You have tried everything. You failed to resolve conflicts or to effectively communicate, and your marital expectations failed to materialize. The breakup seems inevitable; divorce is the next step.

Most likely the female partner in the marriage will file for the divorce. Two-thirds of the 1.2 million divorces annually are sought by women. This does not mean that they are the only dissatisfied partners, just the mate who is most likely to see divorce as the only solution.

In fact, in a bold argument, Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D., author of The Good Divorce (Basic Books, 1995), pronounces divorce as a normal occurrence. Consequently there are prescriptions for how to get the best possible divorce and how to fare well through it. This article will get you started in that direction.

broken egg

It is true that happily married couples see each other’s faults through rose-colored glasses and display the friendship, respect, and love so essential to good relationships. They also, however, are masters at maintaining a realistic set of expectations toward their marriage and their mate. If the expectations you applied to your marriage sound like the list below, you may quickly discover why you are reading this article so intently. There is no room for that idyllic naiveté in the world of matrimony.

Here are some unrealistic marital expectations:

Each day will be happy and filled with love and bliss.

Your spouse will devote his or her attention completely to you.

You will love your partner unconditionally each and every day.

Your mate will ensure your emotional well-being.

Your husband or wife is your soul mate and thus will be able to anticipate your needs.

Your sex life will remain constant and passionate.

Children will not hinder your private relationship.

You will resolve all conflicts without anger or a fight.

You will always be turned on by your mate.

You will never stray for a day from liking that other person.

You will never fantasize about another male or female.

You will never be lonely.

All your hopes and dreams will come true.

No problem will seem insurmountable with your mate.

The statements above are unrealistic expectations of what a marriage relationship is all about. If you tie your happiness to expectations that are unreasonable to achieve, you are shrouding your marriage outlook in doom.

Divorce Predictors

Demographic and statistical analysis found that divorce rates are highest among people who:

Marry at an early age.

Have less formal education.

Fall into lower socioeconomic demographics.

Are of different religious backgrounds.

Have divorced parents.

Live in the western United States.

Are Protestants as opposed to Catholics and Jews.

Are living through prosperous times.

Do not panic. Predictions don’t always come true, particularly if you work hard to ensure a good marriage and are able to steer clear of complications that frequently lead to divorce.

Common Causes of Divorce

Number One: The extramarital affair supposedly presents the most frequent reason given for divorce. Of course, one must try to understand the underlying reasons for the infidelity. It could be an ego problem that gets massaged elsewhere or a simple lack of sex and romance.

Two through Seven: Sterility or spousal cruelty are the next two in line, followed by a partner’s bad temper, jealousy, laziness, or lack of financial support. Poor self-esteem is always problematic to relationships. Without it, you don’t have the courage to keep each other in line or secure your own happiness.

Eight through Ten: Don’t discount the blow to marital harmony of stress related to job, family illness, and money matters. If the happiest couples report that they are satisfied with their mate’s financial input, one might infer the opposite is true of those who flounder putting bread on the table be it the man or woman.

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Eleven: A fresh look at divorce has also indicated that, in the United States at least, our exaggerated sense of personal independence and right to individual satisfaction has affected our williness to stay in the marriages that don’t provide enough goodies.

Who Is Most Likely to Have an Extramarital Affair?

Extramarital affairs are the number one culprits named in divorce, but why do certain spouses take a lover and others don’t? Each of us encounter daily opportunities to begin a flirtation or an affair. Values, ethics, and spousal commitment are only part of the answer. There are numerous times during a marriage that men and women are particularly vulnerable.

Researchers who have analyzed this phenomenon from a physiological perspective found increased risk among women in their 30s. Women are concerned with their sexual satisfaction at this time. Their husbands, however, are devoted to getting ahead in their careers and are more likely to neglect their spouses.

The tug and pull of children and hectic schedules further impinge on private time and add to the marital disenchantment partners of all ages experience. In fact, one of the hardest times for a married couple is after the birth of their first child. Marital satisfaction drops, increases slightly when kids reach adolescence, but does not move significantly upward until the kids leave. During any period in which marital satisfaction lags behind, there is the danger of extramarital intrigues.

