Tips to help you, your kids’ other parent and your new spouse work together.
Divorce can make life feel unraveled on countless levels. And no one in its sphere is immune to its effects. If you have children and are co-parenting, you know there will be new adjustments as you begin to open your life to new love. And if you plan to remarry, you will need keys to co-parenting that support your children and allow you to move on with your life.
Research shows that children of divorce who spend at least 35% of their time with each parent have better relationships with both parents. They also fare better academically, socially, and psychologically.
The takeaway here is that shared parenting, or co-parenting, should be the goal of divorced parents committed to their children’s highest good. (However, co-parenting isn’t always possible and sometimes it isn’t in the best interest of the children.)
Successfully using the keys to co-parenting requires the commitment of the parents to behave as adults. Their primary focus can’t be on their personal squabbles or lingering anger from their marriage.
And if the biological parents can’t co-parent in a healthy way, adding a new spouse to the mix won’t make things any easier.
Briefly, here is a review of the important keys to co-parenting in a healthy way. This is what you want your relationship to look like on behalf of your children.
- Clear boundaries. You don’t try to control one another or interfere in matters that don’t involve your children’s welfare.
- Open communication – talking, email, text, etc.
- Consistency with the rules in both households. Granted, you’re not going to have identical homes and styles. But your children know that “homework before TV” means the same thing at Dad’s as it does at Mom’s.
- A predetermined, predictable schedule. And any changes are discussed with one another before being discussed with the kids.
- Willingness to be flexible. Life happens, and everyone needs some give now and then.
- Never speaking disrespectfully of the other, at least not in front of your children. You recognize the significance of the other parent in your children’s lives, and you keep your adult issues out of their earshot.
- Amicability during social events where both you and your ex are present. This becomes especially important when one or both of you begin dating other people and including them in your children’s lives.
Before discussing keys to co-parenting after you have remarried, it’s worth pausing to look at what a child experiences when a parent remarries.
By stepping into your child’s shoes, you will intuitively navigate your co-parenting arrangement more compassionately and successfully.
- A sense of loss.
The child realizes that he will never have his original family back. He may even feel he is losing the parent who is remarrying. He may even feel jealousy toward the new stepparent and stepsiblings.
Recognize that your child may feel like an outsider in his own home, and be prepared to reassure him of his essential place.
- Confused feelings.
Underlying the keys to co-parenting after remarrying are the natural, perplexing feelings of the child who feels lost in the new dynamics.
Expect that your child will be insecure about how to accept the new stepparent and still respect her “replaced” parent. She will naturally make comparisons between the two.
She may also have loyalty struggles, especially if you have unresolved issues with your ex. This is why it is so important that parents never fight “through” their kids.
- Adjusting to new rules and relationships.
Anytime someone new enters an established relationship, there are changes in routines and rules. A child may feel resentment toward a new authority figure. He may also long for privacy that becomes more difficult to find with new family members around.
Younger children tend to adapt to new relationships more quickly than older children. By studying and considering your child’s developmental stage, you can better anticipate emotional and behavioral responses to divorce and remarriage.
Welcoming love into your life can be a wonderful, triumphant experience after all the work of healing from a divorce. But the addition of that extra helping hand inevitably makes parenting and co-parenting more complex. Even the best circumstances will have challenges.
It’s important, then, that all the involved adults follow these keys to co-parenting. You’ll notice that they are a blend of all the above points – healthy co-parenting and compassion for each child’s emotional response to your remarriage.
- Healthy boundaries for the stepparent.
It can be really difficult to have a new spouse who has to take a back seat of sorts to the major decisions of childrearing. But it’s essential that you protect your co-parenting relationship with your children’s other biological parent.
All the major decisions and important discussions about your children’s upbringing belong to you and your ex. This will require a delicate balance, as your new spouse will be living with your children and will inevitably play a central role in their day-to-day lives.
It’s important that s/he not simply assume a parental role, but respect the roles of the biological parents. And the biological parents should respectfully ease the new stepparent into co-parenting roles.
- Open communication — among everyone.
You will have to retain your co-parenting communication with your ex. You will also have to bring your new spouse into that dynamic so that all the “parents” are on the same page for your children’s welfare.
Yes, the major decisions belong to the biological parents. But everyone is involved in raising and loving the children. And your new marriage also deserves respect and transparency.
- Non-negotiable respect.
