Heading for divorce?
When did the person you couldn’t bear to live without, turn in to the person you can barely live with? Here is what one of our relationship therapists at online couples counselling had to say.
The BBC recently aired a two part drama called ‘7.39’ depicting the story of a married man in his 40’s embarking on an affair with a woman he met on a train. Nothing particularly remarkable about this perhaps. Sadly it seems, affairs are all too common place nowadays.
However, what did stand out was the fascinating insight in to how mundane and predictable, although not desperately unhappy, a long term relationship can become. This reality probably struck a resoundingly, uncomfortable chord with many couples across the country.
The statistics behind divorce
The latest UK divorce rate numbers published by ‘The Office of National Statistics (ONS)’ show; there were 101,669 divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales in 2017, a decrease of 4.9% compared with 2016, but similar to the number seen in 2015 (101,055).
There were 338 divorces of same-sex couples in 2017, more than three times the number in 2016 (112 divorces); three-quarters (74%) of same-sex couples divorcing in 2017 were female.
The divorce rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 years and women aged 40 to 44 years.
The average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 12.2 years for opposite-sex couples; this matches the high last seen in 1972.
Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds. It was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 83% of divorces among women and 73% among men.
Interestingly, among older people rates are actually higher in 2017 than in 1993 – perhaps due to the fact we have an increasingly ageing population and people are getting married later in life.
The number of divorces among same-sex couples more than trebled between 2016 and 2017 – although this is not surprising since marriages of same-sex couples have only been possible in England and Wales since March 2014.” Source – The Office Of National Statistics
What our relationship therapists have to say
Our couple counsellors suggest that it would seem logical, if people are living longer then likelihood of divorce over the age of 60 increases. Furthermore, the fact that the number of women employed in the labour market has increased by 9% over the last 22 years also appears to have played a significant role.
More women are becoming financially independent, more likely to have built their own pensions and therefore more able to support themselves outside of marriage than ever before.
The ONS rationale the statistics are of course valid. However, as relationship counsellors we have found the reasons behind the breakdown of a long-term relationship to be far more complex. Rightly or wrongly; nowadays people expect more out of their relationships. There is a common misconception that couples only seek professional relationship help when they have encountered a so called ‘big’ problem, such as one of them is having an affair.
There is in fact a much larger percentage of people who seek relationship advice because they are simply bored, feel taken for granted or irritated by their partner. Infidelity, for example, tends to be a consequence of such feelings.
Real life examples
Just last week, a married couple in their mid-50’s booked Online Couples Counselling. The wife said “I just don’t feel the same anymore”. She turned to her husband “You even don’t even notice I’m there, let alone show me you care” she began to cry “You’re only here now because I’ve had enough of it. I I’ve been telling you for years how I’m miserable I am but you just wouldn’t listen”
In additional a 52 year old man who came to a session on his own explained “Everyone, loves my partner, why wouldn’t they? There’s nothing wrong with her. She has given me two beautiful children” He hesitated “But she complains our sex life is non-existent and she’s right. I just don’t feel the same about her anymore. I’m convinced she only sees me the ‘provider’ for the family and not a man anymore!”
Many people experience feelings of guilt after expressing their thoughts during couple counselling. Often claiming to have suffered in silence in order to try and avoid the upset and upheaval to those around them. Sometimes coupled with fear of the prospect that they might end up living alone, probably for the first time in many years.
For many individuals, this leads to overwhelming feelings of insecurity and vulnerability, often asking the question ‘am I expecting too much?’ or ‘perhaps it’s better the devil you know’?
Why do things change?
It’s often difficult to pinpoint when our feelings changed towards our partner. Usually it’s unresolved differences that build up hurt, resentment or anger. One or both might have repeatedly tried to discuss how they feel. But it’s fallen on deaf ears or resulted in an argument.
If opinions, feelings and viewpoints are stifled the tendency is to ‘give up’. The arguments then lessen or stop. This can lead to complacency, ending up just ‘co-existing’ together in the same house, with little or no input given to the relationship.
Help to stop divorce
So what can we glean from this information in order to avoid becoming another divorce statistic? How do we go about creating a happy, long-term relationship? In simple terms – we must TALK to each other! Poor communication is at the root of 80% relationships break downs.
Burying our heads in sand in the hope that the problems will go away, doesn’t work – the issues will just fester. If one spouse has tried hard and the other hasn’t been prepared do the same, if the relationship hits the rocks, it’s often too late to turn it around.
Our relationship counsellors regularly use the analogy that maintaining a relationship is like maintaining a car. A car needs petrol and regular maintenance to prevent it from breaking down; the same applies to a relationship.
However, when a relationship fails through lack of preservation and perhaps our partner confesses to an affair. Or asks to separate or just ups and leaves, it doesn’t appear to lessen the disappointment and shock we experience. It’s the couples who have sought early professional help that have proven highly successful in saving their relationship.
It’s important to recognise when arguments are becoming more frequent or issues are not being resolved. Leading to feelings of hurt, anger and frustration. A relationship counsellor will help you both try and understand each other’s perspectives, within a calm, controlled environment.
Couple counselling is an extremely powerful process. Not only will it help you resolve your current differences. It will also enable you to achieve a new, better understanding of each other, along with helping you learn how to avoid the pitfalls going forward.
It’s the little things that count
A survey conducted by ‘The Open University’ asked a variety of couples what makes ‘enduring love’ in a long-term relationship. Findings supported the idea that communication is the number one factor. It also highlighted the fact that it’s the smaller gestures; such as saying ‘thank you’ or our spouse making a cup of tea, that make us feel loved and appreciated. This appears to mean more than big romantic gestures. Although, no amount of tea making will earn you the love, intimacy and respect you will receive for taking the time listen to and try and understand your partner.
Once again returning to the BBC drama mentioned earlier. Upon discovering her husband’s affair, his wife angrily questioned him ‘So why did you do it?” she asked. “Were you bored, felt unappreciated, unloved or wanted some excitement?” To which her husband replied yes. “Well guess what….I feel ALL of those things as well, if not worse!” she responded.
This goes to show. Although it might feel like we are the only one harbouring feelings of hurt, loneliness or rejection within our relationship. The chances are, your partner could be feeling exactly the same.
If you would like to make an appointment. Then please contact us at Online Couples Counselling today. Request an appointment
The Open University – “Enduring Love” Survey Report Survey. Source – Enduring Love
BBC Drama – 7.39 BBC Drama – 7.39am