Post-Valentine Day Divorce Rate – Therapy is Cheaper than Attorneys

Posted on February 17, 2013

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http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/carnations–again–why-post-valentine-s-day-is-a-popular-time-for-divorce-191303367.html

I saw this article this week that cited a study indicating that the divorce rate jumped as much as 40% following Valentine’s Day.  The speculation of some of the attorneys interviewed for the article was that couples were either hoping that Valentine’s Day would fix their problems or waiting to see how Valentine’s Day went.  If the partner dropped the ball for Valentine’s Day, that would be seen as confirmation that the relationship is doomed, the romance is gone forever.  Disappointment gives way to despair gives way to disconnection.

During the last week, I have had a few conversations with men who are in distressed marriages about their plans for Valentine’s Day.  In these couples, the wife is in tremendous pain, but what he sees is how angry she is at him.  He thinks, “Surely, she is not interested in my expressions of love on Valentine’s Day.”  When the relationship is most distressed is when partners are most in need of connection, most in need of feeling valued, most in need of expressions of love.  It is also when such expressions are most counter-intuitive.  It is difficult to really feel like coming close to a partner who is so angry with you, even if she has good reason (maybe particularly if she has good reason).  Everything from shame to fear of rejection says, “Don’t do this.”  Whether it is Valentine’s Day or your anniversary or any other day, recovery requires that you be vulnerable and take those risks.

Even the most distressed couples can find closeness again if they are both willing to work on it.  This may mean finding a couple’s therapist to help.  I often ask couples about the story of their courtship and what it was about their partner that made them decide to spend their lives together.  What I generally find is that the love they had at the beginning of the relationship was real.  When couples are really distressed, partners often can’t even remember when it was good or they question whether any of the love they had was ever real.

So here is my commercial advertisement.  Therapy is way cheaper than attorney’s fees.  A couple of years ago, I was talking with an attorney who practiced family law.  He was telling me of a couple going through a divorce (he had represented one partner) in which they each had their two attorneys spend an hour negotiating over a $50 lamp.  Whether they stayed together or got divorced, it would have been substantially cheaper to have worked on the relationship.  Emotionally Focused Therapy is one of the most empirically studied therapies for couples.  In studies after 10-12 sessions, 65% of couples report that relational distress has been resolved and 90% report improvement.  There are not any guarantees that therapy will help, but with results like that, it is worth a shot.  Let’s try this.  Take the “D word” (i.e. divorce) off of the table for 3 months.  Find a therapist in your area with whom you both can connect.  Give him or her 10-12 sessions and see where you are at.  Even if it takes a year of therapy, it is cheaper than divorce.  Most likely, much more satisfying, too.

References

Greenfield, B. (2013). Carnations? Again? Why Post-Valentine’s Day is a Popular Time for Divorce. Accessed 15 February 2013 at http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/carnations–again–why-post-valentine-s-day-is-a-popular-time-for-divorce-191303367.html.

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