It is interesting that some sex therapists have recently reported that women with young children find daytime more erotically appealing than men. And why not! By bedtime they are overcome with fatigue.

The 40s display less biological and sexual differences between the sexes. And by the 50s, hormone levels in men and women appear more similar. Their desire for sexual satisfaction is more even now than at any other time.

It is prudent to be on guard during various chronological stages of one’s marriage when men and women are more likely to fall prey to extramarital affairs. However, the truth of the matter is, who eventually winds up in bed with someone other than their spouse also reflects a deficiency in marital sex, respect, ego-tending, love, or trust.

For more information on the affair, The Trial Separation, and the discussion on a couple’s separation due to an extramarital affair. Re Entering the Dating Arena, will deal with when to forgive and forget.

What Men Should Expect After the Divorce

If you are contemplating divorce or have already settled on that course of action, you may want to know what to expect. The outcome may be different than what you had in mind.

court order

An average drop in their standard of living by 10 percent.

A more difficult post-divorce period than they thought.

A realization that even their bad marriage provided them with more of the social support, status, and traditional roles they prefer than single life does.

A lack of control over the divorce process and dissatisfaction with the terms of the legal settlement.

For men in their 20s, a long-term, strained relationship with their children.

Greater confusion pertaining to the problems surrounding breaking up than the actual conflicts in their marriage relationship.

A three-times higher likelihood of experiencing clinical depression than their ex-wife.

Embarrassment about being dumped, loss of self-esteem, and residual deep-seated anger.

Two and a half years to regain a sense of order in their lives.

An increased risk of dying from a stress-related illness.

Awareness is key to handling the breakup of a marriage. Make no mistake about it. You will be up against any number of the factors above. However, knowing what to expect will enable you to go through the aftermath with less wear and tear.

What Women Should Expect After the Divorce

Men are not the only ones to confront a number of negative factors concluding a divorce. Like them, women will do a better job getting through the period of transition if they are well informed about what to expect. Here’s what’s likely to happen:

An average drop in their standard of living of 27 percent.

Easier parenting and more leisure time.

A more difficult post-divorce period than they thought.

Disappointment at the reality of the freedom they initially envisioned.

Not to be pals with their ex.

Difficulty with their identity and the loss of their roles as wives.

If they were the spouse to leave the marriage, an easier post-divorce period than the pre-divorce period in which they sorted out problems.

Discomfort re-entering the dating scene.

A spouse who will remarry before her.

The woman her ex marries to be younger than she.

Accurate expectations alone do not determine how smoothly the period after your divorce goes. Consequently, you may need to rely on some practical pointers that will keep you from ruffling each other’s feathers.

Practical Pointers

Retaliation, power struggles, and anger won’t serve you well in the divorce process. Although you will feel anxious and wish you could proceed swiftly, it is in your best interest to move forward slowly, purposefully, and orderly. Prepare for your divorce wisely; select legal representation cautiously; and investigate alternative routes to dissolution.

Preparing for Divorce

Before you announce your intentions, there are steps you should take to protect yourself. Unfortunately, divorce often brings out the worst in spouses. Therefore, it is important that reason, not emotion, rule how you proceed.

1. Interview lawyers who specialize in family law and divorce. The laws are constantly changing. You need someone who keeps up to date on the legalities.

2. Hire a lawyer and establish his or her legal fees.

3. Build a financial reserve and create your own checking account.

4. Do not move out of your home unless safety is a factor.

5. Collect pertinent evidence that will assist your case: relevant financial material, a list of grievances, pertinent legal documents, etc.

6. Safeguard your possessions.

7. Cancel joint accounts, including credit cards.

Carefully Select Your Legal Representative.

Your choice of a legal representative is critical. Domestic court judges will verify that point! You don’t want to regret your decision later or lament that someone else could have done a better job for you. Enter round one of your divorce with confidence, armed by the best attorney available to you. Here are some tips on choosing someone to represent you:

1. Take time to get to know your lawyer. It is important that you not only feel comfortable with the pay scale but with him or her as an individual.

