If you’re getting married, there’s a fair chance your marriage won’t last in the long run. That’s because in Australia today, one out of every three marriages ends in divorce, with the median duration of marriage to a divorce being 12 years.
In the US, the statistics are closer to one out of every two marriages ending in divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.
Is divorce a response to the midlife crisis?
The average age of divorce in Australia is in the low to mid-forties for men and women.
It may be a cliche, but this often relates to the general midlife crisis that many women and men experience when they enter middle age. It’s often a time of reappraising your life – what you’ve done and what you haven’t done – and recognition that there may not be much more of your life left to live.
Another phenomenon is called the “HSC divorce.” The HSC divorce occurs where couples that have teenage children choose to stay together until the youngest child finishes their final HSC exams prior to entering university. Once their exams are over, and the youngest is off to university, these couples quickly file for divorce.
Why are women and men leaving marriages?
In a recent interview with the Daily Mail Online on the topic of why men are leaving marriages, I responded to the question: What are the top reasons men are leaving marriages? It occurred to me that many of the reasons men leave were also reasons why women leave.
Of course, there are many different reasons why men and women leave a marriage, but these are some of the most common ones I’ve seen in my counselling practice.
1. Too much conflict in the marriage
Long-term, unresolved conflict in a marriage can have severe consequences. When you and your partner are caught in cycles of criticism and defensiveness, this erodes your ability to feel safe, secure, and loved. It also impacts the goodwill between you and your partner and contributes to you steadily growing apart.
It’s important you learn how to repair emotional upsets and feel connected again after a fight with your partner.
2. Living parallel lives
Couples that gradually drift apart to the point of living parallel lives are a big reason why women and men leave marriages. Every intimate relationship needs to have a combination of commitment, sex and friendship. When one or more of these things are missing, you’ve got a lopsided relationship.
Intimacy and connection are closely tied to self-esteem and confidence. When your intimate connection with your partner fades or even altogether stops, you can be left feeling disempowered, frustrated, depressed, or hopeless.
It’s vital you work on your friendship and intimate connection with your partner, so you feel like you’re are each other’s priority in your lives and you can enjoy sharing your lives together.
3. Sexual betrayal
There is no doubt that sexual betrayal has massive consequences on marriages. When your partner betrays you, it’s a huge blow to your self-esteem and confidence. You may start to doubt everything you’ve shared with your partner in your marriage.
4. Feeling under-appreciated
The core of any good relationship is feeling appreciated. The expression of care, kindness, and love is integral to sustaining any long-term relationship.
Feeling under-appreciated for periods of time can lead some people to start to look outside the relationship to get their needs met. This can lead to emotional or sexual affairs which are a common cause of the dissolution of marriage.
5. Not dealing with issues in the marriage
The opposite problem of having too much conflict in the marriage is not having enough. Couples that avoid conflict are in real danger of their relationship not surviving in the long-term.
We’ve all heard of the friendly couples who seem so happy for decades and then suddenly get divorced with no warning. These couples are the conflict-avoiders. They bury issues and avoid straight-talk with each other. Women and men that leave these marriages have often been silently fuming inside for many years.
6. Lack of emotional and sexual connection
A lack of emotional or sexual connection can be a reason for divorce. When you feel emotionally or sexually disconnected from your partner, this can be a very lonely experience. Some couples are happy to remain non-sexual companions, but for other couples, a lack of sexual connection is a deal-breaker.
Many couples struggle to reconnect after long periods of feeling disconnected because they don’t know how to break the ice from months or even years of growing apart.
When couples are not willing to address the reasons for growing apart this can certainly lead to divorce. In all marriages, the individuals in the relationship need to grow and this, in turn, helps the marriage grow.
What can couples on the brink of getting a divorce do to salvage their relationship?
Sadly, 40% of couples divorce without seeking professional help. The most important thing you can do if you’re on the brink of divorce is to seek the help and support of a professional marriage counsellor.
A marriage counsellor can help you understand the hidden dynamics that are contributing to your dissatisfaction in your marriage.
When you’ve invested so many years in a marriage with someone you love, it’s worth doing everything to help save the relationship before you get a divorce. Relationship therapy has been proven to be highly effective for many marriages that are on the brink of divorce.