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Why does divorce happen?

People whose spouses ask for a divorce may often claim that it came “out of the blue”. How could things have gone from happily married to divorce proceedings so quickly? As Marilyn Stowe explains in this extract from the second edition of her book Divorce and Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer, it is rarely that simple.

Nobody who gets married plans to divorce. When couples pledge “until death do us part”, they tend to mean it. But life brings unexpected temptations and unforeseen pressures. People change. Relationships wither.

A marriage that appears to be completely happy on the surface may be disrupted and destroyed by the intervention of a third party, even though such an event was neither sought nor anticipated by either spouse.

Even so, it is rare for marriages to collapse without warning. Instead they tend to crumble over a protracted period. Couples lose interest in each other. They take one another for granted. They stop trying. We’ve all seen such couples on the high street. One partner is immaculately groomed and looking smart; the other is slobbing alongside, in a scruffy tracksuit and trainers. There can grow feelings of resentment, isolation, anger and frustration. Boredom is likely to set in. Perhaps there is frustration at work as well.  Perhaps a temptation will arise and will prove too difficult to resist.

I long ago concluded that divorce arises and is propelled by uncontrollable human instincts including self-preservation, protection and survival. A person going through divorce, whether they admit it or not, is forced to think almost exclusively of what is in his or her best interests. People are not perfect. Human instinct in a survival situation isn’t about continuing to hunt with the rest of the pack, meekly obeying society’s customs. It is about making private decisions to tackle lonely challenges.

Will you stay or will you go? Are you wavering, or have you made a firm decision? How can you know that your choice is the “right” one?

To get a digital copy of Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer, you can download it here for just 99p with the profits from each sale donated to the Children’s Society.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Reddit Seenit Dunit says:

    “Nobody who gets married plans to divorce. When couples pledge ‘until death do us part’, they tend to mean it.”

    Sure, most do. But there exist a certain sub-section of marriages where, unbeknown to the victim (it is confined almost entirely to female perpetrators) the so-called “wife” is nothing but a scammer, a crook — intent on relieving her spouse of as much money as she can possibly lay her hands on in the eventual divorce which she plans for him.

    I know, I’ve seen it — I was mug enough to marry one. Like a good many other men in this part of the world, I was an unknowing party to what can only be described as a “sham” marriage. Oh, it looked good — for a while. But the day after the wedding, a demand was put upon me that I should pay off a sizeable loan my spouse had acquired. Full of love, of course, I paid up…

    Things carried on normally for a while — because, now married to a citizen, she was able to apply for jobs that paid much more than her previous one. Eventually, she was earning more than she even dreamed of — because of the job I found her. But even so, within a few months, she was “putting the bite” on me to buy her a house in her home country…..

    It went downhill from there, with her not respecting the marriage… and then, predictably (but only in hindsight) she launched a divorce petition, ending up with a huge sum being awarded — enough to buy TWO houses back in her home country.

    But the law is blind — indeed. It takes no account of scammers like these — and every day there are increasing numbers of them — leading to “thousands of VICTIMS every year” according to one knowledgeable source.

    It is high time the law started to take note of these sort of cases — because increasingly scammers are grabbing capital assets, and repatriating them back to their home country, to live a life of ease.

    Yes, it is a form of “money laundering” — and for years, the divorce laws have ALLOWED this to happen. When will legislators wake up?

  2. Andy says:

    That’s easy to answer.
    1. One of the parties,spouse or respondent is either a cheat, narcissist and a complete lying idiot.

    2. The everso spouse or respondent is or has taken and usually is the cause of divorce,financial taking from the once family money pot for own gain…
    When found out denying all knowledge..typical cause and effect…
    Oh,and all the lies that follow…So why would you stay in that environment…
    Apart from the children if any…

  3. Luke says:

    Nora Ephron sums it up:
    “The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It’s followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.”
    ― Nora Ephron
    You want monogamy, marry a swan.
    – Nora Ephron, “Heartburn” screenplay
    Human beings are not designed to pair bond for life – I’m not saying it can’t happen, but women are hypergamous and men with any drive are difficult to keep on the porch ( 🙂 ), so the odds are not good…
    Note: We now know via DNA that even swans are ‘adulterous’ !

