On Saturday I met a woman (we’ll call her Hilda) and even though we were not close friends we stood talking as our kids ran around at the playground. Making gentle conversation, I asked her how things were and was astounded when she said that her husband was moving out in October and they were separating. I was in even more shock to hear that he already had a girlfriend and the kids had already been used to him not sleeping home every night. She said it so blandly that I had to ask her if I heard her correctly which she confirmed! We chatted for a few minutes more and while I guess she had had over one year to come to terms with this news (she was the one who asked him to end things) it was still news to me.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
I decided to do some reading on the topic of marriage, divorce and happily ever after. Hilda said that she realised that she was no longer in love with her husband after 15 years of marriage, three kids and no career. She recently completed a Masters degree but she didn’t do well because she was coping with the separation and she couldn’t find a job in her chosen field of Languages.
After hearing snippets of her story, it got me thinking about why people get married, why they divorce and how to get that happily ever after.
As a child you always heard that it was the plan – get married, have kids, live happily ever after. However, nowadays that is not the plan. Some couples co-habit, testing the waters, others date for +5 years never actually living together, some get married only to file for divorce one year later (true story of a friend of mine), others have been married for 20 years and separate for myriad of reasons.
Looking at a few websites, I found that the divorce rate in Canada was on the decline – with about 71,000 divorces in 2012. However, I will go out on a limb and state that there are also fewer marriages and there is more legal separations but I have not done the research (yet). There is a claim that for every 10 marriages, 4 will end in divorce. Startling? Not really, I thought it would be higher.
So what are the reasons for couples filing for or contemplating divorce?
1. Growing Apart. Do couples really grow apart? In short, yes. It happens.
2. Finances – money, or lack thereof, is one of the major reasons couples split. Couples struggling to pay bills tend to feel overwhelmed and more likely to split (of course there could be other problems to compound the financial problems.
3. An inability to commit. Believe it or not, you would think that because a couple say “I do” you would think that is commitment. Well the commitment part comes AFTER the wedding day when you add a mortgage, kids, car payment and work stress. Some couples fall apart when they realise that it’s not like the movie, real life marriage requires lots of commitment and work.
4. Kids. Your line on the test shows that you are pregnant and you spend tons of time picking out nursery themes, names, clothing and gear for this precious miracle. Fast forward nine months later and you have to change diapers, you’re sleep deprived and you really hate the fact that you don’t even remember the last day you had one minute to do anything for yourself. Life with a newborn can be challenging and test your relationship in ways you never imagined. As the baby grows, diverging views on parenting can make you disagree more and while you prefer the kids in bed by 7pm your partner thinks it is fine to give them jelly beans and send them off to bed at whatever o’clock.
To counter this, it’s best for parents to sit down have the talk about how you want to raise your kids, preferably before the baby is born. Revisit it every year with each changing milestone and work together as a team.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER?
There is a way to get your happily ever after. If you feel you are stuck in a relationship and want to make changes, it is not for me to tell you what to do. People deal with this in many ways: Going to couples therapy, personal therapy, legal separation, trial separation and various other ways! What is right for you? Only you will know. I do know this, Hilda said to me, that she chose to ask her husband for separation because she was unhappy and felt that if she could get another chance at happiness then she wanted to take it before she lost more time (she is 37).
I felt badly for Hilda but then I said to myself, she seemed to be really happy and put together but I wondered how she would be on D-Day (the day he really moved out).
If you have any comments, please let me know. I am no expert but I can bet some of you have dealt with, are dealing with or considering dealing with this.