What are irreconcilable differences? Well, in court we simply understand that you are no longer willing to remain married, and instead you prefer to live your lives separately– and we don’t care why. This is the beauty of no-fault divorce, which has become quite popular over the last 25 years, and as a divorce lawyer I appreciate not having to air everyone’s dirty laundry or assassinate someone’s character in order to allow families to move on with as much dignity and grace as possible.
But outside of court, most of us do care about the why– and we struggle to understand what problems are so insurmountable that a family would choose to part ways rather than work together to find solutions or a compromise. From what I’ve seen during the last 17 years dealing with divorces, here are the most common irreconcilable differences:
1. Money-When someone feels that the other person is jeopardizing the family’s financial security, or the life-style preferences that impact spending vs. savings are so vast that a compromise cannot be reached, this often becomes a deal-breaker for couples.
2. Division of Labor– When one person feels like s/he is doing the lion’s share of the work for the family, there is a sense of unfairness that needs to be addressed right away, otherwise with each passing day tension will rise while trust and respect for the other erodes to the point that the fundamental bond of friendship becomes non-existent.
3. Work-Life Balance– This is a common struggle individuals face, and it most definitely bleeds into every relationship we have– because there is only so much time and energy we have in a day, and nobody likes to feel likes they are not a priority, especially in their partner’s life.
4. Definition of a Family– Not all married couples want children, and if they do have children in common, there is the issue of how many can they both manage. There are also different expectations when it comes to how to spend vacations and holidays, and who should be included. Do you just want to be a party of two? That only works when you are both on the same page about that, but let’s face it how realistic is that idea?
5. Lack of Consideration– When someone turns away from their spouse by either finding comfort in the arms of another or becoming addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, and they continually dismiss their partner’s cry to seek help. Or, simply by having arguments increase in intensity and frequency, regardless of whether there are any physical altercations, to the point that someone no longer feels safe in his/her own home.
These are all stressful topics to discuss, and not everyone can communicate effectively and calmly under stress– especially if they feel what is at stake is having to compromise on a core-value. The more emotional each person becomes while trying to address one of these hot-topics, the greater the chance for saying or doing things that can be permanently detrimental to the relationship.
When you can no longer speak– because there really is no more room for compromise or hope in understanding each other any better, that’s when you know your differences are irreconcilable. And when you reach this conclusion, just remember this- no one else needs to know the why. The why is information that should only be revealed on a need-to-know basis. Everyone else just needs to accept two words: irreconcilable differences.
Obviously we all wish that those in a committed relationship could work out their differences, but at least 45% of married couples will not. At least when that happens, the option of a no-fault divorce is now pretty wide spread and accepted. There is a reason for that– hopefully, you can both appreciate the wisdom in that and embrace it, and in doing so at least you can find one last place where there can still be a meeting of the minds.