Experts in the Media

Lisanne Iriks – Body+Soul

Mediation & Conflict expert

The top 5 reasons that couples divorce, according to a conflict expert.

Conflict and mediation expert Lisanne Iriks shares why so many couples are calling time on their marriages, and what you can do to avoid the d-word. 

Nobody wants to reach the stage in their relationship where the only power they have left is to leave, but sadly, Australia’s divorce rate is up by 13.6 percent and many couples will file for divorce in Oz in 2023.

As a conflict and mediation expert, I see the same problems come up time and again throughout mediation. I believe if you can actively work on these in your relationship, you will hopefully be able to avoid a divorce or separation.

#1 Lack of communication

Lack of communication, or ineffective communication is a big one. How often do you hear people say, “he just doesn’t listen…”? Couples who constantly argue or are so tired and fed up that they stop speaking have a high chance of  divorce or separation. This might happen because you have small children, you’re tired and you don’t have the energy to talk to your partner, or talking always seems to end in argument, so why bother?

Communication is vital in relationships. If you don’t communicate you can’t express your needs and concerns, and you’re not able to negotiate, create workable agreements or resolve conflict. Without agreements you have no clarity and without clarity, it’s more likely you’ll have to deal with conflict. When conflict doesn’t get resolved it simmers away and resentment builds until one or both people have had enough and leave the relationship.

To sidestep this issue work on your communication together through couples therapy or work on yourself which has a ripple effect in your relationship. Everyone does the best they can with the resources they have available to them. Nobody wants to fight or be in an awful relationship, so often when you have access to more resources, you can make positive changes.

#2 Stop focussing on the negative

When you hold a perception of your partner that they’re not helpful and that you have to do everything, it’s bound to impact your relationship negatively. I went through this with my husband when our kids were little, I felt he wasn’t helpful at all, but if you’d asked him he would have had a different perspective. We all have different perceptions of a situation, which is normal, but if we relate to it as the truth we’ll find evidence for what we believe and not see or experience any of the positive things our partners do.

Our brain deletes lots of information, and often we only see what we focus on. Just like when you’re buying a new car, all of a sudden you see that car everywhere. How is that possible? The cars were always there… we see them because we’re focussed on them. By simply focussing on your partner’s positives, thanking and acknowledging them, you can change the dynamics in your relationship dramatically.

I’ve tried and tested this myself and it works. My husband is actually super helpful, but I couldn’t see this before because I was focussing on the negatives. Find three things per day that you’re grateful for about your partner and tell them. It’ll make a huge difference.

This doesn’t mean you don’t hold each other accountable, but focussing on bad things only will deteriorate a relationship.

#3 Living different lives and not connecting

You’re on dangerous ground when you start living like house mates instead of partners. If you live separate lives it’s hard to find a connection and easy to drift apart. This can also happen in FIFO relationships when you don’t spend much time together. Make an active effort in your relationship to share some of your partner’s interests or book in date nights that are just about you as a couple, not you and the kids.

#4 Lack of intimacy

Every human being craves human connection and intimate moments with their partner. This might be in the form of a good conversation, hugging, touching each other and sex. You don’t have to have sex three times a week to feel connected, but it’s important to make time to relax and create intimacy together wherever that may lead. Just like communication intimacy is vital.

When people seek out mediation they often talk about not having had intimacy for years before they separated and how lonely it felt. Communicate what you need intimately and then both actively work on creating those moments.

#5 Not supporting each other to chase and create dreams together

It’s so important as a couple to have common goals that you can achieve together, while also supporting each other as individuals. The trick is to work out how you can meet each other’s needs while also creating enough space to achieve your own goals. If there’s one person in a couple who resents their partner being successful it’s unlikely to last.

Successful long-term partners are always each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Tell your partner about your dreams instead of hoping they can read your mind.

Good partnerships take time, commitment and work… but if you can be mindful of these five things, you’re much less likely to need my help and much more likely to feel loved and cherished in your relationship.