No matter what you or your new spouse think about your ex or former marriage, you must never express disrespect in front of the children. This is especially true for the new stepparent.
Likewise, your ex should never speak disparagingly of your new spouse in front of the children.
- Naming the stepparent.
Going back to the experiences of a child when a parent remarries, the new stepparent represents confusion in loyalty. Encouraging children to call a stepparent “Mom” or “Dad” just adds to that confusion.
It is also inappropriate and will anger and hurt your co-parent. In most cases, using the stepparent’s first name is the safest, most natural approach for children.
- Setting everyone up to succeed.
The keys to co-parenting after remarriage don’t disregard the new spouse. S/he is going to be involved in the day-to-day lives of everyone in your home (including any kids s/he may have brought to the marriage).
Find out what your new spouse is willing and able to do with regard to parenting. Give him/her room to include each child in activities they both enjoy and can share.
What role does your spouse want to play? And how can you support that role while protecting the integrity of your co-parenting relationship?
By allowing your new spouse to be another source of love and support for your kids, everyone will adjust with less fear and confusion.
- Talking about feelings.
Again, depending on where your children are age-wise, they are probably going to experience an array of feelings. Everything from abandonment to guilt to anger is likely to show up.
Be open and honest with your kids about their feelings, and be willing to get professional help if necessary. Everyone should feel heard and validated.
And children need to know that their feelings are a natural response to such enormous changes in their lives. They also need to know that all of their parents have their best interests at heart.
- Remembering your focus.
It’s bound to happen – your ex is going to say or do something that makes your blood boil. Or you’re going to disagree on a major decision. You will be stuck trying to co-parent with no apparent “co” on board.
In these derailing moments, there is only one question that matters:
Is this about me or my kids?
The addition of a stepparent to a child’s life can be wonderful or miserable. Despite a child’s natural feelings and behavioral changes during the adaptation, a stepparent can represent a huge bonus. Extra love. Extra attention. Extra support.
How this new dynamic plays out depends, in large part, on how you protect the integrity of your co-parenting relationship with your ex.
The essential keys to co-parenting after you have remarried echo the essential keys to co-parenting before you remarried. Respect everyone involved. Behave like mature, responsible adults. Communicate. And, above all, prioritize your children.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people figure out how they can best use the keys to co-parenting post-divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule a private first session.
Looking for more information about co-parenting for divorced parents? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Co-Parenting.
Answers to the three questions every spouse who’s been cheated on asks.
After discovering your spouse has cheated, and the initial shock wears off, a million questions bombard you. How could this have happened? Why did they do it? What were they thinking? Aren’t I enough? What’s wrong with me? How did I miss the signs? … Marital infidelity is one of the most hurtful things a couple can experience and one of the most difficult to get through.
Yet, getting through it is possible.
Sometimes the best place to start unpacking and answering some of the questions about how you’ll get through the betrayal is to understand why people cheat, how common marital infidelity is and whether a marriage can survive an affair.
What is the main reason for infidelity?
According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, we all have 3 basic drives: the sex drive, romantic love, and attachment to a long-term partner. Ideally, marriage provides a partner who can meet all three of our drives, but sometimes there are other influences that cause a spouse to stray. It’s even possible for us to have our drives met by different people at the same time.
A study published in Journal of Marriage and Family found that people who had stronger sexual interests, more permissive sexual values, lower subjective satisfaction with their partner, weaker network ties to their partner, and greater sexual opportunities were more likely to be unfaithful.
In other words, there’s no simple answer as to why people cheat. There are many different dynamics at play – timing, happiness in marriage, social and emotional connection to his/her spouse, commitment to marriage, family of origin issues, opportunity, etc.
In an effort to help break down some of the reasons even further, the site maritalhealing.com compiled an extensive list of marital conflicts that can contribute to a vulnerability to marital infidelity. Some of the conflicts listed on the site include:
- Loneliness and sadness from poor communication
- An emotionally distant spouse
- Controlling and disrespectful behaviors by spouse
- Increased selfishness
- Unresolved family of origin issues
- Lack of confidence
- Lack of balance in married life with a failure to attend to the romantic, friendship, and sexual aspects of marriage
- Disordered priorities with work, others, sports, children, etc. placed before one’s spouse
- Attempt to escape from responsibilities and pressures
- Close friendships with others who have been unfaithful
- Strong mistrust and anxiety
There is a multitude of reasons why people cheat. And figuring out the fundamental reason(s) why your spouse did will probably not be an easy task. In fact, s/he probably doesn’t know right now either.
