Avoidance is a common coping skill people use when they are faced with difficult problems. Avoiding marital problems won’t make them go away. In fact, they are likely to get worse. There are many reasons why people choose to avoid facing their marital issues.
Denial is a powerful thing. Sometimes people feel like if they don’t admit they have a problem, then it won’t be real. Trying to stay in a place of denial may make someone feel more comfortable. It can be anxiety-provoking, uncomfortable, and depressing to recognize the extent of your problems. However, denial will only take you so far. It may help you cope with your distress in the short-term but it causes more long-term problems as the issues are not being handled.
Angela didn’t want to face financial problems. Although her husband frequently told her they did not have enough money to support her spending habits, she chose not to look at the financial statements. She didn’t want access to their online banking and whenever bills arrived, she set them aside for her husband to look at.
By trying to stay in denial that they were struggling financially, Angela continued her same spending habits, causing their problems to get worse. This led to increased conflict between her and her husband. Although it would have been uncomfortable for her to sit down and review their financial statements, facing the facts would have been the first step in determining how to handle the problem.
Avoiding Their Spouse’s Behaviors
Sometimes people not only avoid their marital problems, they literally avoid their spouse. This can be due to their inability or unwillingness to address their spouse’s behaviors. People caught in this trap might choose to work late, spend extra time with friends, or engage in any activity separate from their spouse. When the marriage gets to this point, it becomes critical that issues are addressed soon before the relationship deterioriates completely.
Brian felt like Sherry nagged him too much. He disliked how she talked to him and she got on his nerves. As a result, he worked almost non-stop on restoring a car that was in his garage. This compounded the problem. Sherry felt more abandoned than ever, and when Brian was around, she nagged him about how little time he spent working on “more important things than his car.” Brian’s avoidance of his wife caused their problems to get worse.
Wanting to Keep Up Appearances
Some couples want to appear as though they have everything together. Keeping up appearances is very important to them. They worry that addressing their problems might not look good to the outside world.
Jerry and Sandra were somewhat disconnected from one another. However, they both chose to tell themselves they were just motivated people with important careers. This was easier than addressing the fact that they didn’t spend quality time together, except when they were with friends. Although they had discussed counseling at times, they worried that if anyone else found out, they might think they were having marital problems so they avoided addressing their issues. Avoiding their issues only made them worse.
Fear of Confrontation
A lot of people avoid confrontation. They may fear that they will offend the other person or that they will hurt their partner’s feelings. Or they may fear how their partner will react. They may fear their partner’s angry reaction or they may worry that their partner will reject them. However, confrontation can be very healthy for a marriage.
Barbara didn’t like Michael’s drinking. He came home from work and drank a few beers everyday. Then on the weekends, he often drank 10 beers in a night. Barbara avoided confronting Michael about his behaviors. She was afraid that he’d get mad if she brought it up. She also worried that he wouldn’t change his behaviors anyway. Her decision to avoid talking about his drinking, actually enabled his behaviors. If Barbara doesn’t do anything to address a solution, she actually becomes part of the problem.
Afraid Things Will Get Worse
Lastly, people sometimes avoid addressing issues because they are afraid that things will only get worse. This is sometimes true, especially in the short-term. However, avoiding these problems will also likely lead to things getting worse over time.
Kristin worried about addressing Jim’s parenting. She felt like he didn’t spend enough time with the children and felt like he lacked patience whenever he was with them. However, she worried that if she told him, he’d just give up and would spend even less time with them. Kristin’s avoidance led Jim to continue his behaviors.
Acknowledge Your Problems
It is important to be truthful with yourself and your spouse about your marital problems. You cannot begin fixing a problem until you acknowledge the problem exists. Honestly evaluate your marriage’s strengths and weaknesses and think about what problems you want to address.