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  • Writer's pictureTerrell Pugh

Why Do Marriages Go Wrong?

Why do marriages go wrong?

Marriages, often initiated under the auspices of mutual love and commitment, can encounter turbulence that challenges the very foundation of the relationship. Understanding the multifaceted reasons behind marital discord is essential for couples striving to navigate these complexities and for those seeking to fortify their relationships against potential pitfalls. Drawing on extensive research, this article explores the dynamics that contribute to marital difficulties, specifically perceived partner responsiveness, perceived sacrifice, and additional factors such as communication issues, financial stress, and evolving individual identities.

While love is the cornerstone of marriage, sustaining it requires more than just romantic feelings. Psychological research and marital therapy have shed light on why marriages go wrong, highlighting the importance of mutual understanding, adaptability, and the ability to navigate life's unpredictabilities together.

The Role of Perceived Partner Responsiveness

Perceived partner responsiveness stands out as a critical determinant of relationship satisfaction. It encapsulates the degree to which individuals feel their partners are attentive, understanding, and supportive of their needs and aspirations.

  • Empirical Evidence: A body of research, including studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, underscores the positive correlation between perceived partner responsiveness and marital satisfaction. Partners who feel seen, heard, and valued report higher levels of love, connection, and contentment in their relationships.

  • Strategies for Enhancing Responsiveness: Cultivating a culture of responsiveness involves regular check-ins about each partner's needs, active listening, and affirming the other's feelings and perspectives. It's about creating a safe emotional space where vulnerabilities can be shared without fear of judgment.

Perceived Partner Responsiveness

Perceived partner responsiveness (PPR) refers to an individual's perception of how well their partner understands, values, and supports them. This perception is foundational to emotional intimacy and trust, serving as a barometer for the health of the relationship.

Breakdown in Responsiveness

A breakdown in perceived partner responsiveness occurs when one or both partners feel neglected, misunderstood, or unsupported. This can arise from:

  • Lack of Active Listening: Failing to listen actively to your partner's concerns and needs can make them feel undervalued.

  • Inadequate Emotional Support: Not providing comfort and reassurance during times of stress or sadness can lead to feelings of isolation within the relationship.

  • Failure to Acknowledge Achievements: Neglecting to celebrate successes or acknowledge efforts can diminish self-esteem and satisfaction.


The consequences of a breakdown in PPR are profound, including:

  • Emotional Distance: Partners may feel emotionally disconnected, leading to a decrease in intimacy and affection.

  • Increased Conflict: Misunderstandings and feelings of neglect can escalate into frequent and intense conflicts.

  • Vulnerability to External Influences: Individuals who do not feel supported by their spouse may seek emotional fulfillment elsewhere, potentially outside the marriage.

The Concept of Perceived Sacrifice

Sacrifice within marriage—ranging from small daily compromises to significant life-altering decisions—is often hailed as a marker of commitment. However, its impact is heavily influenced by the perceptions and attitudes of both partners.

  • Research Insights: Studies in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reveal that the positive effects of sacrifice are contingent upon mutual recognition and gratitude. When sacrifices are perceived as one-sided or unackreciated, they can breed resentment and erode marital satisfaction.

  • Navigating Sacrifices: Effective communication about the nature and expectations of sacrifices is crucial. Couples should strive for balance, ensuring that both partners' needs and dreams are considered and respected.

Perceived Sacrifice

Perceived sacrifice involves the actions one partner takes for the benefit of the relationship or the other partner, often at a personal cost. In healthy relationships, sacrifices are mutual and recognized as expressions of love and commitment.

Breakdown in Perceived Sacrifice

Problems arise when sacrifices are either not perceived as such by the other partner or when they are not reciprocated, leading to:

  • Feeling Unappreciated: When sacrifices are not acknowledged or valued, the sacrificing partner can feel taken for granted.

  • Imbalance in the Relationship: A consistent lack of reciprocation in sacrifices can lead to an imbalance, where one partner feels they are giving more than they receive.