However, there are two key things to realize about determining the main reason(s) for your spouse’s infidelity. First, s/he made a choice to stray. Second, the reason for their choice is complicated and may in part be due to the marriage not satisfying all three of his/her basic drives.
How common is marital infidelity?
The New York Times cites the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey (GSS) as having the most consistent data on infidelity. This study, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, started in 1972 and tracks the opinions and social behaviors of Americans. The data show that about 10 percent of married people have cheated in any given year.
However, some researchers from the University of Washington segmented the data to do a detailed analysis from 1991 to 2006. What they found is that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased from 20% in 1991 to 28% in 2006. They also found a larger increase in infidelity for women over 60; the rate increased to 15% in 2006 from 5% in 1991.
These same researchers also found increases in infidelity for people under 35. The rate of infidelity for men under 35 increased from 15% in 1991 to 20% in 2006. For women under 35, the rate increased from 12% to 15% in the same time period.
However, there’s more to answering the question of how common marital infidelity is than just looking at these numbers.
The fact is that all the data in the GSS is self-reported. There’s no way to tell if everyone who said they’d never cheated were being 100% honest. So, these rates of infidelity, the most consistent available, probably underestimate the actual prevalence of marital infidelity.
Can a marriage survive infidelity?
In a nutshell, the answer to this question is “yes.” However, it’s a qualified “yes,” because not all marriages do survive infidelity.
Some couples find a way to push the infidelity under the rug and continue on as if nothing happened. Others find a way to emerge from the trauma of infidelity stronger and happier than ever before. For still others, infidelity leads to divorce.
The only way your marriage can survive infidelity is if you’re both willing to do your part to repair and recreate your marriage. And, at minimum, each of you doing your part includes these things:
- The unfaithful spouse must be empathetic toward the betrayed spouse and his/her struggle to make sense of things now.
- The unfaithful spouse must take full responsibility for his/her choice to have an affair.
- Both spouses must have a good understanding of the part they played in leaving their marriage exposed and vulnerable.
- Both spouses must commit to compassionate honesty and rebuilding trust.
- Both must have an openness to counseling.
- Both must be willing to work through the perpetrator-victim mindset.
- Both must be willing to work together on a new marriage.
None of these tasks or mindsets are easy to achieve much less maintain. All require a significant amount of effort and self-examination.
However, what you need to know is whichever path you take forward from marital infidelity will require a lot of work. There’s no easy answer. There’s no one right answer for every couple. Neither are there any guarantees.
As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
The answers to the three questions above are just the beginning of your journey to get through marital infidelity. There are many, many more to answer and situations to resolve before you can put your spouse’s betrayal behind you.
And if you allow yourself to feel and constructively express your emotions while being open to rebuilding your life in a more fulfilling way, you will survive the intense pain of having your marriage rocked by infidelity.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with surviving marital infidelity. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about dealing with marital infidelity? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
You can find comfort in these positive and supportive quotes about divorce.
Sometimes in the midst of the struggle to heal from divorce, all you want are a few little tidbits of inspiration. That’s exactly what divorce quotes can provide.
Below is a collection of grief, moving on with life, and divorce quotes to help inspire and comfort you (or a friend). When all you need is a little encouragement to know that you can and will get through the difficulties of your divorce, skim through this collection. And chances are that you’ll likely find at least one helpful quote.
