Unconscious uncoupling – Late in life divorce – Part One

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couple holding hands. long-term marriage ending in divorce.The kids are gown and now it is time to relax and enjoy being a couple.

What if, without realizing it, you have stopped being a couple in any meaningful sense?

What is this bond that makes a couple?

John Gottman says that it is the quality of the friendship that sustains a marriage for the long-term. This friendship is based upon mutual respect, affection, and a shared history. It takes time and commitment to cultivate the qualities of a good friendship.

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of coordinating an annual Marriage Preparation Weekend for couples. In this weekend workshop we had speakers on key skills and knowledge that form a foundation for a strong partnership. These included, in no particular order: communication and conflict resolution skills, finances, spirituality, sexuality, and the law. Practically all of the couples who attended indicated that they were committed to having a good life together. Unfortunately, Statistics Canada indicates that between 35% and 42% of marriages end in divorce within 30 years and 42 is the average age of divorce. Although there are no statistics for marriages that end after the 30th wedding anniversary, we know that there is evidence that more marriages are ending between ages 50-60 after 25-30 years together.

How does the uncoupling happen? It often starts happening unconsciously, long before anyone physically moves out. Problems in managing any one aspect of the relationship can contaminate the rest of the relationship. A couple who may have had a deep spiritual and sexual bond can lose that connection when poor communication and unresolved conflict, or even the stresses of financial challenges, spillover into what once were healthy aspects of their relationship. Couples without common interests or a strong spiritual or sexual connection may feel empty and unfulfilled once all the practical work of raising a family and paying off the mortgage has been accomplished. One or both partners may start to look for the missing components outside of the relationship.

What is interesting is that couples can and do drift apart because needs and wants change. When significant needs are not being met in the relationship, or are being sought outside of the relationship, couples may be starting a process of uncoupling without realizing what is happened until it is too late. Too much damage has been done and the motivation for repairing it can be lost.

Consider an older couple who have been married over 30 years and the children are launched. One or both become busy with interests outside of the relationship while their spiritual and sexual bond was either never significant or is long gone. The final straw: the husband loses his job and can no longer honourthe important element of the financial partnership that sustained their relationship. She asks for a divorce. He is shocked. However the process of uncoupling started happening long before. There was nothing left to sustain their bond when the last straw fell.

Join us in a couple of days to get a look at what happens in Conscious Uncoupling and some positive approaches to help guide separating couples towards hope and healing.

To speak to a couple’s counsellor, call 1 866 833-7690 or visit workhealthlife.com for the services and programs we offer.

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