Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, June 5, 2010

C: Why We Divorce (Strictly Anecdotal!)

gore kissWell, Tipper and Al Gore are kaput!  What is the world coming to?   After that kiss at the convention!  After 40 years!

This morning on the way to try a divorce case, I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition discuss the Gore situation.  The conclusion of the article is that, basically, the Gores have “grown apart”  (what I call “drift”), and  that this is a common evolution of a relationship. 

The narrator indicated that the Gores fit in the category she refers to as “the second wave of divorce,” referring to couples who have lasted in a marriage more than twenty years and their increased risk of divorce.  Her take?  “Let’s not call it a ‘tragedy,’ but celebrate it as a part of life…”  So, marriage-for-life seems kaput, too.

As all this was unfolding, I was asked to write a post for an organization composed mainly of “family scientists.”  I am the lone attorney in this group of professors, counselors, etc.   The request was for a post giving my view of the reasons people divorce.  They have surveys and studies abunch done in their scientific ways, but they were interested in my view from the ground, as it were.  The post here is an adaptation of that writing, because I thought the Stick Horse Cowgirl readers might like to see the results of my own survey.

Why do people divorce?  Well, if you’re talking the “root” causation, I’d have to say things like rank selfishness and unrealistic expectations play a part(you know, “my soul mate,” and billowing romantic fantasies of what marriage should be).happily ever after

But this post concerns immediate causes—the events or characteristics that people claim as the reason for their divorce.

As a divorce attorney I do have a window into this.  In my state, we still require grounds for almost all divorces.  Therefore, in most cases it is necessary for a party seeking a divorce to declare what his/her grounds for divorce are. 

The wisdom of requiring grounds over a no-fault statue is a whole ‘nother post, but I feel it brewing…

My staff and I discussed this “cause” topic and arbitrarily decided that we would inventory the last 75 divorce files we have opened.  Here are the stats as we found them—real life in action—from least numerous to  most numerous reason for divorce in these cases (can you hear the drum roll?):

Primary Cause for Divorce

No. Cases


Family Interference (parents hated daughter-in-law and won)


Finances.  Sole stated reason for divorce.  I believe financial strain plays a role in other divorces, but this one was pegged on this cause.


Mental Illness.  Whew! No doubt on this one…mental illness was THE cause.


Pornography addiction named as sole reason (pornography also played a stated part in approximately 6 other divorces, maybe more.  We are seeing internet and “Craig’s list sex” type of involvement more and more)


Incest (grandfather/ granddaughter). Caused divorce of grandparents (Thank God! You have no idea how often I see spouses of perps take up for them).


Drug Addiction (drugs played a part in several other divorces, too).  In these three cases, drug addiction was the stated ground for divorce.  Financial devastation reigned in all three…lost savings, foreclosure in one case, etc.


Domestic Violence (one was wife battering husband, repeatedly and undeniably)


Alcoholism (this were cases where Alcohol was the stated primary reason—alcohol played a part in others, especially where there was domestic violence)


Wife committed adultery


“Drift.”  This is the term I use when client says “We grew apart” or some such and there is no other visible cause.  To be truthful, rarely do I really believe this is the cause…”drift” often is a euphemism for something they don’t want to discuss, as I sometimes unhappily find out in trial.    


NO. 1 REASON FOR DIVORCE:  Husband committed adultery


And, now, Survey Says: the No. 1 stated reason for divorsurvey saysce in my files is Cheatin’ Husbands!  I knew that would be the case before this  tabulation, but even I was surprised by the margin.

And, yes, I represent cheaters, too. Take ‘em as you find ‘em.

Just an observation that came to me as I wrote this: Rarely do I see divorce after initial discovery of an affair if the cheater repents.  I cannot think of a case right now where someone “knee-jerked” a divorce action over a one-time fling and maintained it until final hearing.  It has been my experience that people are fairly forgiving of adultery if  there is change and repentance. 

