- These are issues that can be addressed in couple’s therapy if both partners are willing to work on the relationship.
- Divorce may be your only option if you are miserable in your relationship, and you know that you have left no stone unturned.
- If divorce makes sense, focus on your safety and the welfare of your children and have a respectful divorce so you can heal and move on.
When Kate came to my office, she said that she was considering divorcing her husband, Tom. This was our first meeting, so I asked her to tell me more about her marriage, and I asked her a number of questions about what she had done to try to keep the marriage together. After all, there were three young children to consider.
Now, to be clear, I am not someone who advocates for divorce. However, I advocate for children, and when a divorce is going to happen, I advocate for the most respectful divorce possible.
Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen did a collaborative divorce to preserve the children’s sense of family and stability. I hope their divorce will be a model for many couples who choose to divorce.
7 Common Reasons That People Divorce
- We have communication problems.
- There is infidelity.
- We’ve grown apart.
- There's no sex or physical intimacy.
- We aren’t “partners” anymore.
- We got married too young.
- There’s no emotional support.
These are issues that can be addressed in couple’s therapy if both partners are willing to work on the relationship. The key word here is “work,” because it takes time and effort for you and your spouse to change relationship dynamics. If there are tiny embers, love can be rekindled.
If your spouse is unwilling to work on the marriage, or if nothing has changed after six months of weekly marital therapy sessions, you might reassess your decisions, your efforts, and your goals. You might accept staying in an unhappy marriage. You might recommit to counseling or begin talking about separation.
Divorce may be your only option if you are miserable in your relationship, and you know that you have left no stone unturned. Alan decided to leave his marriage when the stress of his unhappiness and the continuing conflict with his partner exacerbated his chronic physical health problems.
9 Obvious Reasons to Divorce
In the past and still, in some areas, there are legal reasons to divorce. Here are nine issues that suggest that a divorce is necessary or makes sense, even if you haven't sought marital therapy.
- Repeated affairs or being unwilling to end an affair. Amy discovered her husband continued his affair long after he told her it was over. “No wonder couples counseling wasn’t working!” she told me.
- You discover that your partner is already married to someone else. Janice discovered her husband had another family and that his “travel for work” was actually time with his other wife and children. “He has a whole secret life I just discovered!” Meghan told me.
- Your partner has disappeared or abandoned you. You have no idea where she went and no way to contact her. “She said she was going to meet a friend for dinner and never came home,” Joe said. He filed missing-person reports and contacted all their friends and relatives, but she seemed to have vanished. A year later, Joe received a postcard from his wife. It read, “I’m not coming back, so do what you need to do.” He was relieved because he had been a suspect in her disappearance. He filed for divorce.
- Marriage between close relatives. Pete married his first cousin, Suzie, after agreeing that they wouldn’t have children. Later, Suzie begged him to change his mind because “my biological clock is running out.” She did not want to adopt a child, and Pete simply did not want to be a father. When Pete refused to change his mind, they mutually agreed to divorce so that she could find a new partner.
- Forced marriage or fraud in obtaining the marriage. These are sometimes called “sham” marriages when someone marries only to obtain a green card, or “servile” marriages when a woman is trafficked into a marriage. Other fraud examples are when a spouse gets someone to help him hide assets, secret bank accounts, etc.
- Criminal conviction and/or imprisonment. Jerry decided to divorce his wife after it was discovered that she’d been embezzling money at her job for years. He filed for divorce while she was incarcerated. In another case, Phil had been arrested and convicted for exposing himself to a young woman in public. While he was not imprisoned, his wife said she couldn’t stay in the relationship.
- Emotional or physical abuse. Maggie described multiple examples of her husband’s threats, insults, and pushing/shoving during arguments. She was afraid of him and felt completely beaten down by his continued criticisms and name-calling. The children cowered in his presence. Then she discovered that he’d put a recording device in her purse and tracked all her movements and conversations. We worked together to create a safety plan, moving her and her children into a safe house, and she filed for divorce.
- Drug or alcohol addiction. If your spouse has an untreated addiction, it can be dangerous for you and/or your children. When Chrissy had a second DUI in one month, her husband filed for divorce. “She had the children in the car when she was pulled over,” he told me. “That was the last straw.” The court gave him full custody of the children until Chrissy was able to prove her sobriety.
- Serious mental illness. Rich married his high-school sweetheart, Alix. They were happy together for several years, but then Alix had a psychotic break and was hospitalized. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, her symptoms worsened despite medication, and she became violent. Finally Rich made the difficult decision to move her to a residential program where she could be supervised and supported. Then he filed for divorce.
A Painful Decision Under Any Circumstances
As you consider the fate of your relationship, step back to assess the problems in your marriage. Consider whether you might be able to repair the relationship with counseling, especially if you have children. Couples counseling, as early as possible, can protect you and your family from the pain and long-term effects of divorce. If your efforts fail, divorce may be your best option.
However, if one or more of the nine issues above underlies your marital problems, divorce makes sense, especially if your safety, or the safety of your children, is at stake. Consult a therapist to get help thinking it through. Get all the support you need from family and friends. Focus on your safety and the welfare of your children. And try to have a respectful divorce so that you can heal and move on.
© Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. 2022
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