Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When It's Just Another Fight, and When It's Over

Exerpt from "When It's Just Another Fight, and When It's Over" By Elizabeth Bernstein | The Wall Street Journal – Tue, Apr 3, 2012 12:01 AM EDT

One evening shortly after their seventh anniversary, Louis and Shelley Silberman had an argument while preparing dinner. Neither recalls what that fight was about. But both remember how, in the middle of it, Ms. Silberman suddenly screamed at her husband: "We are done being married! I want you to move out!"

Mr. Silberman was floored. The couple had two sons, ages 1 and 3. They had met at a Club Med on the Caribbean island of Martinique when they were in their early 20s and had moved in together almost immediately. They'd bonded over tennis and travel. Mr. Silberman had fallen for her vibrant, fun-loving personality. Ms. Silberman liked how friendly and active he was.
"I thought it was just another fight," says Mr. Silberman, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and owns a company that trains medical professionals and aestheticians to perform anti-aging laser procedures.

After his wife blurted out that she wanted a divorce, Mr. Silberman pleaded with her to talk about what was wrong. She refused. They both cried. She stormed off to bed.
"It's hard to say 'bye' nicely, there's so much built-up anger," says Ms. Silberman, of Cave Creek, Ariz., now 44 years old, who has since remarried and is now Shelley Cook.

Couples typically wait an average of six years in an unhappy marriage before seeking help, according to the Seattle-based Gottman Institute. Deciding whether to leave a committed relationship can be a sad and complex process.

A new type of therapy, called "discernment counseling," breaks with traditional couples counseling, which seeks to solve relationship problems. Instead, discernment counseling, pioneered by Bill Doherty, a professor in the family social science department at the University of Minnesota, aims to help struggling couples decide whether to divorce or remain married. The new therapy is part of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project, which Dr. Doherty launched last year. He came up with the idea for the project after a local family court judge told him that a striking number of couples in his divorce court handled the process so well that he wondered why they were splitting up.

In a study of divorcing couples published last year in the Family Court Review, the results showed that about 30% of individuals who were divorcing said they would seriously consider a reconciliation service if it was offered by the court. Additional research that matched spouses' responses found that in about 10% of couples both partners were open to reconciliation.

Read the entire article at: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/just-another-fight-over-040100241.html

Time to End the Relationship?
And if so, how do you break the news in a way that does the least emotional damage? Marriage therapists offer advice:

Peer into the future. Talk to a lawyer and an accountant, research what an apartment would cost, ask a real-estate agent to estimate a sale price for your house, says Susan Pease Gadoua, a licensed social worker who specializes in helping couples with relationship strife. 'You will either become energized or depressed,' she says, 'and that will be telling.'

Tell your spouse early. As soon as you start losing your commitment to the relationship, speak up, therapists say. 'Bring up divorce when you still don't want it,' says Bill Doherty, director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project.

Do therapy on a trial basis. If you think your marriage could be salvaged, find an objective professional and agree on a trial period, typically six months to a year.

Expect the worst. Anticipate that your spouse will be shocked and behave badly. Regardless, listen calmly—for more than one conversation—to give your spouse a chance to respond.

Stick around. If you're the one leaving, don't move out or cut off contact too quickly. Some therapists even suggest continuing to live together for two to six months, if that's what your spouse wants, to ease the transition, Ms. Gadoua says.
Email Elizabeth Bernstein at Bonds@wsj.com or follow her column at www.Facebook.com/EBernsteinWSJ.

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