As a therapist I commonly hear some of the following reasons for wanting to get a divorce:
We’ve drifted apart.
We just don’t seem to have anything in common anymore
The romance is gone.
We don’t cuddle, hold hands, give gifts, or do things just because.
I still love him (her), I’m just not in love any more.
We’ve both changed so much. He (she) just isn’t the same person I married 17 years ago.
He (she) just gets on my last nerve with little irritating habits. I bring these up, but he (she) just won’t change.
Certainly all of the above can be distractive of a relationship, and can result in feelings of hopelessness and despair. But a good argument can be made that these can be reasonably easy to overcome with some work, and some outside help.
What are the five big issues that are much more difficult to resolve, and sometimes create an immediate need to separate or divorce?
1. At the top of the list is physical abuse and its close partner, emotional abuse. If you are in a relationship where either of these are occurring, I recommend that you remove yourself and children from the household immediately, and potentially seek legal protection.
2. Substance abuse is a close second. Where one spouse is addicted to a substance such as alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling, and if that addiction is leading to destructive behavior that is damaging the family, separation is recommended.
3. Adultery of any kind, but especially if long term or repeated, should result in separation. Even where the offense is a one-time event and unlikely to be repeated, it may be better for the relationship to create a temporary separation.
4. Failure to provide or participate in shared responsibilities. In most relationships there are expectations of who will work, who will clean, and who will change the diapers. Where on party has stopped holding up their end of the bargain, and appear unlikely to resume, a “time out” may be the best thing.
5. Abandonment is the final item. While it may seem obvious that when one partner has left the home, formal separation and divorce are the next natural steps, there is more to the picture. One need not leave the house to abandon the relationship. When the physical or emotional abandonment is so complete that there is little evidence of the partner being a part of the relationship, that is still abandonment.
With regard to the top five, I have had countless examples of families who are faced with one or more of these, and after counseling at Your Marriage Counselor, they have resolved the underlying problems and restored the marriage to excellent health. Therefore, just because your situation sounds like one of the top five, it is not an automatic reason to give up.
With regard to both the top five and the other list at the top of this article, recent studies have shown that couples who hung in there and got help can have an excellent marriage in the future. In fact five years after being in even a very bad marriage, 80% of those who stayed together called their marriage “happy.”