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When Change Leads to Control Battles

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Change is a fact of life. Most people grow and change in one way or another during the course of a personal relationship. Sometimes a couple grows internally -- in personal ways -- and they do so together. Through their joint experience they evolve, and they will likely continue to relate with like minds.

Sometimes a couple will grow, but separately. She may take up the study of Buddhism, while he decides that sailing is his religion. If there are no conflicts, there may be no control issues. But just as soon as one of them thinks his or her way of communing with a Higher Power is the "right" way and there is no give, the couple can grow apart. Sometimes when divorce is looming, it is probably because their personal growth was highly individual and their new interests and points of view have caused them to grow apart.

Often, professional growth is a major factor in causing marital and relationship breakups, especially when one in the couple starts to climb the proverbial workplace ladder. While change is difficult for anyone, nothing can create havoc faster -- and suddenly start the jockeying for control-- than an upward career move. When relationship dynamics shift, there are those who just cannot seem to accommodate what is required to keep it together.

If you are the one who benefited substantially from career advancement, I would be surprised if you and your significant other (or perhaps ex, by now) were not affected by an underlying sense of friction. For instance, if you suddenly became president of your company while your ex remained in a middle management position, or if you finally earned that advanced degree and everyone now refers to you as "Dr." and your spouse cannot make the psychological adjustment, these may be professional growth spurts that you felt you could not fully enjoy. Stifling your enthusiasm over a personal achievement will almost certainly lead to a rift.

One of the biggest causes of discord in personal romantic relationships is when the "lesser earner" suddenly becomes the "higher earner." I am reminded of the client who had been pounding on doors to sell her first screenplay. She and her husband seemed quietly content when she was still struggling to get a show business break; however, the minute she sold her first script, everything changed in their relationship. The two finally split up.

Once the landscape of a personal relationship has changed, I sometimes think that those who suffer the most are the ones that realize they just cannot stay together because they've become two very different people.

This article is excerpted from Divorce: It's All About Control; How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars by Stacy D. Phillips.

Stacy D. Phillips
is a Certified Family Law Specialist licensed by the State Bar of California's Board of Specialization. Recognized as one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Los Angeles Law" by the Los Angeles Business Journal and selected by Super Lawyers as one of the "Top 10 Southern California Super Lawyers," Stacy is the founder and Managing Principal of Phillips Lerner ALC, a pre-eminent family law firm in Los Angeles, California.

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