If you feel that you are at the end of your rope, wondering if getting married was a mistake, or trying to decide if you need to call it quits and separate from your spouse, you are not alone.
People all over the country are considering separation or divorce and are feeling the same frustration and hopelessness. There are times when starting over is the right thing to do – but, how do you know?
Maybe you will separate from your spouse. Or, maybe you will find the answers that you need now to save your relationship…
How Do I Know if I Should Get a Divorce?
Some people just know.
Maybe it became painfully obvious over time that you are not compatible with your partner. Or, maybe you discovered an abusive side of your spouse that you did not see before the marriage.
On the other hand, many people agonize over the decision to leave their spouse, wracked with guilt over whether they are doing the right thing, whether they could have done more to save their marriage, and, especially, whether they are doing the right thing for their children.
Your divorce lawyer can’t answer these questions for you, but we do want you to:
- Learn about divorce and why it happens;
- Seek out marital therapy whenever possible before making a final decision;
- Consider alternatives to divorce and exhaust all other options when you are unsure; and
- Find happiness and stability for yourself and your children.
Take some time to consider the reasons that couples end up separating and some strategies for working on your marriage when appropriate.
Top Reasons that Couples Divorce
Although every relationship has its own challenges, many of the causes of separation and divorce are predictable – the same pitfalls that you encounter in your relationship are experienced by couples everywhere.
We’ve all heard that approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the rate of marital disruption (separation, divorce, or death) among women aged 15-44 years is:
- 22% after five years of marriage;
- 36% after ten years of marriage;
- 45% after 15 years of marriage; and
- 53% after 20 years of marriage.
Most agree that the items listed below are the leading causes of divorce, but I’d like to make the case that there is one insidious thread that connects all of them – a breakdown of trust in the relationship.
Can I trust my partner not to sleep with other people? Can I trust them to pay our bills, to pull their own weight, to not judge my ideas and beliefs, to not be abusive and to put our family first? Can I still rely on my partner?
Most will agree that cheating is the leading cause of separation and divorce.
It may be a one-night stand that the couple can’t move past or multiple infidelities. It could be a side-relationship that goes on for a while, or it could even be emotional infidelity that doesn’t result in a physical relationship yet drives a wedge between husband and wife.
It all comes down to trust. When you find that you no longer trust your partner, the foundation of the relationship has eroded, and you begin to wonder, what’s the point?
The next pitfall that destroys many relationships is money – where do we get it, one partner is not pulling their weight, what do we spend it on, how much do we save, what are the priorities, and…. trust. Do we share our finances? Do we have separate bank accounts and pay our bills separately?
The stress of not having enough money is overwhelming for many people, and when partners begin to blame one another instead of working together it could be the beginning of the end of the relationship…
Unequal earning capacity also causes stress in marriages – when one partner earns more than the other, it can lead to resentment on both sides if the couple is unable to work through it and talk about it.
Alcohol and Drugs
Whether it is one spouse or both, problems with addiction can lead to separation and divorce. When your spouse puts their addiction before your relationship and family, you are left feeling hopeless, helpless, and wondering what is the point?
How far do you go to help and support an addicted spouse? How can you trust them or rely on them as a spouse or parent? At what point do you say, he or she isn’t going to change, and I’ve had enough?
Sexual incompatibility is lurking behind many divorces – it’s not always something people talk about openly, but it’s there. When one partner has a high sex drive and the other has none, it’s a recipe for disaster that leads to infidelity at worst and daily frustration at best.
Do I need to say that sexual frustration leads to a lack of trust on one or both sides in a relationship?
Often, couples who felt perfectly compatible when they got married can find that their interests and beliefs have changed over time, while their spouse has moved in a different direction.
For many, it can be difficult to remain in a relationship with someone that you feel you have nothing in common with – you want to share your life with someone who shares your ideals, your views, and your activities.
One or both spouses may begin to “wander,” looking, consciously or unconsciously, for someone that they can connect with and share with – in some cases leading to infidelity (and, back to a lack of trust in the relationship).
If your partner is physically or emotionally abusive, you should immediately take steps to protect yourself and your children.
People change. But, when they do, it usually happens over a long period of time – do not stay in an abusive relationship that endangers your safety or the safety of your children. If and when your spouse demonstrates that they have changed and that you are no longer in danger, then you may want to consider reconciliation.
How to Save a Marriage
All too often, a marriage can’t be saved without sacrificing your happiness, security, and even your safety. If and when you realize that you are at this point, stop beating yourself up and take care of yourself.
On the other hand, if there is a chance that you can reverse course and reconnect with your partner, try.
I believe that the best and most effective way to save a marriage is… to try to save your marriage. You could spend weeks reading all the material that therapists and researchers have published on how to save your marriage – and, maybe, you should.
Talk to a marital therapist – it works for some people, it doesn’t work for others. The point is to make the effort and to learn as much as possible about how to communicate effectively with your spouse and how to address the unique problems that you and your spouse are facing.
Kindness, Understanding, and Empathy
This quote from the Today show’s website may be the best starting point:
According to Esther Perel, psychotherapist and bestselling author of “The State of Affairs,” both happy and miserable couples experience the same problems. It is how each couple comes together and relates to each other that defines whether the relationship will thrive or end.
When couples turn toward each other with kindness, understanding and empathy, they can endure even the worst storms. However, when the couple comes with boxing gloves on, treating each other with contempt, defensiveness and suspicion, the marital prognosis under any circumstance won’t be positive.
Other Starting Points
Here are some other suggestions for starting points – if you recognize that any or all of these relate to your marriage, research, learn more about the issue, make the changes, and see what happens…
- Communication: it’s no coincidence that many marital therapists begin with talking about communication skills. For most people, effective communication does not come naturally – it is a learned skill that is essential to preserving any relationship. For starters, check out these tips from marriage.com and psychology today.
- Put your relationship first: if you or your partner are prioritizing other things – job, friends, in-laws, whatever – over your relationship, it’s no wonder the relationship is falling apart. Whenever possible, prioritize your partner’s and your relationship’s needs, and make sure that you “have their back” always. Maybe, they will reciprocate…
- Allow yourself to look honestly at your own role in your relationship problems: it’s easy to blame your partner, to pick apart what they are doing or not doing, and to tear them down. But, here’s the thing – you can’t change them. You can change yourself, and, hopefully, they will reciprocate by acknowledging their own role in the breakdown.
- Talk about sex: Intimacy is the glue that holds a relationship together – each partner is not getting what they want or need unless they are communicating what they want and need to their partner – cooperatively, without judgment or blame.
- Separation: a separation could be the first step towards divorce. Or, it could be the time apart that a couple needs to realize where their priorities are and how terrible life may be without their partner… it is possible that a separation (with a separation agreement that protects you and your children) could be the first step towards reconciliation.
Although divorce may feel inevitable, there may be another answer. When you have made the decision to separate or to divorce, however, your divorce attorney on the Axelrod team is here to help guide you through the process – whether you need an amicable, uncontested divorce or a tough advocate to protect your interests against an abusive spouse, we are here.