If you’re happy and you know it, could there still be a divorce in your future? Unfortunately, for some Illinois couples, the answer may be yes. A recent study examined the relationships of couples who described themselves as happy after four years of marriage. Some 136 couples who initially said they were very satisfied with their marriages were tracked over the ensuing 10 years. The idea behind the study was that if we can understand what factors ultimately spelled divorce for couples who were at first content with one another, perhaps danger signs could be noticed earlier, resulting in saved marriages.

Participants in the study were periodically asked a series of questions ranging from how satisfied they felt in their marriages to their level of commitment to them and whether the spouses were using certain problem-solving techniques. While the sample was admittedly small, the study found that those participants who ultimately divorced shared characteristics that differed from those who remained married. Communication and lack of emotional support were two areas of concern.

The couples who later divorced seemed to have greater difficulty maintaining spousal communication. Indeed, the couples often characterized their communication as negative. The term “inappropriate pessimism” was used to describe couples who resorted to blame and invalidation of one another, often discouraging a spouse from displaying his or her true feelings. One interesting take-away from the study was that these interpersonal issues can exist even in couples who otherwise describe themselves as very happy, and that fact may have important implications for considering how to overcome the apparent communication gap in an otherwise satisfactory marriage.

Nevertheless, the simple truth is that Illinois couples do end up choosing to divorce for a variety of reasons. And the same communication issues that perhaps led to a decision to end a marriage may crop up again in divorce negotiations. Those couples who are able to clearly and carefully address those differences during divorce proceedings may find they are able to achieve an equitable settlement in an amicable manner, even if the slitting couple is not able to sustain the same level of cooperation while married.

Source: The Atlantic, “What Kinds of Happy Couples Eventually Get Divorced?” Alice G. Walton, April 16, 2012