Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Divorce

Why Certain Life Events Lead to Divorce

Pivotal events cause people to question whether they are living their best life

What do a heart attack, parent dying, job loss and a car accident have in common?

They are all what I call, "pivotal events." These events - though life-altering in their own right - lead people to make other life changing decisions - divorce being one of the most common.

I myself had a pivotal event in 1986. I was in a major car accident that should have killed or crippled me. It did neither. Coming so close to my own demise, and knowing how fortunate I was to escape relatively unscathed, I decided that I was not going to waste another minute putting off my dreams. I got a new job, began a regular exercise program and I enrolled in graduate school at NYU. My life was forever altered by the jolt my accident caused.

Pivotal events often cause people to question what they really want and whether they are living their life to the fullest. People begin to scrutinize themselves, their job, spouse, home and friends. If any of these areas was lacking something or was in question prior to the event, it is very likely to receive a major overhaul.

These events can certainly make relationships stronger and bring people closer together if, for example, the person who experienced the event realized that she was taking those around her for granted. Yet, in my years of working with divorcing people, I frequently hear stories of these pivotal events coming before a divorce.

One woman told me that, after her father died, and she received an inheritance, she didn't want to stay in her loveless marriage any longer (and she didn't need to stay for financial security another minute).

In a similar situation, the husband of a couple I work with received an inheritance when his 90 year-old mother died and, while his marriage wasn't loveless, there was enough doubt about his marriage that he felt he wanted to explore being single.

Just last week, a man contacted me after his wife of 22 years told him she no longer wanted to stay married to him. She had just received her last dose of chemotherapy for breast cancer and wanted to devote the rest of her life to caring for herself rather than caring for others.

Things to Consider Before Making Big Changes to Your Life

1) No major decisions for 90 days after the pivotal event: As I mentioned earlier, a pivotal event is often life-altering in and of itself. As such, it may require time to integrate the change(s) the event caused in body, mind and spirit. People are often vulnerable to making a rash decision because of what I call the "now or never" factor. This is a somewhat false sense of urgency that is often imposed when a person doesn't trust him or herself to act in self care. If a decision is truly the right decision now, it will be the right decision in three months. It's best to assess your choices from a more grounded place than in reaction to a major event.

2) Understand that others have been impacted by this event too: Your loved ones will be impacted by your health status, your hospital stay/recovery, financial changes (positive and negative) and the loss of their mother or father-in-law. Take this into consideration when you are deciding what your next move will be. You will be more considerate of others if you keep this in mind.

3) Seek outside opinion before acting: Whether it's the counsel of a good and trusted friend, or a paid professional, I think better decisions are made and decisions are made in a better way when there is someone acting as a sounding board or guide for you.

No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author. Failure to comply with these terms may expose you to legal action and damages for copyright infringement.

advertisement
More from Susan Pease Gadoua L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today