The 4 Biggest Marriage Fails


The 4 As in Marriage That Most Often Lead to Divorce

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The most challenging of marital problems often involves what is called the “4 As.” These are adultery, addiction, abuse, and agendas. It is worthwhile to distinguish between what are considered “hard” reasons (such as the 4 As) vs. “soft” reasons people often cite when giving up on their marriages. “Soft” reasons are not synonymous with “trivial” reasons. Soft reasons consist of everything other than the 4 As. Examples are growing apart, boredom, poor communication or feeling you have little in common with your partner. When compared with soft reasons, the 4 As pose bigger challenges to the viability of your marriage and are more likely to lead to divorce.​​



man caught cheating

Adultery is extramarital sexual relations that are thought to be objectionable on several grounds including social, religious, moral, and possibly legal. In some cultures, it is considered criminal as well, but this is not the case in the U.S. and in most Western countries.

Adultery is a serious problem within a supposedly monogamous marriage.

There is debate as to what sexual activities besides intercourse actually constitute adultery.

What may be more reverent to focus on is the fact that one partner is keeping secrets and having an inappropriate relationship that may span the continuum from emotional to physical, and that when this comes to light it most often causes a significant crisis in the marriage. Infidelity is often a consequence of other underlying, unresolved problems in the marriage. On the other hand, people who cheat may have a sex addiction or sexually compulsive behavior. Some people believe that cheaters have “bad character.”



addicted woman
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Addiction is a disorder that results when a person uses a substance such as alcohol, cocaine or heroin or engages in an activity such as sex, gambling, watching pornography, or shopping, which continued behavior becomes compulsive and interferes with usual life responsibilities. Life responsibilities impacted include interpersonal relationships, work, and/or health. There may be a physiological dependence when addicted to a substance. This means the body has adapted to the substance so that more and more is needed to achieve the same effect. This is also known as “tolerance.” 

Denial is often present as addicts are usually not aware that their behavior is destructive, out of control, and causing enormous problems for both themselves and those around them. 

Among those most negatively impacted are the addict’s spouse and children. The spouse of a partner with addiction can fall, albeit unintentionally, into the role of enabler by over-helping and preventing their partner from suffering the consequences of the addiction.

This unhealthy, codependent behavior also becomes utterly draining for the enabling spouse.



angry and abusive man with sad woman

Abuse in a marriage may be physical, emotional, verbal, and/or economic. Physical abuse, also known as “intimate partner violence,” is clearer as it involves the infliction of physical pain (hitting, pushing, grabbing). On the contrary, emotional abuse is often quite subtle. This abuse occurs when a partner has you constantly “walking on eggshells” or feeling manipulated. Examples of emotional abuse may be a partner who is excessively jealous or controlling, who often makes fun of you, guilt trips you, withdraws affection randomly, or who gives you the silent treatment, among other actions.

Economic abuse involves a spouse who excessively controls the finances. The controlled spouse’s self-esteem is chipped away by the abusive partner leaving them feeling powerless, shut down, fearful, and ultimately very unhappy in the marriage.  



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People change continuously. Whether it be personal growth or new situations that you need to adapt to, you and your partner are likely not exactly the same as the day you married. The success of your marriage will depend, in part, on how you adapt to each other through these personal changes. Supporting each others' goals is critical, but what happens when they are very opposite? For example, a spouse wants to start a new career from scratch, you decide city living is no longer for you and you wish to move to the country, or one of you wants to change your religion?

When your agendas are on different pages, you will most likely have a severe or even unsolvable relationship crisis on your hands.


Divorce vs. Disconnection

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The 4A’s are difficult challenges to the sustainability of your marriage. They will frequently and inevitably lead to divorce. If not divorce, then an unhappy and disconnected marriage. Especially if you both do not get professional help to work through these issues. Help is available with qualified and experienced couples’ therapists, and this will give you a fighting chance to identify and work through these roadblocks.

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