Why Do Marriages Fail?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marriages fail for many reasons but unmet expectations almost always play a major role. We enter the marriage with very complex and sometimes unrealistic expectations. Whether we were brought up with the “Brady Bunch” or the “Adams Family,” we all have an idea of what to expect in our marriage and family. When these expectations are met, we feel that we have been successful. When the relationship does not meet these expectations, we often feel as though we’ve failed and this can lead to disappointment, depression, or anger. Whether we blame ourselves or our partners for the failure does not seem to be terribly relevant. The bottom line is, that when the failed expectations are great, our disappointment is great. The greater the disappointment the greater the likelihood that a marriage will break apart.

Another source of trouble for marriages is the loss of a job or financial reversal, which can upset even the rosiest of relationships. Often intimate or sexual relationships change because of external pressures, new circumstances, or the maturation process. Our society is exceedingly mobile and this may mean that one partner is required by his or her job responsibilities to move to another part of the country. This kind of move may interfere with family or social relationships to the extent that one or both parties cannot deal with such a change. One party being away from the home for long periods of time due to job responsibilities can also cause great stress in a marriage. Unexpected circumstances which put stress on the marriage may ultimately contribute to its failure.

Another leading cause of marital failure is drug and/or alcohol abuse. More and more people in our society are becoming dependent on alcohol or other substances and this can lead to financial or emotional problems many people are unable to deal with successfully.

Physical problems can appear unexpectedly. An accident, a severe illness, or problems linked to the aging process can create stress for many marriages. Emotional problems are often difficult to deal with and understand. This may be a source of tremendous stress, which leads to a divorce.

Domestic violence is also a cause of marital break up. In fact, violence is often seen as one of the absolute reasons to end a marriage.

In addition to these obvious cataclysmic issues, there are also less dramatic but equally damaging causes of marital deterioration. The slow deterioration of a marriage can occur when couples experience “communication” problems. Often the couple develop at different rates, and find that they are less able to communicate meaningfully with each other. The exuberance and adventure of the youthful marriage gives way to the less exciting routine of the more mature marriage. If this natural process is not recognized and dealt with in a constructive manner, then fighting, arguing, and a gradual loss of affection takes place. This slow deterioration is often unnoticed for many years and only when the fighting or loss of affection reaches crisis proportions does the decision to end the marriage occur.

Another major cause of marital break-up is the inability to deal with crises. The loss of a job, a physical crisis or disability, the birth of a handicapped child, or, sometimes, the birth of any child, can trigger feelings and emotions that people were unaware of previously. The inability to deal with crisis may lead to the deterioration of a marital relationship and many prompt people to seek separation or divorce.

When circumstances lead to the deterioration of marriage, whether it occurs gradually or suddenly, the decision must be made whether to separate or to stay together and try to improve the situation.

A divorce is a legal decree signed by a judge which ends the legal union between two people. While this is true, a divorce is a legal event that ends the marriage, divorce is also a process which takes place over time.

The process of divorce includes the gradual unfolding of both legal issues and emotional issues. There are really two separate and parallel processes which culminate in the final legal event, the divorce decree. The legal process of divorce usually starts when one party makes it clear to the other that they want to “start an action”. There is usually some discussion between the two parties, directly or through counsel, complaints are generally set forth, and a process of negotiating the end of the marriage proceeds.

Whether couples choose an adversarial or mediated procedure, whether they begin with negotiation or litigation, eventually the two individuals reach some agreement on how they are going to handle all of the issues that must be addressed in any legal separation or divorce. Once the individuals reach an agreement a formal document is prepared delineating each of the points agreed upon. The document is then finalized through a formal signing and then through application to the courts for a final divorce decree. This legal process culminates in the legal event, the dissolution of the marital union. If the couple cannot reach agreement, whether in mediation or with counsel, a trial will be held and a judge will make the decision.

At the same time that the legal process takes place, there is a parallel emotional process. At the beginning there is the decision-making process which has already been described. There is usually a good deal of soul searching. With discussion of the divorce comes family disruption, worry, anxiety, and depression. As fighting takes place, there are the beginnings of separation and differentiation between the two parties.

As the negotiating process proceeds, the separation and differentiation continue as the parties try to find a comfort zone in which they can function. There is give and take on both sides. There are many occasions when anxiety, worry and anger flare up. Finally, as agreement is reached there is a sense of resignation. With agreement comes resolution and once the resolution becomes an emotional reality people start to moveon with their lives; they learn to live with the new realities of the divorce.

The legal event takes place with the issuing of the divorce decree, but the emotional process usually continues for some time after that. In the aftermath of the legal event individuals may feel sorrow, relief or confusion. If needed, the party should seek the professional care of a qualified therapist, either seperatly, together or as a family.

The emotional process of the divorce continues for many years after the legal event. Divorced couples must continue to work with each other on a number of issues, especially when there are children. A new interpersonal entity, “the divorced couple”, develops and changed over time. For more information, visit www.wandlaw.com, or email Mr. Wand atlegal@wandlaw.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .