November 30


Why You May Not See a Divorce Coming: What To Do When It Happens

Divorce can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience, but sometimes it is necessary to end an unhealthy or unhappy marriage. Unfortunately, even when things appear to have gone wrong in the relationship, one partner may not realize that divorce is imminent until it has already been initiated by their spouse. This lack of warning can come as a complete shock and leave the unsuspecting party feeling blindsided. 

Despite your best attempts at understanding your spouse’s needs and working through issues together, there could still be underlying problems leading up to the decision that divorce is inevitable—whether you’re expecting it or not.

The Changing Landscape of Divorce

According to census data, both marriage and divorce rates are declining in the United States. There were 9.7 divorces per 1,000 women in 2009, and that number dropped to 7.6 in 2019. Looking at that data another way, 14.9 marriages ended in divorce in 2019. The median duration of marriage also increased by nearly a year since 2010, going from 19 years to 19.8.

Although divorce is becoming less common, it can still happen without warning if there are issues in the relationship that have gone unresolved. There may not be any outward signs of trouble, but subtle shifts within the marriage may go unnoticed by one partner while being picked up on by the other.

3 Major Reasons That You May Not See a Divorce Coming

There are many signs that might indicate a couple is headed towards divorce, but they may be so subtle that one partner can miss them. Here are three potential reasons why you may not see it coming:

You Struggle With Accepting Change

Relationships are never static. They evolve and change over time, as do the needs and wants of both partners. One partner may be feeling that their needs are not being met or fulfilled in the relationship, without realizing it themselves. If you’re struggling with accepting change, then any shifts within your marriage can easily go unnoticed until it is too late.

You Get Too Comfortable

This is a problem that plagues many long-term relationships: complacency. When two people have been together for a long time, they can get too comfortable with each other and assume that nothing will be changing in the foreseeable future—even if one partner is feeling unfulfilled or dissatisfied with life.

It’s like being on “emotional autopilot,” where you’re going through the motions of your marriage without really paying attention to your partner’s feelings. This complacency can make it difficult to ask the real questions about how your relationship is going, until the cracks really start to show.

You Stop Thinking of Your Spouse as a Real Person

Sometimes, when we take our spouses for granted, we can dehumanize them. We may start to think of them as an object in our lives, rather than a real person with feelings and wants. With this kind of mindset, it’s easy to forget that they too have their own thoughts on the relationship and what is or isn’t working for them.

A Real Marriage Story

In this article, a man named Rick was brave enough to share the story of his experience with divorce. 

Rick’s experience of going through his things after his divorce, which reminded him of the feeling of mourning a death, is a metaphor for how he felt in the process. After his wife of 14 years decided to leave him, he felt like part of his identity had died and he went through a period of intense mourning, not only for his marriage, but for his sense of self. 

He slowly recovered, with the help of reconnecting with people in his community and reflecting on what he wanted from a relationship. In the end, he realized that he had to be true to himself, and he was able to find a new sense of identity.

If you are divorcing or recently divorced, consider taking The Crisis Cure™ Quiz. Your crisis score will help you understand your stress level and how well you are coping. If you would like help overcoming your crisis, click here to learn more about The Crisis Cure™ Course and Coaching Program.

How to strengthen your marriage

Divorce can be an emotionally devastating experience, and for many it’s a last resort option when all other attempts to save the marriage have failed. To prevent this from happening in your own relationship, here are some steps you can take.

    1. Speak openly about your feelings with each other and actively listen to one another without judgment or blame. 

    1. Make time for yourselves as a couple outside of work and family commitments; even if it’s just going out on date night occasionally or taking weekend trips away together to reconnect with one another—a strong connection is key.

    1. Be mindful of changes within the relationship (even small ones) so that you can address them before they become larger issues; communication is essential here.

    1. Don’t forget why you fell in love in the first place—remind yourself often of what made your partner special enough for you marry them, then act accordingly every day towards them too.

    1. Never be afraid of seeking out counseling or therapy if needed. Professional guidance can be a great way to iron out any issues before they become irreversible.

Divorce can be an overwhelming and heartbreaking experience, but it is often the only way to end a relationship that has become unhealthy. It’s important to remember that even if you don’t see any signs of trouble in your marriage, there could still be underlying issues leading up to a decision for divorce. 

By staying mindful of changes within your relationship and communicating openly with each other about feelings, wants and needs; as well as taking time out for yourselves as a couple and seeking professional help if needed, you can strengthen your marriage and avoid any unwelcome surprises.

Bruce Fleck, PhD

About the Bruce Fleck, PhD

I help professionals overcome a health, career, or relationship crisis and make it a turning point for building a better life.

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