(A) Is Your Marriage a Private Matter?

Cer­tainly not; your wed­ding wasn’t. Let me try and explain, but first let me say what prompted me to write this blog. I’ll make it short. I recently talked to the par­ents of a cou­ple who was about to get divorced and they said: “We can­not do any­thing about it. It’s their busi­ness and their pri­vate life. They are adults and we do not want to interfere.”

If no one both­ers to “inter­fere”, there will be all sorts of trau­mas, incon­ve­niences, changes and expenses for all involved: the cou­ple them­selves, par­ents, friends, col­leagues, employ­ees, and employ­ers, etc., etc. In short, every­one with whom the cou­ple comes in con­tact. Peo­ple take sides and it causes a rip­ple effect of bro­ken friend­ships, hurt feel­ings, much gos­sip, and so on. As you can see, this is far from being a ”pri­vate mat­ter”, although it may seem that way at first sight.

In the past, when peo­ple lived in extended fam­i­lies sep­a­ra­tions and divorces were rare. The couple’s fam­ily felt respon­si­ble for their rela­tion­ship. A cou­ple could not behave any way they “felt like it” because there were always wit­nesses to pass judg­ment on their behav­ior. It is clear who is the one mess­ing up a mar­riage. Friends and fam­ily some­how think they are not respon­si­ble for the well being of the couple’s rela­tion­ship. It is so easy to shed the respon­si­bil­ity. Peo­ple often for­get – or they never knew in the first place – that wed­dings are meant for the guests to wit­ness the wed­ding vows and keep the cou­ple account­able and remind them of “until death do us part”. You are not invited to a wed­ding to eat, drink and have a good time only. Cer­tain respon­si­bil­i­ties come with it if you are a friend or a family.

So, as you can see, the respon­si­bil­ity for the suc­cess of a mar­riage is on both sides: the cou­ples, and on their fam­ily and friends. When a cou­ple is alone and iso­lated as a “nuclear fam­ily”, and when it comes to a break-up most peo­ple imme­di­ately take sides with one part­ner or the other instead of tak­ing a stand for the mar­riage itself. I’m not say­ing that all cou­ples must stay together no mat­ter what, but my expe­ri­ence as a rela­tion­ship coach with thou­sands of peo­ple, tells me that there are very few rea­sons that may jus­tify a break up: abuse for one. How­ever, most peo­ple break up for rea­sons such as an urge to be right, jus­ti­fy­ing one’s actions and inval­i­dat­ing the other’s, a wish to dom­i­nate or avoid dom­i­na­tion of mar­i­tal respon­si­bil­i­ties, being needy, hav­ing an inflated pic­ture of their own con­tri­bu­tion in the part­ner­ship, etc. All of these are per­son­al­ity issues that, if a per­son is will­ing, can be eas­ily iso­lated and dealt with. Peo­ple are always so ready to blame oth­ers and at the same time be totally unaware of their own actions and short­com­ings and what is even worse, being in total denial of it.

Friends and fam­ily hear only one side of the story when the going gets rough and often don’t know or don’t dare to ask ques­tions that may open a person’s eyes to their own actions (or more often inac­tions) that might have caused the prob­lem. So, instead of being sup­port­ers for their rela­tion­ships they become accom­plices to the break up.

On the other hand, a cou­ple often does not ask for help until it’s almost too late, or ask for help in the wrong places, with peo­ple who will uncon­di­tion­ally agree with their ver­sion of the whys, the hows and the whos, not both­er­ing to find out if there is more to it than meets the eye.

In con­clu­sion: sep­a­ra­tion is not a pri­vate affair. All involved should take respon­si­bil­ity for the fail­ure of a rela­tion­ship. And, yes, if you know them, you ARE involved. And if a cou­ple thinks that their break up is their own busi­ness, think again. You are not alone in this world; you may be screw­ing up some­one else’s life as well, not only your own. It is time to grow up, become an adult, what­ever that means to you. Stop point­ing fin­gers at oth­ers and see what you can do because you are the only per­son you can have con­trol over. Do not worry about your part­ner since he/she will react to you as she/he always has done in the past and is doing so in the present.