Sunday, 29 January 2012

Should there not be a market for advice on how to manage a marriage based on irreconcilable differences?

I’ve been talking this over with Clarissa and we believe there is a huge gap in the market. There is heaps of advice on how to “mend” a broken marriage with the assumed goal of rebuilding a marriage-style relationship. Take for example Athol Kay’s Married Man Sex Life – it focuses advising men on improving attraction and therefore increasing the frequency of sex.

There are heaps of people who are married – who are not having sex, will never have sex, are not best friends and can barely tolerate each other. Their task is to eek out a purposeful and at least tolerable life often within difficult circumstances.

So let’s weed out those who face transient or solvable problems, such unemployment or illness, or indeed menopause – we are left with a hard core of people who have irreconcilable differences, yet experience such high barriers to divorce, that they feel they have no choice but to remain married. They know the relationship is permanently over. Who advises them?

A rose grows in hard ground, assailed by aphids - yet provides pleasing blooms that brighten a streetscape of neglected rental houses...


  1. Divorce does not make you happier. People don't generally want to get divorced, they just want the pain to stop and see divorce as the only answer.

    This is because tradtional marriage counselors don't teach conflict resolution skills so that people can resolve their own differences without beating on each other emotionally and verbally.

    John Wilder

  2. Thank you John - that is very good advice which gives us the key words "conflict resolution skills" to google and thus enable DIY learning.

    The main issue I was trying to address was the need expressed to me of getting along and progressing one's life WITHOUT putting unwanted issues on the table such as sex or undue communication even. As my friend Carissa said "I just want to get on with my life without having to fight him to do so, have a retirement plan and for him to make an equal contribution".

    Thank you again for commenting! :-) C

  3. I beg to differ with John in that divorce will eventually lead to a much happier person if you're capable of being happy. Who wouldn't be happy when you're finally removed from a bad situation?

    But more to the point of this blog post. Society, at least the highly Puritan/religious fundamentalist influenced one in the United States will go with the assumption that if you continue to be married you're happy. They'll decry the divorce statistics of how approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce. But they omit the fact that the 50% who remain marriage a good portion of those people will never have a happy coupling with their spouse. And through finances, generational or religious guilt will not even consider divorce.

    The only answer you will get is to get counseling. But many if not most will not have a sexless couple back smoking up the sheets or bear to be around their spouse. No one really speaks to couples like this if you can truly call them couples anymore. You're like the crazy Aunt locked up in the basement or the homeless person on the street you ignore. Or the soft-spoken introvert at a party. They're invisible.


    1. Oh BJ - again you say what I wanted to say better than I could have said it!

      People see what they want to see and make up their own reality - I remember at one of our worst times, someone saying what a happy couple my ex and I made and what a good ecample!

      It's such a pity that so much human misery goes unnoticed and unaddressed. You have to choose your place in society and the family or unnecessary pain and some happiness. There seem to be so few frameworks for solving this issue. How much simpler it would be if there was an accepted approach or strategy whereby dysfunctional marriages could morph into some other kind of functional relationship instead of the full hate and divorce thing.

      There are certainly couples who can be helped by a marriage coach such as John, but there are many out there who just suffer along after making a choice to stay unhappily married. To those people advice or counselling that they be intimate in any way may not be what they need and create a large degree of discomfort. It would be equivalent to selecting some smelly and replusive person off the street and saying, well now I am going to help you be attracted to this person and have sex with them. Worse still, telling a person it is their duty to have sex with a person they find repulsive is very cruel. At arm's length one can be respectful to all people, but intimacy and sex are so much harder (and nausea inducing).

      Your statistics show a large market for the right kind of advice! I'll try to get together with Clarissa to craft a post on it.

      Thank you for commenting ... your insights and excellent explanations and analysis are always welcome!
      :-) C