Certain life events can crack a marriage, from illness to job changes, infidelity to childbirth. And when babies grow up and leave the nest, it creates another stress-inducing shock to marriage, according to Time Inc. Network’s health.com.
Dr. Elizabeth Ochoa, marriage counselor and chief psychologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, listed seven life events that can lead to divorce. Her list was rounded out by trauma and living apart — which includes military couples who have one spouse deployed and the other at home.
Ochoa cited, among other things, a 2011 study from Ohio State University that showed men who don’t have jobs are both more apt to leave a marriage and more likely to be left.
That same year, a study reported in the Globe and Mailfound that “the top five reasons in the 2011 matrimonial survey, conducted by Grant Thornton UK are: falling out of love (27 percent), extramarital affair (25 percent), unreasonable behaviour (17 percent), midlife crisis (10 percent) and emotional/physical abuse (6 percent).”
It noted that was the first time in that survey that infidelity did not top its list. But “while many news media outlets are making the dethroning of infidelity into a big story, one couples counsellor told the Telegraph that growing apart is a common trap in many modern relationships because both partners are multitasking constantly, sometimes letting the health of the relationship suffer,” the article said.
Yourtango.com’s Stephanie Castillo wrote of that research, “Essentially, the survey has found that couples are more willing to work through a partner’s sexual indiscretions than they are through a dry, loveless relationship. And who can blame them?”
Ochoa’s not the first to make a numbered list — and not all lists cite the same threats to “happily ever after.” But infidelity is one that’s usually on the list of stresses that can rip apart a marriage.
Conversely, though, it can also bring a couple closer, Ochoa told health.com. “Cheating is often the thing that brings people to treatment, and sometimes they are able to see it as a starting point for new ways of communicating and reformulating their marital goals,” she said. “Other times, it’s the final nail in the coffin. If the affair has gone too far emotionally or gone on for too long, it’s more difficult to get past.”
The book “Should I Try to Work It Out?,” co-written by Brigham Young University professor Alan J. Hawkins, summarized reasons couples divorce, based on a national survey. The top reason was “lack of commitment” (73 percent). Other “significant” reasons were too much arguing (56 percent), infidelity (55 percent), marrying too young (46 percent), unrealistic expectations (45 percent), lack of equality in the relationship (44 percent), not being prepared for marriage (41 percent) and abuse (29 percent). Clearly, many people listed multiple factors. The book notes that other surveys yield similar results.
The imom.com list, based on a survey, includes “growing apart,” poor communication, financial battles, personal problems, sexual issues, substance abuse and infidelity, among others.
Psychpage.com breaks down the reasons by length of marriage. At the five- to seven-year range, couples break up because of conflict. Between 10 and 12 years into the marriage, “loss of intimacy and connection” drives divorce. In general, though, divorce is caused by communication problems, conflict, and sex and intimacy issues, it concluded.
Huffington Post reduced the findings of a British survey by the law firm Slater and Gordon to an infographic. Among the findings: The person who eventually files for divorce has spent an average of two years and 12 days thinking about it first, and most say they “really tried” to make it work before giving up. And 77 percent said the divorce impacted their children.
Cathy Meyer, a divorce support expert for about.com, offers some tips for holding things together, starting with taking care of oneself physically and mentally. She also suggests not stifling feelings and letting go of the things that are beyond one’s control.
It’s important to change expectations, she wrote, to take time with decisions and to prioritize having fun.
Psychology Today’s strategy for heading off divorce starts with making an action plan and implementing it quickly, “smother(ing) the urge to play victim,” figuring out what needs to change and getting rid of old hurts, among other things.