Shrink Wrap in Psychology Today
Peter Facinelli and Jennie Garth: Can Your Marriage Be Close To Divorce Without Your Knowing It?
By Dr. Jane Greer
What happens when a marriage that appears to have substance, and definitely has longevity, breaks up? Two celebrity couples are probably asking that question right now. When and how did things go wrong? 7th Heaven star Stephen Collins and his wife, actress Faye Grant, announced that they are separating after 27 years together. And 90210 actress Jennie Garth and her husband, Peter Facinelli of Twilight fame, recently divorced after being married for 11 years. Jennie said she didn’t see it coming. So is it a quick flip of a switch that takes a marriage from good to bad, or is it something that happens over time?
Reading about these break-ups brings up a question for every married person: Could you be living on the brink of divorce but somehow not know it? And how long can you be on the edge of that cliff before you fall over?
It is surprisingly easy to live in the dark, because a marriage really has a life of its own. Even if one or both of you are unhappy, you are probably so busy taking care of your daily lives, working, raising children, and pursuing your hobbies that, despite the possible discontent that might be looming, your life together continues to move forward. Because that is happening, it seems that your marriage, too, is moving forward. But the truth is, that is not always the case.
It might appear to be a mutual acceptance of the status quo, but it really isn’t. What may actually be taking place is that an already unhappy partner finally stopped trying to make things better. Maybe he fought for years to have you spend less time with your parents. Or maybe she wanted to have sex more often but he always claimed he was too tired. Or maybe he didn’t like the way she constantly fed the kids junk food. They might have fought about these issues for much of their marriage, but it finally became clear to the person who wanted something to change that it never would. That person then reconciled themselves to the fact that there was nothing they could do, so they accepted the fact that things will never improve and they gave up.
That resignation can happen long before the actual end of a marriage. Much like infidelity, which can come to a marriage unexpectedly and redefines it, this act of surrendering can change the tone of a union. The desire to divorce may lie dormant, but all that is needed is a catalyst – a new job, meeting a new person – to bring the unhappiness bubbling to the surface, leading the unhappy person to finally say they want out. But, since the marriage has been plugging along and they have been going through the motions for so long, the other partner is clueless and typically doesn’t see it coming. It might seem like the deal breaker card is coming out of nowhere. In fact, it had probably been played long before and then forgotten. It rarely comes completely out of the blue.
If you sense that you or your spouse has acclimated to an unhappy, hopeless state of your union, it might be time to take a look. Open the lines of communication so you can oil those matters of the heart before they rust and freeze up for good. If you have unresolved problems, you may want to face them head on before they hit you from behind. It might be too late for Jennie’s and Stephen’s marriages, but most likely there is still time for yours.
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See Dr. Greer’s article on Psychology Today.
Posted May 10, 2012 in Psychology Today