Each new year we make resolutions, it’s a time for new beginnings. Lose those extra 10 pounds, begin a exercise regime, clean out those closets. And get rid of that spouse!
Divorce is now so commonplace that we have become almost desensitized to it. In fact, the month of January, nicknamed “divorce month“, showed a gradual rise until a peak in late March among divorce filings between 2008 and 2011, according to legal information website FindLaw.com.
So the question is, do people wake up at the beginning of a new year and decide their marriage is over?
No. In reality, most marriages die a slow and painful death. There is often an agonizing deterioration of what was once a loving relationship – day by day, month by month, sometimes year by year until finally, there is nothing left. The beginning of the year is a time of reflection and re-evaluation, and many couples try to spare their children’s feelings before the holidays, thus this may explain a spike in cases. It’s also is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings, which often translates into a transition in marital situations.
But the age-old question remains – at the beginning of the year and throughout – why do marriages end?
Sure, it’s easy to blame the affair or the “growing apart”, but pointing the finger, in my experience as a divorce attorney for 36 years, is an easy out and rarely tells the whole story.
This is what I see and hear on a daily basis, especially this time of the year:
Once the luster of a new marriage wears off, a couple naturally settles into their daily routine. But all too often, couples allow the humdrum existence and responsibilities of everyday life to take over. The routine gives way to boredom and monotony, and couples find themselves in a rut that becomes very difficult to escape. Resentment and disappointment set in when one partner becomes indifferent to the marriage, and unwilling to put any effort into the relationship. The suffocation of a monotonous marriage can become so severe that spouses become the walking dead, going through the motions of life without any real emotion or connection. Loneliness and alienation can become all-consuming until, eventually, one spouse views ending the marriage as a necessity to his or her own survival.
Is This All There Is?
Many of us get married with visions of the fairy tale. We think our partner will fulfill all our needs, that being married will solve all our problems, and that we’ll live happily ever after. Unfortunately, the reality of marriage often doesn’t live up to our dreams. Whether or not our expectations are realistic, when they are not being met, there’s a sense of disappointment and resentment, and a feeling that there must be something (or someone) better out there. Often a man or woman will wake up in their 50s and say, “Is this all there is?” The idea of finding a new partner seems like a way to shake things up, and offers the possibility of a better and brighter future.
So Many Possibilities
These days, we have incredible exposure to the world around us. We seem to face temptations at every turn, as the possibilities for adventure, interaction, and new relationships exist like never before. Social media makes us hyper-accessible; a connection with someone new, or a reconnection with an old flame, is always just a few clicks away. Where once someone in an unhappy relationship might feel trapped, today he or she has relatively easy access to a world of new possibilities. These opportunities make it much easier for someone to end a marriage that is no longer fulfilling their needs.
Marriages end for a variety of reasons – just as every relationship is unique, so too is every divorce. There is, however, one thing that every divorce has in common, whether it happens in January when cases tend to rise or any other time of year: Divorce does not just happen overnight. It happens slowly, day by day, little by little, wearing down the hopes and dreams upon which the relationship was built. Divorce can be complex and can take an emotional toll on a family. There are many sensitive issues that need to considered, including custody, real estate, tax, estate planning, or business considerations. It requires a planned, thoughtful approach.
Patricia Barbarito, Managing Partner at Einhorn Harris in Denville, NJ, specializes in matrimonial and divorce law.