When we get married or enter into a long term relationship, thinking about how to avoid divorce is far from our minds. Perhaps we think it won’t happen to us or that it’s not something you’d ever consider. Yet is seems to be the logical choice when a relationship really isn’t going as planned and has considerably broken down. Marriage is hard, but divorce can often be even more difficult. If you want to avoid divorce, it can be done, but it usually means changing our view of marriage, cultivating better ways of relating and time.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare reminds us of what we have known for hundreds of years: committed relationships are hard work. Although sometimes the language in his plays can be a bit tricky to understand without a reference book beside us, we often get the ‘vibe’ of what’s happening in his writing.
Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But either it was different in blood—
O cross! too high to be enthrall’d to low.
Or else misgraffèd in respect of years—
O spite! too old to be engag’d to young.
Or else it stood upon the choice of friends—
O hell! to choose love by another’s eyes.
Basically, we understand from the young lovers Lysander and Hermia that love isn’t easy and life can throw things at us that complicate our relationships, or our own choices can make a relationship difficult. An estimated 42% of marriages in Britain end in divorce; 30% of people in couples describe themselves as “actively unhappy but unable to leave”. Most of these marriages would have been born out of love, with expectations for remaining joyous being quite high. But the practicality of daily life means that very quickly couples can become miserable if they don’t have skills and attitudes to help them stay and work together day after day.
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Alain de Botton, internationally renowned author and philosopher, says, “Some people want to run away from marriage but by running away you miss out on growing up”. He is encouraging people the world over to develop their emotional skills so that their relationships can endure. De Botton challenges the idea that there is ‘just the right person’ for us. He says:
The right person is expected to be someone who shares our tastes, interests and general attitudes to life. This might be true in the short term. But, over an extended period of time, the relevance of this fades dramatically; differences inevitably emerge. The person who is truly best suited to us is not the person who shares our tastes, but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently and wisely. It is the capacity to tolerate difference that is the true marker of the right person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition.
We often complain, at tricky points in our relationships, that love has turned out to be too hard. Perhaps we are repeatedly arguing over small domestic details, perhaps it’s been a long while since there was some uninhibited fun and delight. The difficulties not only distress us in and of themselves, they can also feel illegitimate, contrary to the rules of love – and a sign that the relationship itself must be an error. This is a legacy of Romanticism, an ideology that lulls us into the unhelpful belief that love is not something to be worked at, because it is a feeling and not a skill. We need only surrender to our emotions, and our relationships will thrive. In fact, the contrary is true. We must study love the way we study anything else that matters. We should modestly accept the need to enrol at the school of love.
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So it seems that changing our attitude and expectations of what a marriage relationship is like can help us to avoid divorce. There are also some very practical things that have shown to be helpful if you want to avoid divorce. Here are some of those practical suggestions:
Spend time apart. This probably wasn’t the first idea that came to mind, but when you think about it, it really does make sense. We are individuals before we are a couple. We do not morph into one new creature when we marry our spouse. Have you noticed yet that doing absolutely everything together can drive you nuts? Doing every single thing together is not the sign of a truly happy couple. Being joined at the hip can be suffocating – especially if it means that you no longer choose to do anything that the other doesn’t like doing. It makes for a very reduced social pool and it means that opportunities for growth are quashed.
While it’s important to cultivate and develop shared interests, it’s also essential to encourage one another to pursue your varied interests. It speaks volumes about how you value one another as individuals and that you each bring unique ideas and gifts to the relationship.
Be thrifty. A recent study of 1,734 married couples revealed that couples who don’t value money very highly score 10 to 15 percent better on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than couples where one or both are materialistic. According to Jason Carroll, a professor at BYU and the lead author of the study, materialistic couples exhibit “eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other.”
Have sex. According to a recent article on The Huffington Post, there are more than 17,000 people who identify with “I Live In a Sexless Marriage“ on the Experience Project. But if recent surveys are correct, the author speculates that this number doesn’t even come close to the actual figure, which she estimates as closer to 20 million married Americans. Moreover, couples who are dissatisfied with their sex life are more likely to consider divorce and/or term their marriage “unhappy.”
We also need oxytocin to ‘bind’ our marriages. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm. It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we understand that relationships can be hard and that sometimes, you can’t avoid divorce. We aim to help you through the divorce process with compassion and efficiency. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced family lawyers. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.