Why marriages break down (Part 2 of 3)

“I’ll close my eyes, then I won’t see
The love you don’t feel when you’re holding me” – “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt


The Erosion of Love

Robert S. Weiss, a UMASS sociology professor, (Weiss, Robert S., Marital Separation, 1975, New York, Basic Books), offers a well-written, cogent piece which provides an up-close and personal snapshot of a PROCESS that begins in hope and ends in despair.  The work is that of a sociologist reporting, through the eyes and minds of his subjects, what it’s like to be in the midst of a difficult and often confusing life-altering period.  It is primarily descriptive but offers useful insight into the How and Why of marital breakdown.marital breakdown

Immediately following the birth of Baby Jack, one of the stars of our March Blog, significant changes began to occur in the lives of new parents John and Mary.  Among them, Mary found herself more physically and mentally exhausted than she’d ever imagined.  Care of the baby, rightly, took center stage.  John, too, was actively involved in baby care and, recognizing Mary’s fatigue, took a more active role in chores around the house.

While the baby was a source of undeniable wonderment and joy, the pleasures that were central to the Couple Relationship began to wane and, imperceptibly, John and Mary began to lose touch with one another in the Boyfriend-Girlfriend, Intimate Partner sense — which had been, since the beginning, the foundation of their lives together.

Sex was the last thing on Mary’s mind, given that being able to grab 20 minutes of uninterrupted sleep had become more important.  John understood this on a cognitive level but began to feel lonely and discounted nonetheless.  And though it was the last thing John ever wanted or expected, a shadow of resentment began to cloud his life.

Precisely at this point, an essential piece of Relationship Maintenance Behavior needed to occur, but it did not.  John, whether out of a sense of compassion for his wife’s plight or, more likely, because of a sense of shame and embarrassment regarding his “unreasonable, self-centered” feelings, put the issue out of the way and decided to not talk about it.

Mary, for her part, had been feeling a vague sense of distance from John and, for whatever reasons, also neglected to identify and discuss her concerns.
Overwhelmingly, when I help clients articulate the underpinnings of their own divorces, the statement “We stopped talking to each other” is at the forefront of the dialogue.

“Did she (he) get tired or did she just get lazy?”  Yes, on the first part and Probably on the second.

In any case the “We just grew apart. We no longer knew and weren’t really interested in who we’d become.” is always, ALWAYS, a consequence of a breakdown in communication.

The Erosion starts there.

Next month, let’s take a look at Repair and Rebuilding…

- Mark

On June 1, 2015, posted in: counseling, goals, mental health, psychotherapy, relationships, therapy by
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