Thursday, March 18, 2010

"We've grown apart."

I've been thinking through the machinations of the pre-divorce process, all of the dance that leads up to parting ways and making it legal.

There are many roads that people take to get to a divorce.  Few of them are open and above board, but they are still pathways to accomplish the objective of separation.  I have been told that most people get divorced because of financial difficulties.  After over 20 years of working with people about their reasons for getting a divorce, I don't think that's true.

Couples may have different ways of handling their finances.  Financial difficulties are certainly stressful and can put a strain on a marriage, but, in the early days of a relationship, I think our experience tells us that some spark is in the relationship that makes the financial difficulties manageable, something that makes them shared.  That something is what leaves a relationship.  The lack of that something is what causes divorce.

Consider some of the other reasons people get divorced.  Perhaps it is adultery.  Are the couple getting divorced because of adultery, the act of sleeping with another person?  I think that is putting the cart before the horse, if you'll pardon the imagery.  For the "adulterer" its as if the relationship was peachy and then, whoops, I committed adultery.  That just doesn't ring true.  Accidental adultery rarely happens.  People fall out of love and become interested in playing the field again, then adultery happens.  By the time adultery happens, the adulterer is already long gone from the marriage.

And for the aggrieved spouse, would you say that you would have your spouse back but for her adultery?  Imagine your spouse the moment before the adultery, the hour before the adultery, perhaps the week before the adultery.  In all these times, steps were taken, wittingly or unwittingly, to have sex outside the marriage.  Is that what you want back?  If you knew your spouse's heart a minute, an hour and a week before the act, wouldn't you say that you don't want to be married to someone who is as unattached to your marriage as your spouse was?

How about addictions?  I'm certainly not such a moralist as to assert that if the addicted spouse were really committed to the relationship they would stop their addictive behavior.  But, from the addicted spouse's perspective, there is something more important to them than their relationship: their addiction.  Whether the addiction is a choice or not, it is how the addicted spouse is living their life, committed to something more significant than their spouse.

From the other spouse's perspective, do you want to remain married to someone who is more committed to their addiction than to you?  Perhaps you thought you signed on " sickness and in health...," but does that mean "in enabling" too? 

In short, people sometimes, offtimes, grow apart.  As the phrase goes, the spark is gone and love dies.

I wonder and often assert that if spouses could take themselves back in time, before the act that brought the house of cards down, if they could say at that moment to their spouse, "I release you," then I suspect some of the anguish and anger could be removed from the process.  The pain would remain, but it would be more melancholy than harsh and raw.

After a period of time, unique to each person, the perceived cause of the divorce dies away and the couple often relate as though they had grown apart anyway. 

"We've grown apart" feels a lot less accusatory.  If severing the relationship is inevitable, isn't a lot less accusatory a preferable way to go?

Michael Manely

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