  4. JamesB says:

    For once I disagree with you Luke. We are not chips going around sniffing each other. A lot of the growth can be seen as per Bible belt with family together bringing up children. Perhaps once the children are raised people may stray but they seem to stay home longer and longer, boys into their 30s even these days.

  5. JamesB says:

    I think I read that 50% of first time marriages last forever (til death of one spouse) and that leaves 50% where some lasted well and then divorced, so most marriages can be considered a success, so it is possible. Whether it is worth the risk under current divorce law of getting married I would say not, but it is possible, should be encouraged with good marriage law and legalised prenups.

  6. Luke says:

    Well JamesB we’ve always disagreed on marriage 🙂 – you still generally believe in it and I definitely don’t – especially for men.
    You say 50% of first time marriages last and imply that means that they actually ‘work’ for both parties – I think that’s just wrong.
    I know lots of unhappy guys that have worked out that it’s “cheap her to keep her” and miserable women that stay in a marriage because they fear the family stigma and acrimony of a divorce system that in order to generate costs is designed to create just that.
    In fact I can honestly say that I don’t know one marriage of 10 years standing that I am well acquainted with that I think is something to aspire to. One or other would – given the choice – be out of the marriage and often the partner is oblivious to it.
    I used to think I knew one, but I had the opportunity to talk to the wife one-to-one and she was absolutely scathing about him – and they have been married for over 40 years !
    I’m not saying happy long term marriages can’t exist, but I think they are < 10% of the total.

    • JamesB says:

      Well, I don’t claim know the answer to a happy life and I suppose we all try. I have seen unhappy marriages, I have also seen unhappy single people. I do think man is a social animal though and I do find it sad the number of single households and that the percentage is increasing. I think most UK households now are single households.

      I am writing on this as I suppose I am wondering, like perhaps most UK parents, whether to push this for my children or not. Especially given the lack of decent role models they look to me for leadership and to be honest I am not sure what to say to them having been ripped off in the divorce courts myself.

      We could go on for a while on this, but I think both me and my ex got married half expecting to divorce. I bought a smaller house then we could have and didn’t act subservient and condone her abuse but tried to defend myself and ended up with a divorce sooner rather than later as thought could have another chance.

      My issue with my approach is that it is good to have someone else and I liked having an extended family and history growing up and I don’t want the government as the head of each household in the country would prefer we look back for good ideas on the future and looking at politicians and women slagging men off is not the way. not sure what the way is. Seeing the nice suburban houses with so many old people and single mums and flats and streets with single men I don’t like. As I don’t like the way women are chasing money rather than men, or both.

      Perhaps I am just a sucker for a romantic story. Final point, I have seen first hand so many times that non biological mother and father figures are not as good for children as biological parents. Despite what the Archers presents which is a tiny minority.

      • JamesB says:

        I was rushing that and the dig at women was unintentional and wrong. It was a mis typed comment, meant more that I don’t like that we don’t seem to have time in our families relationships to do everything and have it all and people struggle with that and money more than in the past. Probably talking about household stuff and children and careers and all that old chestnut again. I don’t have an issue with women in the workplace.

        I do have an issue with players and tinder and that sort of hook up culture undermining romance while we are on the subject though and think that it is possible to have sex with too many people. Charlie Sheen for example seems to have gone over the top as an extreme example. Is possible to come back from that and go straight and narrow with one person I suppose. Heard of an ex prostitute who ended up having a 48 year marriage until her husband died, they both were 30 when they got together. Personally I don’t think I would like to be in a relationship where both partners are not monogamous also.

        • JamesB says:

          My wife is a full time scientist and we have a child and struggle with time and are not sure what the normal way we are supposed to do everything, we all chip in and are tired and don’t get much support from government or extended family and get tired trying to do all we are supposed to as per instructed to by liberal elite and support not well parents and previous families too.

      • Luke says:

        I’m obviously not against women and men having relationships 😀
        I just think the idea that assuming any relationship is going to last happily for life and then banking on that is very foolish. You should protect yourself at all times (like boxing 🙂 ) so that IF the relationship does break down you are not financially ruined.
        The signing of the marriage contract is the biggest mistake you can make in this regard.

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