By: Marlene Affeld ~
In today’s society, you hear about various reasons for a marriage to end. Typically, the disenchanted parties blame finances or infidelity. Marriages do not end just because of events; divorce occurs when a couple has become estranged from each other and one or both of the parties have sought solace outside the marriage. This devastating action is called turning. Turning is the source of the dissolution and despair that results in a divorce action.
If you are the party seeking the divorce, it may seem obvious to you why your marriage is ending. If you are still in love with your partner and “blind-sided” by the divorce, you may find clarity as you reflect upon the signs that led up to your spouse electing to end the relationship. Marriages dissolve slowly like erosion. The dissolution starts with one tiny misstep after another, until the sum of these actions becomes so corrosive that the foundation of the union collapses.
Examining the deterioration of your marriage requires courage. Understanding what happened to other typical couples, and what happened to you, can help normalize the situation and allow you to move on with your life. If you are the partner that initiated the divorce action, you will receive a clearer understanding of why. If you didn’t, looking back will help you understand that it wasn’t an isolated event that could have been prevented. Turning occurred before either party recognized the signs or understood their significance.
Although particulars vary from couple to couple, a predictable sequence of events occurs as a marriage dissolves. While you are experiencing this process, it is difficult or near impossible to see. As impartial outsiders, we can identify the turns —- where he changed into a workaholic and she focused all her energy on decorating the home, or he spent all his spare time fishing while she spent hers at the gym. When marital partners reach outside the relationship for satisfaction, it is not always in the form of sex, drugs or alcohol. Frequently it’s something innocuous or even positive, such as focusing attention on the children or lobbying for a promotion on the job. However, it’s turning all the same.
Like erosion, turning is incremental and insidious. Had you seen it coming, one or both of you may have been able to stop it. If you saw a sign, you didn’t recognize it or acknowledge how devastating it could be. Turning happens; it is no one’s fault.
Many couples fight occasionally. Healthy conflict can be an effective and valid method for a couple to resolve problems. Conflict alone doesn’t mean a marriage is about to implode. Some couples actually enjoy arguing and making up. Adding addiction phrases to your conversation can turn the tide from anger to lust.
As it is unlikely to be the real issue, forget conflict. Marriages get into trouble because couples cannot determine how to help each other while still meeting their own needs. At this juncture, arguments may involve excessive shaming and blaming. “You are always grumpy, distracted and tired. We rarely have sex anymore, she shouts. He retaliates with, “Yeah, if you would lose 20 pounds you would have something intriguing to say, I could find you sexy again.”
The argument is a red herring, but it does provide valuable insight into what is actually going on within the marriage, even if the real problem is not the issues voiced.
Consider the argument above. She is complaining that he is self-absorbed and irritable. What she is truly saying, is that he is not paying attention to her anymore and she feels insecure. His reply blames her weight for his lack of sexual interest, but he is really expressing that he is deeply anxious about his job security and that he is withdrawn, stressed and exhausted from worry about their financial future. Please help me!
Because of the guilt, shame and blame injected into their interaction, neither person hears their partner’s real concerns. As a result, they fail to communicate what the other really needs to hear. Had her statement been, “I am so lonely when you are at work. I love you. I miss you so much when you are gone,” and had his response been, “I really miss spending time with you too, but I am worried that we are overspending and my job may be in jeopardy. I am working extra hours to make extra income. I feel incredible pressure to earn more money. I really hate this as much as you do, perhaps more. What can we as a couple do to remedy the situation?” Who could fail to respond to this kind of open communication?
Although you may have missed opportunities in your marriage to establish real communication, there is significant value in gaining understanding and insight to where those tiny missteps occurred that finally drove your marriage onto the rocks.