On the other hand, my experience has been that people who cheat once during a marriage will usually do so again.  But, this may be a function of the fact that people who come to me because of cheating spouses are already fed up—I may just not get to see those who change their ways!

And, so you know, I do tend to represent more women than men.  Only 25% of these files were men clients, which did surprise me…didn’t realize my caseload was that woman-heavy!  Guess more women want a woman lawyer.  Again, this may skew my figures from the “norm,” but I am confident that the order of the causes would remain the same of any such list in our jurisdiction.

One comment to my post from a family science professor was the intrigued observation that I had failed to include “lack of communication” as a cause, because they all teach/are taught that this is a leading cause of divorce.  My reply: Never—not once—have I had anyone sit down in my office and say, “I need a divorce because we do not communicate anymore.”  I think this is the kind of “reason” that is given long after the fact—something you might say to Dr. Phil later on, but when you’re in your lawyer’s office, you’re “real,” and the issues are “raw.” 

We talked about the “Lack of Communication” statement at our office, and all agreed.  As our staff attorneys discussed the results of this tabulation, one associate spoke up.  She has practiced about three years and said something like this: “When a client says something like ‘we’ve just grown apart’ as a reason, I have learned to start looking around for a girlfriend/boyfriend waiting in the wings.”  She’s right, and I’d feel the same way if someone did the “communication” gig on me, although that does not happen. 

And all of us agreed that if a client says, “I just need some space,” he/she may as well be wearing a sign saying, “I’m Cheating.”  People rarely separate for no concrete reason without having someone else waiting in the wings.  (And Oh, Lordy, this is especially true of men—they do not want to be alone).

And many is the time when my client sits down to say, “We’domestic violenceve grown apart,” and I dig (because that’s my job), and end up with a weeping client revealing the shame (misplaced) of being beaten or being betrayed by  adultery.  Domestic violence is one of families’ best-kept secrets.  I do not understand why this is, but I do know it’s true.  Mostly it is women who are battered and keep it to themselves, but the few times I’ve seen battered men, they have that same sense of shame and reluctance to talk about it.

Back to Tipper and Al: they’re claiming “drift,” aren’t they?  Well, my cynicism and practiced eye tells me that’s not the whole story.  I’m going out on a limb here and predicting (on the worldwide web, no less) that because of the public’s eye on this couple, we’ll soon find out that their tipper divorce will fall in that No. 1 category (you know, that 1999 “Al’s an Alpha male” comment and all)…time will tell.

And, really, I must say to Morning Edition that never—not in 31 years of family law practice—have I seen a case where the divorcing couple viewed it as a “celebration of life.”  Sheesh!


KathyB. said...

Oh durn, you mean "Celebration of life" isn't all about the DEATH of a marriage? Where in the world have I been , that a marriage dissolution would ever be considered a celebration of life?

I am deeply saddened by divorce, and you know via communications we have had regarding a divorce in our family I do have a bit of experience thru our son,divorce is horrible. It affects not just the couple, but the whole family and circle of friends. Sometimes the far-reaching hurts are beyond belief.The saddest part of this is the children , and I do not have words for the emotions and scars the children of divorce endure, and they are even more the victims of divorce.All because at least one parent decided to ignore their vows and pursue self-fulfillment or just engage in pure lust regardless of their spouse and children.

It must be hard sometimes for you to just tell a client off.

KathyB. said...

I meant "it must be hard for you sometimes to NOT just tell a client off".

Mamma has spoken said...

I guess my SIL's reason doesn't make your list or maybe it's a combination of items on your list.
Her brother, my BIL, was going through a nasty divorce where there was another man involved, the family wanted to 'punish' her, had more money than here, and she got nothing, except for a new car (he got the kids and house). I could go on about that but not part of my point. SIL saw how much attention was given to BIL from the family, so she divorced her husband of 15 years. She would claim that we didn't know the truth about hubby but several years and 4 marriages, later, she does admit that it was a mistake to have divorce hubby #1, mainly because she did not get the same financal and emotional support that BIL got when he went through his divorce. Of course I am on the outside looking in and I could be reading too much between the lines, but when it comes down to it, there is always two sides of the story. Many times, the two sides won't agree on the why's, what's and how's. And in my BIL and SIL's spouse's cases, they didn't want the divorce, the other did.
A friend of mine made an observation and curious about what you've seen on your end. She said that she's notice that once someone gets a divorce, they seem to find it easier to get the second, third, etc divorce. I have family and friends who have had numerous divorces but then at the same account, I have more who are on the second and seem to be doing fine. What have seen as a trend on this?

