10.02.2016



After seeing this recent article in the Huffington Post, "To The Couple Who is Staying Together For the Kids" 

I couldn't NOT respond. The author's leap from "emotional disconnection" is harmful to children got my attention. Given that the current divorce rate is hovering at 50% percent (and higher for second marriages and blended families), I would say that people are divorcing quite regularly. Anything that fails more than half the time would be considered a high-risk gambit. 

I'd like to introduce you to Ester Perel, who studies our modern day sex-starved marriage, with a strong suggestion that Americans uniquely hold unreasonable expectations that all of our needs be met by one person (he/she/they must be a hands-on parent, hard worker, stay fit, personal expansive, talkative like my friends, willing to do yoga on Sundays, interesting, sexual, romantic, able to throw in laundry and cook up a nice meal. Phew!)

John Gottman, our leader in marital studies and research, states that short of *contempt or *abuse, marriage can almost always be repaired. Most couples, post-infidelity, still want to stay married. Feeling "emotionally disconnected" is not a strong enough reason to divorce; you won't feel connected when your wife, new baby and 4-year old son have had the flu for 8 days, which then turns into post-partum blues, or depression, even anger.


In any marriage of duration, there are long periods of emotional disconnection: health challenges, financial hardship, births, job stress, everyday fatigue, death (literal and figurative), boredom, strong dislike and disappointment. Marriages in the "rearing young child" phase will experience their lowest marital satisfaction in their lifetime. Because it's freaking hard!

Carl Jung said that we must swing from in-love (feeling) to loving (action); a mature and Herculean transition that is not culturally reinforced or admired, sadly. Weddings, great sex and being in love are early stages of romance...not a marriage do they make). 

I will never forget a powerful interview with Sting, happily married for a second time to his powerhouse wife going on, maybe 30 years, with a few children under his belt. He said that, to this day, he has not recovered from his first divorce, citing guilt and the enormous sense of failure.

I will match the writer's expert opinion to "not stay just for the kids" with my 35 years in social services working with families. A divorced mother's lifestyle diminishes post divorce. And yes, children suffer post-divorce across every metric (education, delayed pregnancy, gang and drug involvement).  That motive alone will NOT sustain a bad marriage but having children should motivate us to put our best foot forward - even crawl through broken glass to make it work. 

Marriage is the unintended journey. 
80 percent of couples post-divorce wish they had tried harder and sooner.good therapist will encourage change, insight, personal responsibility, and new communication skills. We know that people want to be loved and feel contented - and fast.

Ann Rice (noted author) says that she was married and divorced many times, to the same man. People usually want a new marriage BUT with the same person.  Yes, sometimes we are solely married to the commitment of marriage. 

A good book is The Divorce Culture.  
Watch this Sue Johnson video, as she enables a couple to express themselves succinctly and hear one another fully. Or, Dr Bader
Freely Youtube Wm. Doherty or Michelle Weiner-Davis: both marriage proponents that offer a way to go for those with something to salvage (this does not include physical or verbally abusive relationships, active substance abuse or active infidelity).

Like organized religion or not, it is often the only support system that advocates efforts for "making it work." In other cultures, shame is a useful tool in keeping societal structure. Do we want that? Of course not, but one must see that we economically suffer with each divorce and threads of safety for our offspring diminish. Non-biological caregivers contribute to greater risk and less personal investment.

In a parenting group that I currently facilitate, we have discussed how few parents have child-care. Many times a couple cannot even attend therapy because there is no relative or trusted close friend on-hand to watch a young child. Our culture has not embraced "it takes a village" - and we often navigate marriage and child-rearing as a solo extreme sport; a very lonely passage.

The large majority of couples want to preserve their marriage, for a variety of intelligent reasons. When dismantling a business, the business owner, if he is compassionate and thoughtful, will think long and hard about the personal outcome to his employees and their families. I have watched business owners lay off or close an entire outfit, with tremendous pain, guilt and shame. We would call that being caring and and moral. 

Repair involves a deeper understanding of the other persons feelings. Mostly we want to be heard and understood. 

Can I get some of my needs met elsewhere? 
If my partner is not a good listener, or traveler, do I have a friend who is? If I love to hike and my partner doesn't, can I join a hiking club? (does it suck that we can't experience that together? Yes, but look at the other things he/she/they are so good at!) Am I giving 5 verbal positives to one negative criticism?

What's often on board is unreasonable expectations. Or, a lack of understanding about the other guys position, perhaps frequent disagreements on how to spend money or leisure time. Opposing parenting styles, rules of conduct with the opposite sex, in law conflict, substance abuse - all part of the co-existing challenge, Marriage 101.

Expect lengthy affection-droughts. There will be very dark months. Don't take your marital temperature every 15 minutes. 


Ending a marriage should not come down to barely-rinsed, unscraped plate in the dishwasher.

Global frustration (everything is dismal: displeasure or boredom with job, kids, friends, ‎family, life) is a sign that you are not in a good place. Divorce may remove tension and conflict but it will not make you feel better fast. Try a weekend marriage encounter, boot camp, couples conference, or personal retreat. 
The next step would be to work with a skilled clinician that can guide you through a structured separation, with an intentional goal of preserving the marriage and family, with changes and new ways of interacting. A separation is very different than simply living apart to see how that feels. We know how it feels - easier!

If leaving your marriage is ultimately in the cards, leave at the top of your game...make sure your health is solid, your faith and spiritual life have been watered; ensure that your job is fulfilling and your financial spending is fiscally sound. 

If you decide to call is quits on your youngest child's 18th birthday (yes, people do that), do not burden your child with "I stayed because of you." Staying married is a daily choice. Own it and do not make anyone else responsible for your unhealthy marriage.


When I was lumbering pregnant, I was told, "Don't cut your hair. It's not your hair you want to change." What good advice. 


Contempt: Disdain, the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.


Physical abuse: Includes property destruction, physical assault, holding one against their will, rage, explosive anger.


Verbal Abuse: Name calling, cursing, yelling, demoralizing language, threats to safety or well-being.