- I still have sadness and complicated feelings about my divorce. But how beneficial is it to keep hanging onto those feelings? If someone lives through an accident, his aim is to become better and healthy. My aim is always to progress – to make better decisions and be a better father, a better boyfriend, a better husband if it happens again. ~Ryan Phillippe
- Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. ~Mary Manin Morrissey
- Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. ~Christopher Reeve
- If at first you don’t succeed you’re running about average. ~M.H. Anderson
- Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. ~Mary Shelley
- At the end of your marriage, your job, at least in part, is to let go and move away from the wreckage to create something better. ~Karen Finn
- Sometimes a hug says more than any words ever could. ~Unknown
- When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future. ~Bernard Meltzer
- Crying is not a sign of weakness, but a cleansing. ~Unknown
- Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~Theodore Roosevelt
- Having a great support team when you get divorced can make all the difference in your outcome. ~Anonymous
- Divorce is stressful. It’s natural to feel disoriented and wish for things to be “normal” again. ~Karen Finn
- The only person you’re ever going to be with forever is YOU. ~Unknown
- We cannot change the past, but we can start a new chapter with a happy ending. ~Nishan Panwar
- Don’t carry a grudge. While you’re carrying a grudge, the other guy is out dancing. ~Buddy Hackett
- Endure the storm for a little longer. When tomorrow comes, you’ll be stronger. ~Raghib Clitso
- You must imagine what could be in your life to have a shot of making the changes necessary to achieve it. ~Unknown
- We don’t have the power to change the facts of divorce, but divorce definitely gives us the power to change ourselves. ~Karen Finn
- The unfortunate truth is that not all marriages last a lifetime. ~Karen Finn
- Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. ~John Wooden
- To make progress in any difficult situation, you have to start with what’s right about it and build on that. ~Norman Vincent Peale
- Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean you are a mistake. ~Georgette Mosbacher
- Human beings are not hopeless. They have never been helpless. They have only been deflected or deceived or dispirited. ~Norman Cousins
- If you’re still looking for a happy ending, I suggest you start searching for a new beginning. ~Unknown
- Negative emotions are often catalysts of great change. ~Unknown
- You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be. ~Wayne Dyer
- Divorce is just a part of your life. It doesn’t define who you are. You decide that. ~Karen Finn
- It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. ~Joseph Campbell
- Baby step by baby step, you have what you need right now to start moving in the direction of your happiest dreams. ~Marta Davidovich Ockuly
- Most friendships change when one of the friends divorces. Some friendships can’t weather the changes and others become stronger. ~Karen Finn
- Crisis leads us into emotional waters where we feel in over our head, and it calls upon us to explore unfamiliar spiritual terrain. ~D.R. Kingma
- Divorce isn’t always the best answer. And sometimes it’s the only answer. ~Karen Finn
- Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. ~Francis Bacon
- Some people are like clouds. When they disappear, it’s a brighter day. ~Unknown
- When I got divorced, I eventually came to the painful realization that I had trusted my ex-husband to be someone I wanted him to be instead of who he was. ~Karen Finn
- All blame is a wast of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him/her, it won’t change you. ~Wayne Dyer
- Although no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending. ~Carl Bard
- Experiencing a great change, like divorce, has the power to change us greatly. ~Unknown
- What you resist, persists. ~Werner Erhard
- In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity. ~Albert Einstein
- People are only mean when they are threatened. ~Morrie Schwartz
- Life is a DIY project – no one else can live it for you. You need to know what you want and when to ask for help. ~Karen Finn
- Grief shared is grief abated. ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
- Wherever you are right now is the starting point for where you will be tomorrow, next month, next year, and at the end of your life. ~Unknown
- Experience is a good teacher, but her fees are very high. ~Unknown
- You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens. ~Mandy Hale
- Remember, a closed mouth gathers no foot. ~Steve Post
- Always laugh when you can. It’s cheap medicine. ~Lord Byron
- The past must no longer be used as an anvil for beating out the present and the future. ~Paul-Emile Borduas
- Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. ~Nido Qubein
- Sometimes you have to forget what’s gone, appreciate what still remains and look forward to what’s coming next. ~Unknown
- Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. ~Unknown
- Lord, either lighten my burden or strengthen by back. ~Thomas Fuller
- Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford
- A hug is the perfect gift; one size fits all, and nobody minds if you exchange it. ~Anonymous
- You may be disappointed if you fail but doomed if you don’t try. ~Beverly Sills
- Grief is a long and complicated journey. ~Daphne Rose Kingma
- The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal. ~C.S. Lewis
- Divorce is hardest at the beginning, most chaotic in the middle and best at the end. ~Anonymous
- Experience is the toughest teacher. She gives you the test first and then the lesson. ~Unknown
- Grief is a time when we try to find our wholeness again after all has been lost. ~E. Kubler-Ross
- We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell
- I will release the old, embrace the new and grow a vision of hope. ~Shive Adhikari
- Love, the quest; marriage, the conquest; divorce, the inquest. ~Helen Rowland
- Grief can make a liar out of you. You say you are doing fine, when really your heart is shattered into a 1000 tiny pieces. ~Maria Shriver
- Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. ~Benjamin Franklin
- Despite the pain, if minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, you keep going, you will get through your divorce. ~Karen Finn
- Things happen when you least expect them – things that can change your whole life. ~Lesley Kagen
- Where there’s life, there’s hope. ~Cicero
- Co-parenting means you are not always going to get what you want. ~Ed Farber
- Major life events are profound opportunities for emotional healing and spiritual development. ~Daphne Rose Kingma
