I’ve fallen and can’t get up

Two years ago Nancy discovered that Frank had an affair; she forgave him for the sake of the marriage and the children. Fast forward two years and Frank is having another affair, this time with one of Nancy’s friends. Enough is enough. Nancy is looking for an attorney to help end their 19 year marriage and that’s when I get “the call.”

In talking with Nancy, it became clear that she is not staunch in her resolve to move forward with a divorce. Actually, she was contemplating yet another reconciliation. Most people might find it incredible that Nancy could be so forgiving or so naïve, yet this not the first time I’ve encountered this kind of client behavior. And, this behavior is not unique to women, as men can also behave the same way.

I’ve encountered spouses in situations similar to, or worse than, Nancy’s, where one of the spouses never follows through with the divorce. They consult with us; agree to see an attorney; visit with the attorney; and then they do absolutely nothing! What causes a person to act this way?

What leads a woman, or man, to stay in a marriage that is clearly earmarked for divorce?

To help me answer these questions, I called upon my good friend, psychologist. Dr. Jerome Poliacoff. Jerry is a captivating storyteller. Speaking from his years of working with spouses like Nancy, Jerry explained the reasons in stories and vivid examples.

“You know Carlos, we are all a product of the influences of our upbringing,” Jerry tells me. “When it comes to divorce, people look at it through their unique lenses, which are shaped by their life experiences.”

According to Jerry, there are there are six primary justifications for staying in a bad marriage.

1. Shame. It’s not unusual to have someone stay in a marriage to avoid the stigma and shame associated with a failed marriage, even in today’s society.

2. Lifestyle. For some, the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage is too much to give up. As is likely, a divorce will almost always result in a reduced lifestyle for one, or both, of the parties–some people simply can’t accept that outcome.

3. The Known. People are creatures of habit, and change and the unknown are deathly scary to them. These individuals can rationalize that it is better to accept the known problem than risk an unknown solution.

4. Children. Likely one of the poorest reasons for staying in a bad marriage, many individuals don’t divorce mistakenly believing that it’s best to stay married for the sake of the kids.

5. Self-Esteem. Spouses with low selfesteem will stay in a bad marriage, no matter how bad it gets.

6. Religion. Depending on the depth of their faith, for some people divorce is simply not an option.

Jerry also makes the point that these factors are not mutually exclusive. In other words, a combination of these factors may keep an individual holding fast to a bad marriage. The more factors that can be justified, the stronger the case someone can make for avoiding a divorce.


Carlos founded The Big Kaboom www.thebigkaboom.com, which combines people, technology and social elements, in order to support clients throughout their divorce process. He may be contacted by calling 305-908-1171 or by sending an email to cblanco@thebigkaboom.com.

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