2. Inquire whether this individual will see your case through or if you will be handled by a number of people in the firm. Decide for yourself if this is okay with you.

3. Ask your attorney to outline the process for you. Then make sure he or she follows through.

4. Be specific about what you anticipate will be a fair divorce and what kind of child custody you are seeking. Make sure the lawyer agrees with you or can explain what is good or bad about the deal you are seeking.

5. To save yourself wear, tear, time, and money, ask your attorney whether settling outside of court is feasible.

6. Be sure to check out your lawyer’s reputation. Consult your local Bar Association and other prominent community leaders and legal experts you may know.

7. Be leery of the lawyer who promises you an easy ride or that you will get everything you want.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask how many divorce cases he or she handles annually. You want experienced and expert legal counsel.

9. Never let your spouse chose an attorney for you.

10. Do not use an attorney who offers to represent both of you. It is advisable for each party to have their own legal counsel who can act in their own best interest.

Consider Mediation

Mediation is a relatively new concept in the divorce process. It took hold in the 1980s and ’90s. Mediation offers the opportunity to identify issues to jointly work out the terms of one’s divorce cooperatively under the supervision of a trained mediator. If successful, mediation can eliminate exorbitant legal fees and avoid ugly impasses.

To engage in meaningful mediation, however, one must be flexible, want to engage in mediation, and bring a willingness to compromise to the bargaining table.

Mediation is not as effective if one mate tries to manipulate the other into a position. Mediation requires a concerted, honest effort to arrive at a settlement that works equally well for both parties. It is particularly valuable in determining details regarding children’s living arrangements, parenting plans, and child support.

Margaret Miller, mediation program coordinator for the Franklin County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court in Ohio, said that mediators can help organize the structure of the family on the other side of divorce. How families function in this next phase must be tailor-made, she stressed. In order to protect the well-being of the children, arriving at a workable relationship is imperative. Studies show that kids do better when a more affable settlement is made and when two parents remain involved in their lives.

In some states mediation is the first step required in the divorce process, and court-appointed mediators are provided. If mediation is not mandated by law in your area, it is up to you to find your own competent, trained mediator. In that case, should you wish to try mediation, contract your county court of Domestic Relations and ask for a list of accredited mediators.

Earmarks of a Good Divorce

Under any circumstances divorce is difficult. However, you may gain satisfaction in your settlement if it:

Enables your family to maintain a sense of unity.

Minimizes the negative impact on children.

Allows you to move forward with the least amount of pain and anguish.

According to Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D., author of The Good Divorce, these are the hallmarks of a quality settlement. Perhaps more difficult to qualify in concrete terms are the ways to deal with the emotions that accompany a divorce.

How to Handle the Emotional Overload of Divorce

Be prepared for a surge of emotions that need to be reckoned with following your divorce. No doubt how you go about handling this emotional overload is dependent upon your basic personality. Nonetheless, here are some suggestions that apply equally to everyone:

Talk to someone and express your pain.

Don’t force yourself back into the social scene. When you are ready, you’ll know it.

Give yourself time to grieve and cry.

Anticipate the difficulty of holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries spent alone. Plan something that will make the day easier for you.

Don’t allow yourself to wallow in what-ifs.

Look for new interests, and do whatever it takes to make you feel good about yourself.

Don’t get hooked on chemical means to ease your pain.

Although it makes you feel desirable, be careful how many beds you climb in and out of during the immediate post divorce period.

Getting Remarried

With all this talk of divorce, don’t come to the inaccurate conclusion that marriage is on the way out. It is hardly an institution on the verge of extinction, although there are numerous acceptable and competing forms of family today. The preceding pages are sprinkled throughout with the positives of marriage.

Furthermore, most men and women who divorce do remarry. In fact, 40 percent of all marriages in the United States have one partner who has previously been married.

If you really want to be optimistic, keep in mind that within the first year of a divorce 50 percent of the men and 33 percent of the women will remarry. Within the next three years, the figures jump to 83 percent for men and 75 percent for women.