By Dan Blair Marriage Counselor and Family Therapist
Why do people divorce and can you stop divorce?
Aside from abuse, affairs, or addictions, the disintegration of relationships can often be understood in terms of attachment research, which studies both insecure and secure attachment patterns. Insecure attachment patterns develop when painful relational experiences cause both withdrawing and pursuing patterns to avoid the pain of abandonment or rejection in the present.
A withdrawing relationship pattern can be marked by a partner feeling uncomfortable or inadequate when talking about emotion or conflict in the relationship. Withdrawers also may feel criticized. Their initial reaction beyond defensiveness may be irritation or anger. Expressing emotion also may make them feel not good enough, or vulnerable. They view significant other’s needs as overwhelming and have been taught to solve problems on their own, and would rather just be appreciated for what they are doing. Withdrawers may feel that they cannot make the other person happy. They would not necessarily look forward to marriage counseling for these reasons. Since relationships do not regularly bring them comfort or relief, they usually do not even think of asking for help. Spouses of withdrawers may feel ignored.
Pursuers run on anxiety or anger as fuel. Parents may have been described as overprotective, or critical. In both cases, a primary focus on the other develops often to the exclusion of one’s own needs. The pursuer is dismayed when a significant other withdraws. The pursuer may continue the pursuit, but in critical ways. The withdrawer may become hurt, and tired of the pattern, even when the pleaser is trying to connect.
A third pattern combines both pursuit and withdrawal. Seeking connection and excitement in the relationship a pursuer may be disappointed or even hurt time and time again. The pursuer may then feel empty and lonely. A withdrawing pattern may begin, and if a negative view of their partner is practiced, then ideas about being more appreciated by someone else may enter the picture. This pattern may be repeated with others. When pursuing, the partner is valued; when the pursuing is disappointing or hurtful, the partner is to blame.
To stop the wish for divorce, an interest in another person has to have not taken root, and a willingness to change these patterns has to be present. Understanding the emotions and needs driving these patterns is important. Otherwise these patterns tend to be repeated.
Many that divorce are happier, but not that much happier. Over half regret it. Is it worth the long-lasting turmoil for you and the kids? For some, yes.
Good books can be found on rebuilding marriages and changing attachment patterns by Susan Johnson and Milan and Kay Yerkovich.