By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Several therapists agree that if there were plenty of warning signs that a couple was heading for divorce, there's a good chance that divorce could have been prevented. Find out what steps you can take to the put the breaks on a permanent painful "break-up."
Tribune News Service
Have you noticed that divorce is still rising in America?
It seems every time we turn around, a couple is splitting up. In many cases, this means splitting up families.
There is lots of documentation that divorce leaves ugly marks on people for generations. That's why it's best to prevent it, if we possibly can.
While divorced parents usually manage to rebound, their children know their family of origin is destroyed forever. That hurts.
Children carry deep scars, and often, they do not heal, ever.
Most of the recently divorced couples we know have told us their split "was a long time coming." In other words, they had plenty of advance warning.
Our take is this: If there was plenty of warning, there's a good chance divorce could have been prevented.
For example, one man we know says his wife was in five major volunteer organizations. "She didn't know I was in the world," he told us. "And, get this, she asked me for the divorce."
In that case, the man might have spoken up earlier. He might have complained a little louder.
But, chances are, his wife was feeling much of the strain, too. Maybe she coped with marriage issues by staying too busy. She should have faced the problems and tried to solve them as well.
For those of us who've been through a divorce, most of us can define a clear breaking point. However, if we'd foreseen the breaking point, and really tried to cool the tension, we likely could have avoided the divorce.
Here are some tips we might all reflect on:
-When things get ugly verbally, it's best to take a break. This keeps the tension from escalating. Calling a time out and staying silent for a little while keeps us from going into fight mode.
-We need to avoid hot topics when we're stressed. Setting aside 30 minutes a week to talk when we're relaxed isn't a bad idea.
-Meeting your mate's needs first can help. Every person is different, so what your mate needs is usually not what you need. Ask: what does my partner love? Is it a nice meal? Is it warm and fuzzy conversation? Do what you can do first. Then ask for what you need.
"I took a solid month to quietly study my husband," says a friend of ours we'll call Audrey. "I could tell he didn't feel well, and he was very cranky."
Audrey finally asked her husband if he felt okay about his health. "He told me, 'No, I don't,'" says Audrey. "He was having constant headaches."
Eventually, Audrey's husband found out he was a borderline diabetic. Once he got medication and a better diet, he felt more like exercising and having fun. Their marriage improved significantly.
It's easier for any of us to function as a happier marriage partner, if we feel well physically and emotionally. Hidden illnesses, lack of sleep, money pressures, and too much work can affect any of us.
Paying attention means we find out what's missing. We need to look at our support system, too. Every marriage needs supportive people who are nurturing toward both the husband and wife. No two people can totally nurture each other. It's too big of a job.
Make it a goal for 2017 to build a great social network for your marriage. Having fun and enjoying life with friends and family will help smooth off the rough edges of too much stress. ___ (Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)