In this series we are discussing a few of the much-anticipated life events that can, if not properly prepared for, lead to divorce. In the first and second articles in this series we discussed the first six items on that list. Moving on, we are going to wrap up this series with the last two items – namely, your illness and your empty nest.
Illness can stressful, everyone knows that. And not just for the person who is sick, but also for all of the family members who are affected by it as well. But when the illness in question is something chronic, long-lasting, or even terminal, the stress placed on marriages is sometimes more than they can bear. Which can ultimately lead to divorce.
Cancer, diabetes, lupus, Crohn’s disease, heart disease and chronic fatigue syndrome are just a few of the illnesses that can ravage a family causing heartache, frustration and worry. How does one learn to balance your own needs with the needs of your spouse? How do you cope with the feelings of guilt and despair? How do you keep from getting burned out, and ultimately resentful of your spouse? These are only a handful of the many ways in which disease erodes a relationship, destroying the romance, the compassion, and even the love.
Our divorce lawyers have years of experience handling divorce and custody cases in Michigan. They recommend a number of things for couples trying to maintain a marriage in the face of a severe illness. First, the spouse in a caregiving role should ask for help from friends and family to keep from burning out. Second, find a good counselor. You are going to need a safe place to vent frustrations and ask for advice. All of our attorneys can make therapist recommendations for you. Finally, prioritize your relationship. Even though you are faced with an illness, don’t let it consume you. Take time to focus on each other as people and appreciate each other for what you each bring to the relationship outside of the illness.
Your Empty Nest
It is so easy for couples to get caught up in raising their children. We all do it. The kids become pivotal to their lives and consume a great deal of time, money, emotions energy and effort, leaving very little left over for each other. In the beginning, the effects of putting your children before your marriage is hard to see. After all, children are very demanding, and spouses tend to have commitments of their own to fill their time. Once those children have grown and flown the coup, the reality of having never prioritized your relationship will be painfully obvious.
Having filled your time with child-related commitments, suddenly realizing that you are alone with your spouse again after decades of focusing on your kids, can be difficult. Especially if, during all those years spent parenting, you and your spouse grew apart. You can suddenly find yourself living with a stranger whom you haven’t truly known for years. Someone whom you don’t know if you love anymore.
We recommend taking time throughout your marriage, even those hectic years in the beginning when your kids are very little, to nurture your relationship with your spouse. Set aside “date nights” and ensure that you have time to talk and be together. Our family law attorneys have handled many Michigan divorces over the years and we have seen many marriages end because people didn’t take time to focus on their relationship. Did you really mean it when you pledged for better or for worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part?