It’s that time of the year again when my family solicitor and family mediator friends in particular are girding up their loins for their busiest week of the year.
Strange, isn’t it that directly after the season of love, joy peace, goodwill and happy families, there is a stampede of applications for divorces more than at any other time of the year.
Now let’s be clear, many of those people applying for divorces never should have married each other in the first place, and they will move on and may well live happily ever after, but more than likely will make the same mistake again.
Amongst those making applications are many, and you may be one of them, who deep down love your partner, after all, you have history together, go back a long way, have children, a home, friends in common and perhaps joint business interests, even some very happy memories.
I know how it feels
My first marriage eventually broke down very acrimoniously after 18 years and three children. Yes, it was at Christmas time. There is always that hanging on for the last family Christmas together. The whole experience was traumatic for all of us. It prompted me to look into how the process could have been managed more helpfully, especially for my children.
Now with more than 30 years experience of working in social work, family therapy, family mediation, psychotherapy and relationship coaching, with literally tens of thousands of individuals, couples and families, I have learned to view intimate relationships developmentally. There are phases and stages to them which most people don’t understand; and you may just be at the end of a phase and pushing to move to a new one, without realizing it. It can seem like the end, when it is just the end of a phase..
Studies show that one in five who divorce are not significantly happier, and part of the reason I do the work I do, is from my work as a family mediator seeing the pain of those couples who clearly never should have divorced! Their anguish was nothing short of tragic.
It breaks your heart
It breaks your heart that this is what all those years together have come to, but the thought of carrying on in this now apparently loveless marriage and the painful loneliness of it, has become utterly unbearable. The prospect of another year like last year is unthinkable; the cold contempt you have for each other, the lack of any kind of connection, the struggle just to be civil, and the chasm as you each cling to the edge of your own side of the bed. It’s tearing you apart and you have decided to wind it up for once and for all.
How it used to be
It hurts even more when you think of how it used to be, when you couldn’t tear yourselves away from each other and would talk and make love late into the night sharing your hopes and dreams for the future. Where did it all go?
You feel so helpless and powerless when you see the puzzlement on your children’s faces now that there is no laughter in your home anymore. You’ve been rubbing along like housemates for a long time, sharing bed, bills and chores, but not much else. And it is so lonely!
You thought you could hack it for the children’s sake, but you can see they are starting to feel disturbed by the increasingly frequent vicious outbursts between you and your spouse.
You have tried everything
Every time it looked like there might be a glimmer of hope, that things may be improving, it didn’t last long. You have tried everything you can think of, without any success. Divorce now seems to be the only way out of this agony. It’s not what you want, but there’s no alternative. You don’t know what else to do, and the last straw was being prescribed anti-depressants.
You don’t know what you don’t know
The fact is, although it may look (and feel) like the end, that may not be true.
It all depends on your point of view. Just because you have tried everything you can think of, doesn’t mean there are not some things neither of you know about! After all, they don’t teach you about this stuff at school
In the words of Buckminster Fuller, “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
Marriages, like the caterpillar go through various stages, and what seems like death to the caterpillar is simply the beginning of a new if unpleasant stage.
The growth phase
At the beginning of a relationship, most couples go through a huge growth period. The whole business of coupling, which includes falling in love, hopefully getting to know each other (this often doesn’t happen), organising a wedding, finding a house, creating a home, and usually followed up with planning a family; all of this constitutes a significant level of growth and maturity for most couples. It meets a need.
And then there were three
Becoming parents is another phase that takes life into a totally different ballpark. Whilst there’s a lot of connection and anticipation in becoming a happy family unit, the reality is that becoming a family means you will never be just a couple again (unless you consciously factor it in). There is a loss involved, but in the joy and excitement of the arrival of your offspring, you don’t notice or at least you avoid talking about it.
Because you want to be good parents and give your children the security that comes from having a routine, you find the rhythm of your life changes to suit their needs. You don’t go out together as a couple so much anymore (if at all), and in any case, time, energy and money are in shorter supply, as is your sex life. Life definitely becomes harder, and there is little that prepares you for the level of change that occurs. Many marriages break down soon after the birth of a child.
The loss of being a couple
The carefree lovers that you once were, got lost in the chrysalis of becoming parents. With the arrival of other children, it means that this need for child focus can last for 15 – 20 years. I have seen couples with no family network nearby to help with childcare, and they may never have had a night together away from the children for more than 7 years!
Some parents are reluctant to have babysitters, so they don’t ever have any time out of the home as a couple. It goes without saying, the erosion that this set-up can have on an intimate relationship. No wonder the spark goes out.
It has to be said, this is not necessarily about the marriage not working out, but rather how folk choose to manage their lives.
Without realizing, with the passing of the years a creeping disconnection happens to most couples. You no longer feel quite so valued by each other, in fact you feel much more significant and important to your work colleagues than your partner. Going home doesn’t hold the same attraction that it once did. This is when affairs can happen.
Time passes and by the time you notice the chasm between you and your spouse, it is difficult to bridge the gap. It is easy then to assume it is all over.
Mend It Don’t End It
I saw a couple about 8 years ago. They had been sleeping in separate rooms for six years! They had agreed when their youngest child was old enough for University they would divorce, but thought it might be useful to “talk to somebody” first. They did not feel they any longer had a marriage, nor did they much care for each other any more, but they agreed to give my Mend It Don’t End It process a try to see if there was anything in their relationship that could be salvaged. I last saw them 2 years ago, still together and happily married sharing a room. J
The Mend It Don’t End It process gets its name from high court Judge Paul Coleridge who expressed the view that more couples should make attempts to mend their marriages before bringing them to an end.
The process is a clear structured process consisting of 10 steps you can take to check out if your marriage is salvageable within an agreed 3 months. Many couples find that by committing to this process and to making the marriage a priority for 3 months, that the spark can be re-ignited and they can then move forward together. For some, it becomes clear that they do not have the resources to be able to make a go of the marriage, but as a couple, they can both say to themselves, each other and their children, that they made every effort.
To find out more, you can buy my book http://amzn.to/2irLkrl on Amazon.
To find out more about my Mend It Don’t End It Coaching packages contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a Free Skype coaching call.