Is It Really Over?

Is It Really Over? – 02/25/07 – 01:28:13 PM

In previous articles I have been focusing on the changes many of us resolve to make in the New Year (see my website). Unfortunately, often times one of those changes is the decision to end a relationship. Divorce filings frequently peak at this time of year. People are tired of the same old arguments hurt feelings and anger. They believe they have tried everything to improve their relationship and think further effort is futile. Friends and family tell them they deserve to be happy. The common thinking is that divorce is the only answer which will lead back to the happiness they once had.

Jeff Opdyke, the Love & Money columnist for the Wall Street Journal, addressed how this issue played out in his own life in his January 7th column. He writes about how he and his wife were pulling in opposite directions and how he withdrew into work to avoid the uncomfortable situation at home. As the frustration and hurt increased, both he and his wife began to pull away and shut down. They could no longer feel the love and affection they once had for each other, so they separated. With time apart, he realized that their love hadn?t died. It had just become buried beneath career, money and the kids. Theirs has a happy ending — they refocused on the relationship and set about righting the wrongs.

In our society, we often see divorce as another quick fix, like a fad diet or a tummy tuck. We want to feel better now and don’t pay attention to the long term effects, especially if there are children in the mix. It isn’t that divorce is never the answer. I believe there are certain times when it is the necessary solution. These situations, what Dr. Phil calls deal breakers, fall into three categories involving serious behaviors which are either not being acknowledged or are not being dealt with in a productive and healthy way.

The first condition involves unaddressed addiction by one of the partners. This includes problems with drugs and/or alcohol as well as any other behavior that is out of control. Gambling, shopping and overeating can also result in serious distress in a relationship. If the person engaging in the behavior acknowledges there is a problem and is seeking help the relationship has a chance to survive. If there is no effort being made to control the behavior, the person is not capable of participating in a healthy relationship and serious consideration must be given to the overall health of the family.

The second situation entails the presence of abuse of any kind. This may be expressed as derogatory words, contempt, physical restraint, withholding of money, restricting freedoms, sexual dominance or physical violence. In an abusive relationship there is an unequal balance of power. The damage to the self-esteem of the abused is constant and pervasive. A healthy, successful relationship cannot exist if one person is unheard, on guard and/or dismissed.

The final category concerns unaddressed serious mental health issues. In this case the possibility of one partner not being able to process information, interpret situations and resolve issues productively is very high. If not in treatment, the person may behave in an unpredictable manner. He or she may not be able to participate in a healthy, adult relationship due to the effects of the illness.

You may note that I did not include infidelity as one of the cases for ending a marriage. Experts agree that having an affair is an inappropriate reaction to problems or difficulties and does serious damage to the relationship. However, it is possible for a relationship to recover, and even become stronger. If the couple is willing to put forth the effort necessary to rebuild trust and establish a pattern of respect and honesty, the relationship can safely navigate the treacherous waters of infidelity.

Copywrite 2007 Cary Home Times

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