- Forgiveness is making a conscious decision to live in the present … even if the past still hurts. ~Unknown
- Love is like war; easy to begin but hard to stop. ~Fortune Cookie
- Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make peace with that and all will be well. ~ Buddha
- Divorced ≠ Unlovable ~Karen Finn
- Strong is what happens when you run out of weak. ~Anonymous
- There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. ~Louis L’Amour
- Trouble is opportunity in work clothes. ~W. Clement Stone
- Divorce is a process, not an event. ~Karen Finn
- When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive. ~Nelson Mandela
- Many people feel numb when starting down the path of divorce – it’s a protective mechanism. ~Karen Finn
- Every difficult situation in our life makes us bitter or better. The choice is ours to become the victim or the victor. ~Unknown
- I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains. ~Anne Frank
- Crying holds the power of healing. ~Daphne Rose Kingma
- You wouldn’t believe that so much could change just because a relationship ended. ~Nick Hornby
- Change takes but an instant. It’s the resistance to change that can take a lifetime. ~Hebrew Proverb
- Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience. ~Unknown
- Constructive and appropriate anger puts distance between you and your ex. It will also allow you to move on with your life after divorce. ~Karen Finn
- Sometimes when you hurt too much to cry, laughter is the best response. ~Unknown
- When you allow yourself to express depression, it will leave as soon as it has served its purpose in your loss. ~E. Kubler-Ross
- The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. ~Dolly Parton
- The words we attach to our experience become our experience. ~Tony Robbins
- My only advice is to stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it. ~Judy Blume
- Our job is not merely to discover ourselves, but to create new selves in the new context. ~Micki McWade
- There is glory in a great mistake. ~Nathalia Crane
- The future needs your attention. It has something beautiful to offer you, but first you must let go of the past in order to receive it. ~Israa Ali
- Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. ~James Neil Hollingworth
- Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better. ~Unknown
- Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ~Paul Boese
- If you try to get rid of fear and anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return. ~ Deepak Chopra
- The world doesn’t stop for the personal grief of divorce. ~Karen Finn
- Live a life you’re proud of and if you need to, have the strength to start all over again. ~Unknown
- You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~C.S. Lewis
- Forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed you. Sometimes a good heart doesn’t see the bad. ~Unknown
- There’s always a way to begin again. ~Unknown
- Divorce sets off a tidal wave of changes – physical, mental, emotional, social and existential. ~Karen Finn
- Knowing when it is over is the beginning of a new life and the end of an old one! ~Unknown
- Fear wins or freedom wins. ~Brendon Burchard
- Those who attempt to hold onto the past sign up for a lifetime of frustration. ~Micki McWade
- I can courageously handle anything so long as I take it one moment at a time. ~Sue Patton Theole
- Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune. ~William James
- Adaptability is the powerful difference between changing to cope and changing to grow. ~Unknown
- Do you se your divorce as a set-back or a do-over? It took time and effort, but I now see mine as a do-over. ~Karen Finn
- The truth is that pain is one of our greatest teachers. ~Daphne Rose Kingma
- It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe. ~Muhammad Ali
- Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. ~Unknown
- The hopes of tomorrow can often diminish the pains of today. ~Unknown
- It is better to be alone than to be in bad company. ~George Washington
- The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. ~Alice Walker
- A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. ~George Bernard Shaw
- An unexpected dead end in one journey is merely an opportunity to set a new course for another. ~Sean Patrick
- Believing in yourself is essential to creating lasting change and a happy life. ~Tara Stiles
- Changing the expectations you have of someone just might change the way you feel about them. ~Unknown
- The only thing worse than being stuck in a situation that makes you unhappy is realizing you are not willing to change it. ~Unknown
- The pain of divorce doesn’t last forever – despite how it might seem right now. ~Karen Finn
- You can catch glimpses of happiness in the middle of the pain of divorce when you remember to take care of yourself. ~Karen Finn
- The longer you focus on blaming your ex for the end of your marriage, the more you’re hurting yourself. ~Unknown
- Divorce is one of the most destructive, emotionally traumatic experiences a human being can go through, no matter if you’re the instigator or the recipient. It’s hard, and it hurts, and it takes a long time to feel normal again. ~Emily V. Gordon
- You don’t sign up for a divorce when you get married. It’s very painful. But it’s taught me a great deal about myself. ~Dwayne Johnson
- When I left, after my divorce, when I left Oklahoma, I never looked back. It was the future. It was looking forward from then on. ~Reba McEntire
- Divorce is a time of change. It really rocks a foundation of most people’s lives. When we have our heart broken or our dreams taken away from us, it is a time of growth and change. ~Debbie Ford
- I don’t see divorce as a failure. I see it as the end to a story. In a story, everything has an end and a beginning. ~Olga Kurylenko
- When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they ‘don’t understand’ one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to. ~Helen Rowland
- I used to think that divorce meant failure, but now I see it more as a step along the path of self-realization and growth. ~Alana Stewart
- Divorce is hard and painful and complicated, and something you have to grow through. ~Sharon Stone
The wonderful thing about these divorce quotes is that they will mean something different to you each time you choose to read them. That’s because as you work through your divorce (or grow through it as Sharon Stone suggests) you’re a different person who sees and understands the world a bit differently.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people just like you with healing after a divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about getting over the end of your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
There’s not just one right reason to call it quits.
