other’s friends.
  • Husbands and wives should both look carefully for bargains before buying something they want.
  • It is important to me that my family has the finer things in life.
    People get stuck in marriage.
  • In my marriage it would not bother me if the wife earned more than the husband.

From ‘Should We Stay Together’ by Jeffry Larson.

Five types of marriage and the divorce risk of each

Here are some patterns describing ordinary marriages. Of course some relationships are a pure type but most contain a bit of each at varying times in their life cycle and each may change.

  1. The Pursuer-Distancer Marriage. A tug-of-war over communication and intimacy, this marriage is a contest between an aloof partner and a pursuer of intimacy. It is the most prevalent type – and has the highest rate of divorce. It requires the fuser-isolator pattern to operate repetitively.
  2. The Disengaged Marriage. Each partner is stridently independent, placing a low priority on intimacy. The marriage is vulnerable to divorce (second-highest failure rate) because both feel they could live equal or better lives alone.
  3. The Operatic Marriage. Emotional volatility, tumult, and passion mark these unions. Operatic couples often say hateful things to each other and can be prone to violence. This type of marriage has the third-highest divorce rate.
  4. The Cohesive/Individuated Marriage. This marriage is marked by intimacy, gender equity, shared domestic duties, and a hefty dose of freedom. It “functions like a refuge … for renewal, support, affection, and companionship”. It has the second-lowest divorce rate.
  5. The Traditional Marriage. Men and women have distinct roles, usually that of “breadwinner” and “homemaker.” This marriage can stumble if one partner breaks with tradition but it has the lowest divorce rate.