Underlying Reasons for Divorce

There are many commonly held notions about the reasons for divorce. Oftentimes these “reasons” are actually symptoms of underlying, subterranean forces, which drive partners apart.

The most common attempts to escape these forces are symptoms such as infidelity and addictions/abuse syndromes, which, in and of themselves, often bespeak a combination of the following three dynamics.

  • Unspoken agendas, or put another way, marital vows that were the code, or subtitles, to the spoken vows—codes neither party understood or heard at the outset.

For example, it is said, on the surface, to remain committed through sickness and health, and to share lives forever. However, when one partner gets sick or loses a job, sometimes the agenda is revealed as one sided. One or both partners actually expects caregiving and sacrifice more from the partner than to give it, likely due from unmet needs at an earlier time in life. Revealing this “hidden agenda” causes frustration, hurt and abandonment feelings which sometimes lead to attempts to satisfy through addictions or affairs, if not through effective communication.

        2.  Poor communication, or put another way, underdeveloped mechanisms to manage conflict or differences of opinion, strong affect, and the inevitable changes that occur as people grow older and evolve into careers and family life.

For example, one person grew up in a family with a lot of overt hostility, who vowed never to get angry or lose his/her temper, out of the wish to “do better”, and not repeat the pain of his/her childhood. Similarly, his/her partner attempted to reverse childhood pain by vowing never to suppress his/her emotions, having grown up in a family that prohibited any expression of strong affect. Each sees in the other what they didn’t have, but want desperately, at times. In the ensuing years, a pattern of approach-avoidance is created that never resolves anything and only repeats past patterns. Each, sadly repeats for the other that which they thought they were escaping. Again, efforts to cope sometimes turn into an affair (or a strong passion outside of marriage) or an addiction/abuse of some sort.

        3. Partners whose psychological development has not achieved a healthy degree of separation-individuation, which leads to codependency. This, in turn, stabilizes the mutual neediness of one on the other, until the addiction is treated successfully. However, if both partners do not grow from this treatment, a mismatch of the original bond and attraction can occur.

Each of these reasons for divorce can sometimes lead to formal grounds for divorce in a legal entanglement. Many times, seeking marriage advice, or divorce counseling with a solution focused therapist, before these dynamics explode, can help to avert a divorce crisis.

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