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How do I divorce you ? – Let me count the ways

How do I divorce you

This has sparked a flurry of articles on whether, if infidelity has been knocked off the top spot for divorce, does it mean that we are all love and forgiveness now, and infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end of the marriage?

In my view, suggesting that infidelity is losing its sting is to underestimate and ignore the huge devastation that its discovery brings.

Many people who come to our groups have left their partners because of the unbearable pain of discovering their infidelity.  Discovery usually comes as a brutal shock and calls into question all those shared experiences that have been taken for granted.  Trust flies out of the window as does all sense of self-esteem.  So, does it always have to be the death knell of a marriage?

We know that, seemingly, many celebrity indiscretions are forgiven and we see couples in the public eye soldiering on – Wayne and Colleen,  David and Posh, Strauss Kahn and his wife, but whatever the public face of this seems to be, the private face is almost unendurable for many people.

It is a long way back from infidelity to recreating a trusting relationship but people do it.  Sometimes infidelity is a person’s way of saying that they haven’t been happy and something is missing, and perhaps emotional needs not being met. If it is a ‘protest statement’ and both people feel that there is something to salvage and are willing to try, then with help things can be fixed.

It is often not the physical act itself that causes the pain but the lack of communication by the betraying partner, and the knowledge that things went so badly wrong that they chose to look elsewhere. Many people claim they had no idea that anything was wrong until the moment of discovery, and often people will say that others viewed them as the perfect couple, and they are therefore left bewildered and confused.

There are many reasons for infidelity, and there can be many reasons to stay together.  Sometimes, it is a way out of the relationship, and the unfaithful partner is using it as a reason for leaving. However, sometimes it is a message that something has been neglected within the marriage. If this is the case, if it is possible to listen to the message, and use it together to grow stronger, then with a leap of faith, a lot of help, and a wish to invest in something that was good it doesn’t have to break up a marriage.

What then, of ‘falling out of love’ replacing infidelity? What does this actually mean?  Do people expect that they will be ‘in love’ for ever?  Could the recession have created such pressure and stress on couples that they now have the added problems of money, not working and looking after children – all at the same time?  It can be easy for a relationship to lose its gloss if, instead of a couple going out into the outside world and coming back stimulated and full of life, they are both under the same roof all day, everyday, feeling anxious and depressed about the future. It is easy to start blaming the other for problems and people find themselves in a continual cycle of arguments and recriminations. In those circumstances, some couples feel they can’t go on and look for a way out of the relationship.

Perhaps also, expectations are too high.  We are sold glossy magazine stories of the perfect wedding, the perfect couple and the perfect house.  If we are not careful, we can bring those expectations into a relationship and then absolutely everything will fall far short.  It is easy to feel angry with a partner who doesn’t earn what we might expect and who doesn’t seem to behave like we see celebrities behave.  The trouble with the perfect life scenario is that in real life it doesn’t exist, and unless we realise that we are being sold an image, nothing will ever feel good enough.

Reasons for divorce? There are many, but there are also many reasons to stay together.  Sometimes, though this not possible, not least because it takes two to keep a marriage together.  When it isn’t possible, although you may feel like you are alone, you aren’t, and help is at hand.

Charlotte Friedman www.divorcesupportgroup.co.uk 0844 800 9098.

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