People have a multitude of motives for wanting to know the reasons for divorce. Maybe they want to understand why their spouse has chosen divorce instead of working on their marriage. Maybe they want to know if what they’re going through in their marriage is worthy of divorce. Maybe they’re just curious about why people divorce in general.
Whatever your motivation is for looking up the reasons people decide to call it quits, you’ll find both research-based answers along with others that will surprise you below.
The 5 Research-Based Reasons People Divorce
Researchers interviewed 52 divorced individuals who had received the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) while engaged. In 2013, they presented their findings. Here are the top 5 reasons they discovered that lead to divorce:
- Lack of commitment.
According to the research, the number one reason people divorce is a lack of commitment. This means that at least one spouse stopped making their marriage a priority. When a spouse decides to stop making a daily commitment to have a great relationship, misery follows.
For some couples, the estrangement happened gradually. They drifted apart until one of them was unwilling to continue living with an unfulfilling marriage.
For others, it was an abrupt change due to negative outside influences.
One of the negative outside influences that can lead to a lack of commitment is the second major reason the researchers found couples divorced: infidelity.
Infidelity is painful and changes both the betrayer and the betrayed. Some couples use infidelity to create stronger relationships. However, others find the betrayal of infidelity and/or trying to repair their relationship too painful and choose divorce instead.
- Too much conflict. Over half of the individuals interviewed for this research cited too much conflict and arguing as a major reason they divorced. When a couple has poor communication skills, it’s hard to resolve disagreements calmly or effectively.
When disagreements are regularly left unresolved, it’s common for resentment to build. It’s also common for feelings of positive connection and mutual support to diminish. Without effective communication skills, these negative results can spiral into a lack of commitment and divorce.
- Married too young.
Age does have something to do with the success of a marriage. The data suggests that when couples wed with at least one spouse in their early 20s or younger that they’re more likely to divorce.
Some of the study participants reported that they had only known their future spouse a short time before marrying. Many of those who married too young, also wished they had dated their future spouse longer to either gain a better perspective on the relationship or to make a more rational decision as to whom they should marry.
Some participants who stated that marrying too young was one of their major reasons for divorce also stated they were too young to make mature objective decisions about marriage.
- Financial problems. Of the study participants who reported that financial problems were a major contributor to divorce, many said it wasn’t the main reason. Instead, the financial difficulties added stress and tension within their relationship.
Interestingly, other participants stated that their financial problems were due to other issues like health problems, substance abuse, and infidelity.
In all, this study lists 11 reasons for divorce. The others that the study uncovered, in order, were substance abuse, domestic violence, health problems, lack of support from family, religious differences, and little or no premarital education.
What’s interesting to note about this study is that it was conducted after the divorces were final and that these reasons for divorce were typically the deeper reasons and not necessarily the last straw that led one of the spouses to file for divorce.
But these aren’t the only reasons couples divorce. There are all kinds of strange, sad and frightening circumstances that can play into the decision to call it quits.
5 True & Unusual Reasons For Divorce
- In Italy, a 99-year-old man divorced his 96-year-old wife after 77 years of marriage because he discovered an affair she had in the 1940s.
