The list of reasons people give for why their marriages failed include the usual suspects: financial problems, infidelity, in-laws, disagreements about how to raise the kids, and so on. But none of these are the true reasons why marriages don’t stick. We believe that these problems are merely the symptoms of something more fundamental. Marriages fail for the same reason that businesses fail. They stop showing their customers that they care.
If that sounds simplistic, think back to when you started shopping at a new store or eating at a new restaurant. At the grand opening you were treated like a rich relative. Now recall when you started dating. You treated each other like royalty. You didn’t argue then about little things that bothered you. You were too busy showing each other how much you cared for each other’s pleasure and happiness. Even big problems didn’t seem insurmountable because you believed that your love could get you through anything.
The store or the restaurant that continues their royal treatment is likely to still be in business and doing well. How about the ones that took their customers for granted? It sounds like a chicken or egg problem. Do we stop caring because of problems, or do problems overwhelm us because we stop caring? We believe the latter, that problems engulf us because we have already stopped caring about each other. That isolates us and makes us feel alone. Together we could endure anything. Alone, the smallest troubles can feel too much to bear. The bumps that we were able to glide over in the beginning can loom like mountains ahead when we have no one to share the load.
The “Customer Metaphor” is a tool to remind us that caring doesn’t stop after marriage.
Imagine a sign on the front door of your favorite coffee shop or restaurant that announced, “Today we don’t care about you.” A business can’t succeed by taking a day off from treating its customers well. Neither can we stay in love by telling our partners that some days they don’t matter. Marriages fail because caring fails. By demonstrating “care” everyday we build a powerfully sticky bond, that embraces us, binds us together to face whatever problems come our way.