One of my favorite blogs is the Alabama Family Law Blog, written by Michael Sherman. In a recent post, he commented on the reasons for divorce that he had observed in some of his cases. Not too surprisingly, I have seen similar situations. Each case is different, but most divorces will involve one of the following elements:
“Seems ironic that a divorce lawyer might offer marriage advice. When the Minister of Education at my church asked me to teach Sunday School to the Newlyweds, I gave him a hard time about bringing in a divorce lawyer to teach to these young married couples. But, I really don't know someone more qualified to tell you what to do and not do in your marriage than a divorce lawyer. In my divorce practice in Mobile and Baldwin County, I have seen all the problems that tend to contribute to the breakdown of a marriage. Maybe you know a young (or not so young couple) that could benefit from this information.
“Here, in my experience, are the top five problems that contribute to divorce:
“1. Money – Whether it is differences in values about money, issues about control of the money or financial pressures that put a strain on the relationship, money issues often lead to divorce. Best to get on the same page early, be fair about how the money is controlled, and attempt to understand and accommodate your spouse's views on money.
“2. Communication – I will often have a client of mine that is going through divorce tell me that they love their spouse, they are just no longer in love with them. I'm not sure exactly what that means. But, typically it is a sign that the couple quit having meaningful communication with one another some time ago. Communicate deeply and often with your spouse.
“3. Lack of Commitment – I don't intend to get on my soapbox about this issue, but it is hard to dispute that our nation no longer has the same view of marriage we once did. Sometimes a divorce is the only option, but quite frequently (particularly with younger couples, it seems) I will see one or the other spouse who really cannot express a good reason why they want the divorce. One divorce lawyer I know comments on how the threshold on what it takes to get someone to pull the trigger on divorce has decreased dramatically in the past twenty years. Perhaps it has something about how self absorbed and tied to instant gratification we have become. It will keep divorce lawyers in business, but it is sad for us as a nation.
“4. Physical Addictions – Thankfully they occur in the minority of cases that I see. But, when they do, they are quite tragic. Whether it is alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs, the effects of addiction can obviously be devastating. The best advice is to intervene early and get professional help.
“5. Sex – Of course, sexual problems frequently lead to divorce as well. But, their effect is probably overestimated. Generally speaking infidelity is a sign of other problems in the marriage, not the original problem. Increasingly, however, I am seeing the internet playing a role in these cases. Whether it is pornographic websites or the ability to meet others anonymously and easily online, the internet provides new snares for a relationship that did not previously exist.
“Despite the fact that I help my clients navigate their way through divorce, I do not encourage divorce. Hopefully this advice will help someone avoid it all together.”
In addition to Michael's list, I would add one more broad factor in the breakup of marriages — mental or emotional problems by one or both of the parties. For example,
- Sometimes depression (untreated) can destroy a marriage.
- Other times, one of the parties is a very controlling person who ends up smothering the spouse who leaves the marriage to gain his/her freedom and escape an abusive environment.
- In some cases, there is a true personality disorder or mental illness. Untreated, that can also destroy a marriage.
My advice: get professional help and follow through with treatment and medication. That can be very effective, but it's often pretty hard to get our spouse to acknowledge the need for psychiatric help, much less to comply with the treatment plan.
In any event, all of the above problems warrant the assistance of trained professionals. Trying to work out the problem on your own is not likely to be effective. The first step is to ask for help. The key here, as in many things in life, is the follow-through. Without it, there will be no solution until you see a divorce lawyer.