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Why Divorces Get Ugly and How to Have a Good One

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If you are married and socialize with a group of friends on a regular basis, at some point at least one couple if not several couples in that group will go through a divorce. It's inevitable. The divorce statistics are too high. Almost one in every two marriages ends in divorce these days and most of those divorces turn ugly. You know, you see it all the time. The "once" loving couple is now slinging mud at each other from across an expensive conference table in a high-powered attorney's office. But, it doesn't have to be that way.

  • First Marriages: 45 percent to 50 percent end in divorce
  • Second Marriage: 60 percent to 67 percent end in divorce
  • Third Marriage 70 percent to 73 percent end in divorce [1]
Right now, my husband and I are in the process of getting divorced and we are the best we've been in a year and half. As a coach, I know this is not common, but how my husband and I have handled the end of our marriage was a contributing factor to having our divorce go smoothly. We've been married for 12 years and have a nine-year-old daughter. After almost 10 years together, I had become unhappy in our marriage. Instead of keeping it a secret and hating my husband in my head, I told him exactly how I was feeling. We had a real conversation about our marriage and he told me what he wanted me to work on as well. For a while, we worked privately on ourselves but things didn't change. We decided to get outside help. We went to marriage counseling, did a course on relationships and got coached. We spent a year and half working on our marriage. Finally, after Thanksgiving 2010, it really wasn't working and I asked my husband for a divorce. Now, we're getting divorced. And are we sad? Sure. Am I blaming my husband for the divorce? Absolutely not. Is he blaming me? No. We tried to fix it but it didn't work. We loved each other and spent 12 years together but we shouldn't be married anymore. The best part is that we are taking responsibility for our part in the breakup of the marriage. There isn't any anger or hatred because we're not blaming each other. And by owning our own crap, our nine-year-old daughter is completely fine about us getting divorced. Yes, she's sad -- like we are -- but she's ok. She's actually doing great. Why Divorces Get Ugly
  1. One spouse has a dirty little secret. The reason most divorces turn ugly is because someone in the relationship has a dirty little secret. They've been lying to their spouse about how they feel and have been privately entertaining the idea of getting a divorce. They stop liking their husband or wife and begin living in the zone of "it's over" without ever telling their spouse. The spouse has no idea what's going on and believes the marriage is fine. This dirty little secret slowly destroys the relationship.
  2. That spouse builds a case against their partner.
    So, the spouse with the dirty secret begins to build a case in their head about the big, bad, evil person they're married to. They're mean. They ruined my life. I hate them. The spouse with the secret feels completely justified as the innocent one because they're talking to themselves about the awful person they are going to dump. They don't realize they are a withholding liar. They are causing all the tension. They don't have the balls to have a conversation with their spouse and tell them they are unhappy and considering divorce. Instead they lie and explain away their happiness in their head, creating an even more toxic environment.
  3. No one owns their own crap in the marriage.
    Now, the one spouse is not only building a case to dump their partner, they're also pointing the finger and blaming the downfall of the marriage on their spouse without acknowledging their part. They believe they are the innocent victim and their husband or wife is the "bad" one. It never even occurs to them that they may have also contributed to the downfall of the relationship. All they do is blame and play innocent. This leads to complete breakdown of communication between the spouses.
  4. All real communication is gone. The Handel Method is about looking at yourself and how you got where you are in your life. We get clients to really understand why they did what they did in a particular situation and to own it fully. When you look at your part in the breakdown of your marriage it ultimately releases all the blame you had on the other person. You have to own your own issues and own that you got yourself into this mess. You picked your spouse and forgot that you did. There's a natural way to fix it. But if there's no truthful communication between the spouses, nothing will get resolved. Often partners walk away from a relationship without knowing the truth of what really happened in their marriage. Which is often why second and third marriages fail as well. The person never learned what they needed to learn about themselves in a relationship, which would keep them from having another bad marriage.
You can say goodbye with loveThe night before we went to the mediator to help us start legally dissolve our marriage, I got a bouquet of flowers and a thank you card from my soon-to-be ex-husband. In the card he thanked me for who I had become over the years and how I had helped him become the man he was today. He was excited for our futures and thrilled how well our divorce was going. When I showed the mediator the card, he was shocked. Most of his clients are barely speaking when they walk into his office. If you own what you did in the marriage and how you got there, then the divorce is simply just dividing up the money and dealing beautifully with the children. You walked into the marriage with love and you can walk away with love. It doesn't have to be ugly. Some advice if you are considering divorce:
  • If you're unhappy, go to your spouse and tell them what's wrong. Be completely honest.
  • Communicate to your spouse and figure out if the two of you want to make an effort to save the marriage or not. No pretending to be innocent and harboring bad feeling.
  • Look at your role in why the marriage is breaking up and own your crap. Don't just blame the other person.
  • Communicate the truth about the marriage. Walk away knowing it was both of you who contributed to the downfall of your marriage. It's a powerful feeling.

[1] Statistics source is Jennifer Baker, Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, Springfield, Missouri