There are many causes for divorce. In my line of work I have seen them all. Reasons for divorce are a constant topic of discussion. You read about them in the media, and you see and hear them mulled over almost daily on "pour-your-heart-out" radio and television talk show segments.
And, since there is so much media coverage on this topic, you would think couples would become adequately educated as to the core causes of divorce. But, the ultimate reasons for splitting up are not nearly as important as what leads up to them. There are red flags--plenty of them--along the way, if a person is paying attention.
Having been a family law attorney for more than 25 years, and having heard countless stories--"reasons" for his or her divorce, I'm convinced that there are early indicators--yes, red flags. I have often thought: If only people had paid attention to those red flags, maybe they would not be in this predicament.
These flags are not necessarily the obvious and blatant in-your-face bombshells, like suddenly learning your spouse was/is having an affair or that your mate is physically abusive (domestic violence). The flags to which I'm referring are subtle, beneath-the-surface occurrences that turn into big issues--ones that if not addressed--can lead to the demise of the marriage.
I have listed my top five red flags. Here they are:
1. You stop communicating as openly: You have thoughts like "I better not say that," or "I'm not going to tell her that!" Or "I better not share that flirtatious email from his/her best friend." You also stop communicating about little things, such as your irritation over her leaving her makeup strewn all over the bathroom counter top or him forgetting to take out the trash. Your avoidance of confrontations over these minor issues lead to bigger withholds. Over time, holding back certain thoughts and feelings that you once had no compunction about blurting out, spontaneously, are early indicators that the gap in communication will grow wider. Pulling back on communication is a vivid red flag.
2. You become more critical of one another: If you begin to pick on the little things like him blowing his nose too loudly, her sarcastically commenting, "You're not going to wear that again, are you?" If you begin to degrade one another and do so regularly, you can be sure your relationship is going to hit the wall. Picking on each other can become a negative habit. A marriage fraught with constant criticism, from either or both parties, is clearly a crimson read flag.
3. Your begin to argue your point more vehemently: Whether it is over money (number one cause of divorce, not infidelity, as most people think), every day rules for the children to live by, where to go on vacation or who should be responsible for what around the house -- if winning an argument becomes more important than the dispute itself, you are actually vying for control. A need to dominate your partner, without the him/her indicating a willingness to acquiesce, is a neon red flag that flashes brightly. It signals: "This marriage is headed for disaster." It is just a matter of time.
4. Your interest in intimacy has waned: If the passionate spark has gone out of your relationship, and neither of you seem to care all that much about sex, a red flag is waving. A healthy marriage includes a healthy sexual relationship. When time and/or interest in this facet of your relationship becomes less and less a priority, it becomes more and more a red flag and a sure signal that your union will most likely hit the rocks.
5. It has become increasingly more apparent that you have two different value systems: Whether you are polarized as to what religion to raise the children in; or one of you believes that work trumps attending an important family function, you have a problem. Through the course of every day activities, couples often find themselves at odds on what takes priority. It doesn't mean one is right and the other wrong. It just throws out a red flag that screams Value Systems Do Not Align! Yes, there should always be give and take in any marriage, but when it becomes obvious that you have very divergent points of view on core beliefs and family values it is just a matter of time before the two of you go your separate ways.
Sadly, most of those I deal with every day say they did not have the savvy or insight to take action in the face of the above red flags (and many others) because they weren't paying attention to them--that is, until it was too late. I'm a firm believer in being very observant during all phases of the dating stage to see if there are red flags and whether those flags are deal-breakers. I also believe that every couple tying the knot should seek pre-marriage counseling because there will always be conflicts and differences and you need to agree on how you will deal with them. In fact, I will go so far as to say that going through pre-marriage counseling should be a pre-requisite to qualifying for a marriage license.