After over 30 years as a family lawyer representing clients in family breakdowns and disputes, I’ve heard and continue to hear many reasons for divorce.
“We grew apart”, “We fell out of love”, “The spark is gone”, or “He/she cheated on me”.
My role and obligation as a family lawyer are to assist my clients in making the best decisions for their happiness and well-being. This often includes the careful consideration of divorce and whether there are alternative routes available such as counselling and reconciliation.
Many couples have been on the brink, but after working through their issues decided to stay together and are often very glad they did.
While my clients’ individual stories are varied, the themes underlying many of these reasons for divorce are often the same. Once we know the reasons, it becomes easier to work out the best way to help.
Here are the 7 most common themes that underlie the many reasons for divorce:
Some experts believe that compatibility plays a big part in the success of a marriage. It’s true that many people get together and choose to stay together based on their like-mindedness, shared values and similar hopes, dreams and goals.
But as they grow and change throughout their married lives they can’t predict how they’ll feel in the future. It’s impossible to foresee if they’ll continue to want the same things as individuals, let alone as a couple.
For example, a couple may agree to start a family one day. But as time goes by, respective careers progress, financial commitments increase, and other reasons come into play, and one person may decide they don’t want kids. If the other person isn’t on board with this decision it can create a huge shift in the relationship.
Lack of commitment
Infidelity is often blamed as the cause of a failed relationship. While cheating may be the final straw in an unhappy marriage and the reason for a divorce, in my experience as a family lawyer, infidelity is more likely the symptom rather than a cause of a relationship lacking in commitment.
When one spouse or both no longer feel special to their partner or receive the attention they once did, they may “clock-out” of the relationship and in some cases seek attention and intimacy outside their marriage.
Commitment is easy when things are good, but for a marriage to make it through the tough times, both spouses need to stay committed and realise that rarely is the grass greener on the other side.
A good marriage can often thrive when both spouses are able to commit to the happiness and well-being of the other person.
Most couples start a marriage with positive expectations about their partner and an optimistic outlook for their shared future. But expectations can change.
In marriage, everything from families and friends, to fairy tales, movies and magazines can influence what they expect a good marriage should look like and how a good partner should behave.
When one person expects their relationship to be a certain way and it doesn’t happen, for example, one spouse believes they should feel the same intense feelings of love all the time, it can trigger anxiety and resentment, which can severely hurt the relationship. Expecting that our expectations can change will help to create a more realistic outlook.
Every married couple argues with each other at some stage about things such as finances, debt, kids, intimacy, work, family and friends etc. Some issues like substance abuse and physical violence are a cause of greater conflict and concern that are ideally managed with the support of police and legal services.
Typically, every couple works to resolve these conflicts in their own way. But when people have unresolved issues that they inadvertently bring into a marriage, so long as they remain unresolved they can become the source of stress and arguments that can lead to high conflict and a very unhappy, unsustainable relationship. It’s important that these are addressed for the sake of the person and the marriage and family.
While the past doesn’t necessarily predict the future, some research suggests that adults of divorced parents are more likely to divorce than adults of parents who stayed married.
Judith Wallerstein studied the effects of divorce on the children and found that only 36% percent of adult children of divorced parents were happily married, compared with 73% of adult children of parents whose marriage remained intact.
Lack of communication
The easiest and most effective way to build trust in marriage is through open and honest communication. And the key to communication involves listening as well as speaking and coming together to solve the issue.
None of us are mind-readers (thank goodness). People each have their own world-views, belief systems and expectations and unless they regularly communicate these things with their partners, the harder it is to achieve and maintain a happy and healthy marriage.
Marriages, like all relationships, have an ebb and flow of ups and downs and smooth times and rough patches that can sometimes cause couples to grow apart.
Boredom, a lack of interest, a tendency to lead separate lives or life pressures can all create distance between couples over time. When couples grow apart, it’s typically not the fault of just one person not trying, but rather the result of two people’s unwitting choices to stop investing in “us”.
From the perspective of a specialist family lawyer, a good marriage can thrive when both spouses commit to the happiness and well-being of the other person.
And if the relationship is heading in the wrong direction, it’s critical to access appropriate support and guidance at an early stage. And speak with a well-motivated family lawyer who’s dedicated to achieving an outcome that’s in the best interest of you and your spouse.