Threats of divorce are often attempts to fix the relationship. Many times we want the pain within the relationship to die, but not the relationship. Often times, when divorce is mentioned, each of the individuals in the relationship were young and never achieved individuation from their own families of origin before they were married. In this case, their identities became shaped by the demands, actions and needs of their partner. Divorce becomes a highly frightening thought because they have never been on their own and have no idea who they really are as individuals.
The highest rate of divorce typically happens during the first two years of marriage when couples are in the process of trying out the marriage. There are many reasons for the endings of these marriages. Frequently, they are based in the impulsiveness of getting married to feel the rush and not thinking through its commitments and expectations. Once the romance wears off, so does the desire to remain married.
Marital problems also begin to arise at the seventh year of marriage, after the first child arrives and when the first child turns 14 years old. Children are a major stressor to marriages. Often, people will chose to have children to “save” a marriage. Then, it turns out that the addition of children actually put more stress on the relationship. This may be one of the reasons that childless couples past the seven-year mark have lower rates of divorce that couples with children.
Two other trouble points are when the marriage is at the 20-year mark and the 40-year mark. At 20 years, couples are facing the children leaving the nest. Now, the couple has to re-establish a relationship with each other without the daily interaction and distraction of the children. They are faced with more intimate interaction with each other, and may have the urge to fulfill desires that were suppressed during the time of raising children. Conflict can arise if those desires are seen as a threat to the relationship.
If they had used the children in the past as a way of regulating intimacy or creating distance, they will now have to face each other without that regulating force. If the couple does not have clear roads of communication, or if they cannot express their feelings, this spells disaster for the relationship.
At the 40-year mark, couples are looking for companionship as they move into old age. Surprisingly, there are a high number of divorces at this point. Couples can arrive at this point and discover that they don’t feel companionship with each other. One may have been at the service of the other the entire time. They raised the children, they indulged the desires of the other, and they kept things together and basically kept the relationship together through their own sacrifice. Now, they are tired of sacrificing themselves. As they approach the sunset years, they want to live in peace or create a space for themselves that they never experienced earlier in their life. If their spouse is not willing or able to accommodate them on this request, there is a good chance that they will look towards divorce as a way of attaining the space they need.
Another point where divorce all too frequently, and unfortunately, occurs is when the wife of a couple falls ill. This is especially true for wives with a terminal illness such as cancer. Men show a higher occurrence of divorcing their stricken wives than women divorcing a stricken husband. One need look no further than senator John McCain or senator John Edwards to make the case in point. Both of these high profile men left their wives after the discovery of their illnesses.
Interestingly enough, an affair does not necessarily spell the end of a marriage in divorce. In many cases, an affair draws attention to discord and trouble in a marriage and with the right assistance and intervention they may go onto a closer more solid relationship.
There are several predictors for a divorce. In good relationships, there are approximately seven positive exchanges for every negative exchange. Relationships that are in trouble have only one positive exchange for every negative exchange. How a couple speaks to each other is another predictor. Do you regularly speak harshly with each other? If so, that can be another indicator. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and the silent treatment are all indicators of a troubled relationship. All of these occurring together are a sure sign of trouble.
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