I read about this concept of Invisible Divorce in the book, Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, a well-known couples and family therapist. It really struck a chord with me because I realized how much I observe this phenomenon among couples friendships I have, particularly among couples that have been together for a long time.
The two people have shared a life together raising children, establishing friendships with other couples or families over time, traveling together or having other shared experiences, confronting illness or death among friends or family members. These couples stay together and may be married… technically speaking, but are they really together?
They live side by side in the same house as roommates, but that’s about it. They don’t spend much time together, or if they do, they connect in conversation about logistical and operational details of daily life but they have little or no conversation in words or physical expression about their relationship, their feelings, or what they share together and want from each other. They have lost their intimacy and emotional connection. They have exited their relationships, so to speak.
Do you suffer from Invisible Divorce and what does it mean if you do?
Invisible divorce is all about acting out a feeling rather than talking about it. Do you do this? Here’s an example: you decide to stay late at work one evening because you have so much work to do, yet you know in your heart that the work can wait. It’s just that you don’t want to go home to face your partner who made you angry this morning.
How much do you avoid your partner and take the exit door?
Basically, exiting your partnership falls into 3 categories: catastrophic, intentional and functional. Which exits do you take?
Catastrophic- extramarital affair, substance addiction, thoughts about suicide, thoughts about going through with a filing-the-papers “visible” divorce.
Intentional- a feeling you express by taking some type of action with the intent to avoid involvement with your partner. You experience whatever action or activity you engaged in as more pleasurable than being with your partner.
Functional- a behavior you engage in that you enjoy, but your involvement in the activity clearly takes energy and time away from the relationship.
Do you use or engage in any of these activities below as a way to emotionally exit from your relationship? Which ways do you avoid your partner, distance your relationship or take time and energy away from your partner? Are there any other exits that you use that are not on this list?
Computer and/or computer games
Retreating into your emotions (hurt, fear, anger, mistrust, reactivity, etc.)
Leaving and/or going elsewhere
Retreating into your inner fantasy world
Thinking of suicide and/or murder
Thinking of divorce
Creating conflict with your partner (or with another person)
If you engage in any of these things, what are the consequences? To name just a few:
An extramarital affair is the single greatest violation of your marriage commitment and one of the most devastating occurrences couples could ever experience.
A smoking addiction or a dependence on alcohol or drugs severely impacts your health.
Feeling lonely and by yourself destroys your happiness.
Holding back your emotions brings on depression and anxiety, the two most common psychological afflictions in the world today.
Now that you’re aware of what exits you may be using, what can you about it?
The most important and first step is to be aware that you and your partner have exits in the first place.
Then, with inner strength and willingness, the second step is to share with your partner what each other’s exits are and the feelings that each exit expresses. For example, you might say “I am spending time on the computer because I have been feeling angry at you for _____.”
The third step is to decide which exits you are willing to close and tell your partner what they are. It is essential that you close your exits, or your relationship will never be warm, intimate, trusting, and passionate. And, without this connection of warmth, love and passion, your relationship will eventually dissolve.
If you are realizing that you and your partner have a series of exit strategies in place but are too scared to do something about it on your own, please feel free to reach out for a conversation with me. Exit strategies develop over time and they absolutely can be resolved with some insight and willingness to address them. It does seem scary and daunting at first, but there are simple initial steps you can take to begin to make a change for the better.
Schedule a time for a free Discovery Call and we can discuss a plan to begin to close your exits. I can guarantee that you will find our conversation enlightening, supportive and most importantly, relieving. Please schedule a time convenient for you: www.calendly.com/kimrileycoaching. Thank you. I look forward to our conversation and may peace be with you!