On Divorce

Many things in life take forever to build, but only a moment to dismantle. Marriage is not one of them. In mid-2016, According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, divorce rates are reported to be up since 2015 – figures please. Let’s examine the factors that lead to divorce, and ultimately what needs to be considered before proceeding with this life-changing event.

How did we end up here?

Indeed there are many factors that may lead to divorce, but at the core of every divorce is the idea that they or their spouses had changed. Regardless of whether change actually occurred, or there was conflicting information relating to their spouse at the time of marriage, the key similarity is that there was a disconnect between their expectations and reality, and there were no means to reconcile the two.

While conflict is inevitable in every relationship, the unhappiest couples whom we work with are the ones who become gridlocked by these arguments and focus on their own needs, rather than the relationship. Whether it be poor or limited communication, these conflicts break their bonds, and push them apart, with divorce finally being considered.

So when should we consider divorce?

Just as there exists a way to sink the strongest ship, there is also a way to mend a broken hull, assuming we have the tools for repair, and the desire and commitment to stay in union. Tools include honesty, care and concern for spouses, and safety.

    Divorce is on the cards when there is a lack of:

  • Safety (abuse)
  • Honesty (leading to breakdown of communication and trust)
  • Commitment (continual cheating, or absent desire to stay in union)

There are clear circumstances under which a woman should get a divorce, such as emotional or physical abuse, and potentially where safety of oneself or child is threatened. Otherwise, with the recognition that there are cycles of good and bad times in marriage, it is up to the individual to determine whether she is still willing to put in the effort in the relationship. Numerous couples we have worked with have considered divorce, and relationship counselling has helped them process what this would mean for them and help them make more informed decisions.

Making the deicision

Through conflicts, ask yourself if these issues are things that you can accept. When you think about the problems in your marriage, are you able to believe that you and your partner have the ability to overcome difficult times together? According to John Gottman, renowned relationship researcher, couples that stay together are the ones whom are able to glorify the struggle and talk about how it strengthened their bond. They were able to use it as a catalyst to grow closer together.

Points to consider

Divorce is a serious decision, especially when there are dependents involved. Divorce should never be threatened or used as a weapon for revenge. It is important to carefully consider one’s own reasons and not to be overly influenced by others. We have worked with many women whom had commenced divorce proceedings at the behest of their family members whom felt it was best for them to, only to realise mid-way that this was not truly what they wanted.

When splitting is inevitable, there are two main factors to be considered here; the practical, which includes things like finances and childcare support, as well as the emotional, which refers mainly to one’s support system and having people to turn to in this difficult time. Many whom we counsel for marriage problems usually consider the practical, but have not thoroughly accounted for their emotional needs.

Ultimately, it is about making smart choices with a clear mind, and involves careful planning of all the aspects of your life from where you are now to where you would like to be. It requires methodical preparation in the months leading up to informing your spouse you want a divorce. The more you plan, the better your position will be in your post-divorce life.

Written by Dr. Joel Yang