  • Resentment: Over time, unappreciated or unreciprocated sacrifices can breed resentment, undermining the foundation of the relationship.


The impact of perceived sacrifice breakdowns includes:

  • Erosion of Goodwill: Continued feelings of imbalance and lack of appreciation can erode the goodwill between partners, critical for overcoming challenges together.

  • Decreased Motivation to Sacrifice: Partners may become less willing to make sacrifices, leading to a more self-centered approach to the relationship.

  • Reduced Relationship Satisfaction: The accumulation of resentment and perceived unfairness can significantly decrease overall satisfaction within the marriage.

Addressing Breakdowns in Responsiveness and Sacrifice

To mitigate the adverse effects of breakdowns in perceived partner responsiveness and perceived sacrifice, couples can:

  • Enhance Communication: Developing stronger communication skills can help partners more effectively express their needs and acknowledge each other's contributions.

  • Foster Appreciation: Regularly expressing gratitude for each other's efforts and sacrifices can reinforce the value of those actions.

  • Seek Professional Guidance: Marriage counseling or therapy can provide couples with the tools to address these issues constructively, improving understanding and satisfaction.

Other breakdowns

Communication Breakdowns

Poor communication is frequently cited as a leading cause of marital problems. The inability to effectively express needs, resolve conflicts, and share feelings can create a gap between partners.

  • Understanding Communication Styles: Each individual brings their unique style of communication into the marriage, influenced by their upbringing and past experiences. Recognizing and adapting to each other's communication styles can prevent misunderstandings and foster a deeper connection.

  • Conflict Resolution: Learning constructive conflict resolution techniques, such as avoiding accusatory language and focusing on specific issues rather than personal attacks, can significantly improve marital satisfaction.

Financial Stress and Marital Strain

Financial difficulties are another common source of stress in marriages. Disagreements over spending habits, financial goals, and the management of resources can exacerbate existing marital tensions.

  • Economic Pressures: Research indicates that economic instability can lead to increased conflict and decreased relationship satisfaction. Couples who openly discuss their financial situation, set shared goals, and develop a budget together are better equipped to navigate financial challenges.

Evolving Individual Identities

As individuals grow and evolve, so do their needs, interests, and life goals. Marriages can go wrong when partners feel constrained by the relationship or perceive a lack of support for their personal development.

  • Personal Growth within Marriage: Encouraging and supporting each other's personal and professional growth can enhance marital satisfaction. Couples should strive to find a balance between their individual aspirations and their commitments as partners.

External Influences and Life Transitions

Life transitions such as parenthood, career changes, or relocation can test the strength of a marriage. Additionally, external pressures from family, society, and cultural expectations can impose stress on the relationship.

  • Adaptability and Support: Successfully navigating life transitions requires flexibility, open communication, and mutual support. Viewing these challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats can strengthen the marital bond.

How Arise and Live Can Help

Understanding and addressing the intricate dynamics of perceived partner responsiveness and perceived sacrifice are pivotal in navigating marital dissatisfaction and fostering a healthy, fulfilling relationship. These challenges, while common, are not insurmountable. They require a deep commitment to mutual growth, empathy, and the willingness to engage in open and honest dialogue. At Arise and Live Christian Counseling, we have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of tackling these issues head-on.

With a compassionate and skilled approach, Arise and Live Christian Counseling has guided thousands of couples through the complexities of identifying and overcoming breakdowns in perceived partner responsiveness and perceived sacrifice. Our team of experienced counselors employs a blend of evidence-based practices and faith-based principles to create a supportive environment where couples can openly explore the challenges in their relationship.

Recognizing that each couple's journey is unique, Arise and Live Christian Counseling offers personalized strategies designed to address the specific needs and concerns of each partner. By focusing on enhancing communication, fostering an atmosphere of appreciation and gratitude, and encouraging constructive discussions around sacrifices and needs, we help couples rebuild the foundations of their relationship.


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