Immigrant Daughter said...

Great post. Lust goes way back to Bible times its mans or womens downfall and in the end each will pay.

Immigrant Daughter said...

Great post. Lust goes way back to Bible times its mans or womens downfall and in the end each will pay.AND it won't be a celebration of life!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

to answer "Mama has spoken's" question: Statistics show that second marriages and those that follow are at higher risk of divorce than are first marriages (which is saying a lot since we're sitting at 50% divorce rate for new marriages). It is true that some later marriages are happy marriages, Thank the Lord!

I just read an article on this and the suggestion is that the initial marriage breakup is extremely painful and traumatic (oh, yes!). It is thought that maybe subsequent breakups are not so traumatic as we numb to that. Who knows? Certainly it seems that with each successive marriage, divorce is seen more easily as an option. C

Sandra said...

A really interesting post, C. I have to think that anyone who would call divorce a celebration of life hasn't observed first-hand the pain and emotional damage it does to so many others in addition to the couple, especially the children.

A bird in the hand said...

Top-notch post. Everyone should read this.

When I saw the news about Al and Tipper Gore, I immediately thought: If you're drifting apart because they're doing different things, why divorce after 40 years? Try doing a few things together.

My point is that unless you've grown to hate the sight of each other, it's a sorry excuse.

As you say, not the whole truth........

The Lucy and Dick Show said...

The word drift is kinda' like the phrase: "I need more time to myself" OR my all time fav'" I'm confused!" Generally, what I think is that the announcers of these words or phrases just want to get out the door with bodily injury and so don't ever give the real reason!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Gee, I thought maybe global warming was to blame.......

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

I really enjoyed this post!! I think it had a lot of good points and thoughts to consider! People could learn from it--I know I did!!

Jody Blue said...

Very interesting and sad.

Ayak said...

Great post.

I do think lack of or breakdown in communication is an important factor, but there are always reasons why this happens. I somehow feel that these days people make much less effort to save a marriage that has the potential to be saved. I speak from my own experience of not trying hard enough.

Sometimes though it can take many years for some married couples to actually realise that they are just not compatible, and instead of just sticking it out until the bitter end, they take a huge leap and start again.

Zuzana said...

Thought provoking post. I was also in shock learning about the split of the Gores.
As for the reasons you list and encounter in your practice, in regard to divorces, I can not help but wonder if the unfaithful husband closely relates to the "drifting apart" reason.
I am not married and my relationships have all been a certain disaster, therefore I should be the last one voicing my opinion on this one.;)
I hope you are having a great weekend,

Vee said...

Celebration of Life? No, I think not. It feels like a death all the way around. Let's see, in the last five divorces in my family, one was a cheatin' husband, two were alcoholism, and two were mental illness. Hmmm... You always have such interesting reads. As for the *ores, from what I've read his g*obal warming activites took him further and further from home where the Mrs. preferred hanging out with the kids and grands. I'll await further news to see what may come to light because I figure you may have a sixth sense. ;>

LivingVintage said...

This is a fascinating and yes, very sad post, and from my point of view, not very surprising. I think divorce results in a number of different reasons: you become less attracted to your spouse for whatever reason (weight gain) and go looking for someone else; your spouse hid something from you (drug use) and you find out about it after marriage and lack of trust; one person wants to change where they live and what they do and the other one doesn't . . . so I can see how "growing apart" and/or "drift" would fit all of the above scenarios, but it isn't exactly truthful either . . . that is, if you define TRUTH like I do.

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