Benchmarks of Divorce

Marriage researchers have identified three key benchmarks of typical marriages in which divorce is more likely to occur.  These benchmarks are simply phases of married life that have potential to produce conditions that threaten the relationship.  Why is this important?  If your goal is a happy, committed, enduring marriage it is good to know something about these challenging marital phases in order to navigate through them successfully.

The first benchmark comes at the "post-honeymoon" phase of the marriage.  Typically divorces in this phase occur sometime during the initial two years of the marriage.  It is during this time in the marriage in which the mutual infatuation that characterizes many new relationships begins to fade.  The newness and excitement of the union is replaced by the reality of living together.

Often times marriage simply does not live up to the expectations of one or both partners.  Generally this is because such expectations were idealistic and unreasonable.  Most young couples who divorce (and many who do not) have not properly prepared themselves for married life and have not learned the skills necessary for a successful union.

The second benchmark comes at what some call the "seven year itch" phase of marriage.  This phase does not necessarily happen exactly during or after the seventh year of marriage.  Research suggests the average timing is between years five and eight.   This is a time in which people tend to re-evaluate their lives and their relationships.  Again, a common problem at this phase has to do with unfulfilled expectations that are often unreasonable and impossible to meet.

It is also during this phase that children are typically born.  Many couples are not prepared for the time and labor intensive demands of parenting.  As a result, partners feel stressed, inadequate, and confused.  Neglect of the marital relationship is common during this phase due to increased responsibility of children and other areas.

Finally, the third benchmark comes at the "empty nest" phase of the marriage.  The term empty nest refers to the experience of grown children leaving the home.  Therefore, this phase can occur at various times depending on several factors including how many children a couple has, how long they stay at home, and so forth.

The experience of the children leaving home is not necessarily a trigger that causes increased stress, conflict, or problems.  Rather, it is at this phase in which many couples conclude that it was the children that were holding the marriage together.  Generally, partners who divorce at this time report that they have grown apart or become disengaged progressively over several years.  The problems have festered to the point of fatalism.  The couple reaches a tipping point at which they believe the good aspects of the home and married life no longer outweigh the bad.
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