- In 2007, a Bosnian coupled filed for divorce after discovering they were having an online affair with each other.
- A German woman divorced her neat-freak husband after 15 years of marriage because he rebuilt a wall in their home simply because it was dirty.
- A Nigerian woman divorced her husband for talking too much and not keeping family secrets.
- An American woman divorced her husband for hiring a hitman to kill her. (Yes, despite his best attempt, the hitman was unsuccessful.)
Regardless of your motivation for wanting to know the reasons for divorce, these two very different lists point out something very important. People divorce for all kinds of reasons – big and small. Some of the reasons make a lot of sense and some just leave you shaking your head.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people just like you who want a deeper understanding of their or their spouse’s reasons for divorce. For free weekly advice, register for my newsletter. If you’d like to explore working with me, you can schedule a private 30-minute consultation with me.
Looking for more help coping with the heartbreak of divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
Impossible is only one perspective.
Divorce impacts every facet of your life – how you live, who you are, what you do, when you get to see your kids, and maybe even where you live. So, of course, it’s natural that with all this change you’d feel sad, angry, resentful and uncertain about how to start over after divorce.
Yet, you also know that some people find a gift in all this chaos. They find a way to create an amazing life for themselves after divorce.
Even though, at this exact moment, it seems impossible that you’ll ever feel any better, deep down you know that if other people can figure out how to start over after divorce, you can too.
And you can. You’re not consigned to living with this pain, uncertainty, depression, frustration, anxiety and fear forever. Things can get better.
By following a process, the same process that everyone who’s ever healed and moved on from divorce has followed, you can make things better for you too.
- Work through your grief. This is the most difficult part of the process. It will require you to come face-to-face with painful memories and emotions. It is also unpredictable. No one can tell you how long it will take to get through your grief. No one can tell you the exact steps you must take to get through it either.
The best you’ll find online is a description of some guideposts you can be on the lookout for along the way.
What most people find they need to truly work through their grief is to talk with a therapist, divorce coach (link to about Karen) or compassionate friend who has dealt with divorce themselves.
These people typically discover that by vocalizing their fears, regrets, and misery to someone who’s been through a similar experience that they feel understood. Feeling understood means that they’re not alone. Having support like this helps them work through their grief. And as it subsides, they find it easier to continue taking the other steps in the process required to start over after divorce.
- Identify what you must get done – and do it. While you’re working through the legal pieces of your divorce, you and your ex’s attorneys let you know what you must do to complete the legalities necessary to obtain a divorce decree and a parenting agreement.
However, you’ll find there are plenty of other things that must get done for you to start over after divorce. Some of the tasks that can fall into this category are legal documents not required for your divorce (link to paperwork article), finding a job, getting health insurance and moving.
Getting motivated to finish up what you know needs to be done can be difficult, if not impossible, when you’re struggling with grief. So, know that you don’t have to get everything done at once. You can prioritize these tasks by due date and chip away at them regularly.
You’ll discover that when you repeatedly take little actions to accomplish what needs to be done, you’ll be able to accomplish almost anything. And that includes creating a great life for yourself.
- Dream. One of the most amazing things we can each do to change our life experience is to change our thoughts. This is a powerful tool when it comes knowing how to start over after divorce.
But, changing your thoughts isn’t a simple thing to do. It’s actually really, really hard – at first. But really hard isn’t impossible. And changing your thoughts definitely becomes easier with practice.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re having a bad day and then someone tells a great joke that you can laugh, and your day seems a little better? That’s an example of changing your thoughts.
Dreaming about how you want your life to be or who you want to become after divorce takes a bunch of courage. You thought you were making your dreams come true when you married. But that didn’t quite work.
However, when you’re brave enough to start thinking about how you really want to be living instead of remaining in the pain, that’s when you’ll know that you’re on your way to discovering your personal path to beginning again after divorce.
Creating a new life for yourself after divorce isn’t easy. And the 3-step process outlined above shouldn’t be taken as easy either.
These steps are simply the very broad outline of what you’ll need to do to get through the feelings of loss you experience when you divorce. It’s also quite likely that you’ll work through each of the steps multiple times before you really feel like you’ve moved on. But that’s what everyone who truly heals from divorce goes through.
So, use these steps not as a blueprint, but as guidelines to help you stay focused on healing and moving forward. By doing so, you will find your that you too can create a meaningful and fulfilling life after divorce.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you still have questions about how to start over after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.