I’ve been seeing a lot of couples lately who are in the death throes of the process leading ultimately to divorce. There is no doubt in my mind that the economic and financial stress of the last 18 months is taking a huge toll on marriages out there.
There’s more stress, more uncertainty, more job loss to deal with, more wondering how families are going to make it. And when you increase stress, no matter where it comes from…health issues, parenting or caretaking of parents, finances…marriages take hard hits.
But there are some couples out there who are not only surviving this difficult time, they are thriving…using the economic downturn and changes in their lifestyles to their advantage, and their marriages are becoming stronger, not weaker, and in danger of separation and divorce.
But these couples aren’t just lucky or blessed from above. They are reacting to the changes and bites that reality is delivering differently from those couples who find they are fighting more, supporting each other less, and growing apart from one another.
Want to be in the “growing strong through adversity” section? Then see if you can learn from those couples who are doing it all wrong. And if you and your partner are engaging in any or all of these marriage-killing behaviors, do a reality check and see if you can reverse the trend.
TO ENSURE YOU WILL END UP DIVORCED DURING HARD TIMES, FOLLOW THESE 10 EASY STEPS….
1. Do nothing differently. Yep, this is one time that staying the course and not changing up the game plan is going to help you get to divorce more quickly. When things around you begin to change, and those changes begin to have a direct impact on your family, tell yourself that it’s not that big a deal. Pretend it isn’t happening. Pretend that it isn’t really creating any more stress for you and your partner…and do not change a thing!!!! Don’t talk about it with your spouse. Don’t learn how to deal with it. Don’t change your lifestyle one bit. Spend exactly what you always have…hey, spend more! That’ll show those economic indicators that you aren’t afraid of them! And bankruptcy isn’t really that stressful, right?
2. Whatever you do, do not increase the amount of time you spend with your partner unless it involves arguing over bills, chores, the kids, or sex. When you are with your partner, begin all conversations with “We have to talk…” and “Why didn’t you…?” Those are guaranteed starters for that wonderful experience where you leave the conversation with your partner wondering why the heck you married him/her in the first place and isn’t it about time to think about getting with someone better? For extra emphasis, do not forget to add a “You never…” and “You always…” for good measure. It will seal the deal.
3. Spend as much time at work and take on as much overtime as you can so you can keep your current standard of living. That’s the best way to react to the uncertainty related to job security these days, and it will let your family know how much they matter and how much you really love them. Do not, repeat, do not look at downsizing or cutting out luxuries in order to spend more time together. Why would you want to spend more time with someone you’re going to try to cut loose from soon, anyway? And that “date night” stuff is totally overrated. And whatever you do, do not get help for your relationship…that’s for weenies and losers. You don’t want anyone to think you’re not completely capable of managing things by yourself!
4. Do not use unexpected loss or changes in job or financial security to move you to reconsider your career path. Stay the course…even if it means staying on unemployment indefinitely because there are no jobs left in your line of work. Do not consider learning something new. Do not consider what other talents and gifts you have and how you can use them. Do not consider turning a hobby into a money-making enterprise while you have the extra time on your hands. The road to divorce has to begin with stagnation, a sense of defeat, and refusal to change!!!!
5. If you don’t drink…start! And if you were already a drinker…when stress goes up, so should the amount you’re drinking, preferably on a nightly basis. And if at all possible become either abusive to your loved ones or just pass out on the living room floor. Or go for broke and do both! If you just can’t bring yourself to become an alcoholic, please consider taking up a prescription pain pill addiction or food addiction. It really isn’t as expensive as you think…and the numbness feels wonderful! Nothing will help you disconnect from your loved ones and make all your problems go away (at least temporarily) like a good buzz, black-out, or donut high. Whatever you do, do not take care of yourself, eat healthy food, get active, or take time for yourself to help manage stress. You do not want to become one of those positive, high-energy, health nuts…heaven forbid…when you can gain weight, get a legitimate illness or disease, and work toward the ultimate goal: a heart attack before you’re 40.
6. Watch as much television as possible…particularly the evening news and crime shows. If you can do it, keep CNN on 24 hours a day so you will be able to keep in touch with all the major traumas, tragedies, and predictions of worse news to come. It will help to validate your growing belief that nothing is ever going to get better, there’s no hope, and there’s really no point in doing anything productive. At the very least, you’ll get to see people whose lives are in even worse shape than your own and can go to sleep at night considering the important issues you have control over: the economy in Greece, the most recent oil spill, and wherever the next earthquake has taken out half the population. Who needs sleep and good dreams anyway?
7. Yell at your partner because you are tired, irritable, stressed, depressed, scared…or just because it’s Tuesday! Nothing helps move a relationship to the brink of disaster faster than being the person in the household that everyone gets to walk on tiptoe around for fear of setting off the monster within. Get a reputation, for crying out loud!!! Make sure people know you’re there…or on the way home…and they will start to scatter! See if you can make your presence intolerable to the loved ones in your life. Who said misery loves company?
8. Even better, if you’ve got kids…yell at them! They are generally smaller than you, not able to defend themselves emotionally or physically, and will love you no matter what (like they have a choice)…so feel free to go after them all you want. Besides, they are living the good life, have no responsibilities, no stress, and no fear about what’s happening to you or their once-stable home life. And if life is no bed of roses for them, either, that’s just good practice for what you’re going through! It’s time they grew up and learned to deal with the real world.
9. Whatever you do, stop feeling and behaving as if you and your partner are a team. Stop believing that you can get through anything as long as you stick together, have each other’s back, and will be able to make it all the way to the end of the road together. Instead…fly solo! Start feeling like your partner does not understand you, will never understand you, and doesn’t even care to try to understand what you’re going through. Start saying to yourself, “Every partner for themselves.” As long as you make it out alive, that’s what counts.
10. And no matter what….make the assumption that everything your partner does that hurts you, makes you angry, or upsets you was done INTENTIONALLY!!!!! Please believe they got up that morning with the sole desire to ruin your day…your entire life, if possible. And since you’ve told them a hundred times already that asking you questions the first thing when you get home or that it bothers you that they criticize your eating habits…if they do it even one more time, it has to be that they meant to hurt you, they do not care about you, and never will. It is important that you completely lose hope that positive change could ever occur…the best you can hope for is a quick divorce…that’ll solve all your problems! Quick…what was the name of that divorce attorney?
If you adhere strictly to these 10 easy steps, a separation and bitter divorce will be your heartily-earned reward! If you find you can only do about half of these steps, you will have to settle for staying with your partner from whom you have emotionally disconnected, and just keep going through the motions, hoping that at some point your partner can complete all the steps first, divorce you, and you’re out of the home free!
DISCLAIMER: The above was written as satire, which involves “the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.” I not only do not endorse the recommended behaviors in any of the above 10 steps, I encourage you to do the exact opposite of what is written in each one. I apologize if you are offended that there is a need for this disclaimer, but I would like to be sure that this post is read in the spirit in which it was intended…a light-hearted attempt to get folks to take a look at how NOT to be in their relationships!
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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