You've heard the statistics around divorce. Last I heard, something like half of marriages in the US end in divorce. Yikes. I don't know about you, but I'm heartbroken thinking of all the suffering, shattered dreams, and confused kids. If you've been through it, or known someone who's been through divorce, you know how hard it is.
If you ask a lot of people why the divorce rate is so high, they'll cite things like affairs, conflicts around money, or growing apart.
I beg to differ. All of those things are still symptoms of bigger, underlying issues our culture holds around intimate partnerships.
I think it's time for a cultural revolution (evolution, actually) around how we view intimate partnerships and marriage. In the meantime, though, here's where I think we're going wrong. I believe these things are responsible for the high divorce rate.
- We blame the relationship or our partner when our expectations aren't met. When shit gets real and we realize we're not living the fantasy, rather than addressing it head on and getting support, our commitment wavers.
- We're confused about what marriage is and what it'll actually feel like. Often in marriage, people feel lonely, misunderstood, unimportant, etc. Getting married doesn't take our painful feelings away. They stick around and can even intensify.
- We aren't taught that relationships are hard and that all our shit is gonna come up. So when it does, instead of knowing how to go inside and do our inner work around what's coming up, we blame or think it's a problem with the relationship.
- We get married for the wrong reasons. One client of mine shared that she got married to get her "normal" card. Marriages need to be built on more than that in order to sustain.
- We fall into the rut of cultural gender biases and lose touch with our authentic choices about how we want to live life. An example is where there's pressure on the man to be a "good husband" by providing for the family and keeping it all together, or pressure on the woman to be a "good wife and mother" by managing the household and keeping the children perfectly cared for. Living in these ruts when they're not what we want doesn't work for the long haul, and it significantly inhibits our ability to play.
- We haven't yet learned that being an adult means that we're now the parent of ourselves, taking care not only of our physical needs, but also our emotional needs. Many of us don't know how to do this yet, so we look to our partner to parent us, which means that we show up to the relationship young rather than as an adult. (More about this in a future post. Don't miss it!)
- We look to the marriage for safety and security. Perhaps sometimes it provides this, but we forget that deep, intimate relationship is also inherently unsafe. Meaning that we will probably get hurt along the way, but most people don't talk about that or try to forget it.
- There's a cultural stigma around seeking help. We view therapy as something sick people or troubled people do, so couples don't get the support they need before they're in the red zone (if at all), at which point it's hard to create repair. Couples need to talk about the issues in their relationships.
- We make vows we can't help but break and don't choose to renegotiate them to be ever more current, giving our relationships that extra care and attention.
- We don't realize that intimate relationship this deep requires even more self care, even more work. The cultural ideas of "settling down" or "finally finding the one" imply rest, and while rest is part of marriage, in order to show up to the relationship as an adult, it takes work.
- We as a culture are immature in that we don't know how to tolerate negative feelings very well, which makes it hard to be skillful with our feelings in a marriage.
So, what do you think? Do you agree? Do you have anything to add? Have you been through a divorce? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
Now, this post wouldn't be complete if I didn't also mention that divorce isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are definitely cases where divorce is the healthiest choice for all involved and I've seen those instances first-hand too.
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All my best,
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