Monday, November 5, 2007

When the 7-Year Itch Comes Early

A recent study has shown that couples are at their greatest risk of divorce shortly before their fifth anniversary, instead of the seven-year mark traditionally assumed, according to a recent story in the Houston Chronicle. The study was conducted using records from the United States, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Interestingly, the statistics seem to indicate that marriages that last at least 10 years have a good chance of continuing without divorce.

Apparently, couples face a lot of stress around the five-year mark as they think about having children (often a topic of disagreement) or as they deal with radically changed relationships as new parents (combining stress and loss of sleep with the need to make major adjustments in their lives). Sometimes less-committed partners decide to bail out before life gets too complicated or expensive, which can be around the five-year mark. It can also be a time when unhappy couples decide they don't like their relationship and they have given it enough time to work out.

Sometimes, divorce may be the only or the best answer. In other cases, divorce may be avoided by couples working with marriage counselors early on as they start thinking things aren't going so well. Couples need to communicate well, actively listen to each other and be willing to change and compromise on issues. Those are things most people don't do well without skillful help. Couples usually need help in developing communication skills so that they can discuss sensitive topics without getting into major arguments. Those skills, which are utilized to negotiate in Collaborative divorces, include carefully choosing one's words, being respectful to the partner, agreeing not to rehash old arguments and avoiding blaming the other party, among other things.

Sometimes couples can avoid divorce by treating their underlying issues rather than just scratching their itch and causing further irritation. Early sincere efforts by both parties will provide the best chance of success for the marriage.

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