Divorce can be an uncomfortable subject that people don’t like talking about, but it’s important nonetheless and something over two million people experience in the US each year. Pierre Mata, a senior clinician with Family Houston answers the following questions about divorce.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON REASONS FOR DIVORCE ?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an alarming increase in the number of couples filing for divorce. In my clinical opinion, the health crisis has revealed the vulnerabilities in many couple relationships. The move to work from home, shelter in place, limited social interaction, limited social activities—all of these changes have been stressful for everyone. However, it’s easy to get caught up in a routine: work, family responsibilities, social activities. Couples can miss the signs of deeper marital issues. The pandemic has changed all that. As for the most common reasons for divorce:
- Loss of love & incompatibility
- Long-standing and unresolved conflicts
- Breakdown of marital functioning (poor communication and boundary violations
- Major boundary violations (infidelity, domestic violence, unaddressed substance abuse and mental health issues
WHAT ARE SOME ISSUES OR PROBLEMS THAT COUPLES ARE FACING WHO ARE CONSIDERING DIVORCE? HOW CAN THEY CAN WORK TO SAVE THEIR MARRIAGE?
- Seek professional help as soon as possible. As with any other problem, the longer marital issues are unaddressed, the difficult and costly they will be to resolve.
- Before starting on the process evaluate:
- Whether you really want to continue to be married to your partner
- What you want your marriage to look like
- What are you willing to do to achieve the kind of marriage you envision?
- I would also recommend that partners consider how their spouses responded to those questions
WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS THAT IT MIGHT BE TIME TO CONSIDER DIVORCE OR SEPARATION?
- If you or your partner are not willing to invest time and effort to make the changes necessary to restore your marriage
- If your partner has committed a major boundary violation, or if they are unwilling to address a serious substance abuse or mental health issue
- If the home environment is toxic for you, your spouse, and your children
AN ARTICLE STATES THAT MEN DON’T LIKE TO TALK ABOUT DIVORCE MORE SO THAN WOMEN. DO YOU THINK THAT’S ACCURATE FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A THERAPIST AND IF IT IS SOMETHING YOU’VE NOTICED WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
There are exceptions, of course, but I would say that in my experience, this is true. I think that there are significant differences between men and women in terms of communication and emotional intelligence. I hesitate to be emphatic about the reason for these differences. Is it biological? Is it cultural? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that couples need to be able to talk about these issues and unfortunately many wait too long to talk about tough topics.
WHAT ARE SOME NORMAL THINGS FOR SOMEONE TO FEEL OR GO THROUGH WHEN EXPERIENCING A DIVORCE THEY MIGHT NOT EXPECT?
I talk a lot about grief and loss for couples who are considering divorce. Many couples who come to therapy are already experiencing what is called “precipitory grief”. Most people know this as the “five stages of grief”. (Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.)
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN SUGGEST TO THOSE COUPLES WHO MAY BE GOING THROUGH A ROUGH PATCH BUT STILL WANT TO SAVE THEIR MARRIAGE?
Couples ask me all the time if I think there is any hope for their marriage. I tell them that I would not be a therapist if I did not believe that there was hope for couples who are experiencing severe conflict. Of course, there are no guarantees that even the most skilled therapist will be able to help. However, I believe that many marriages could be saved if BOTH individuals are willing to look at their contribution to the conflict, ask for and give forgiveness, work to learn health ways to communicate and resolve conflicts, attempt to be sensitive to and meet their partner’s needs, and be patient with one another as they work to grow.
Special thanks to Pierre Mata for providing this insight. If you or someone you know is going through a divorce or having relationship struggles you can make an appointment with a Family Houston counselor by calling 713-861-4849.