When Differences Become Irreconcilable

When Differences Become Irreconcilable

I was cruisin’ the home page of Your Tango and read the retrospective on the turbulent relationship of Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn. I was reminded that CNN recently reported that divorce has a permanently bad affect on your mental and physical health. In my case, NOT getting a divorce would have been bad for my mental, and his physical, health. Sometimes we blow it. Maybe we were too young to get married, looked for love in the wrong place, or didn’t know when to just say, “No!” We come to our senses and divorce is the answer.

Having said that, divorce sucks and statistics show that most divorced people wished they’d tried harder. We used to be forced to try harder. It was legally difficult to get a divorce. Now, citing “irreconcilable differences” is enough. Have you ever wondered what differences are so irreconcilable that, for example, the 20-year togetherness of Sean Penn and Robin Wright is kaput? Let's think about it for a  minute . . .

Every couple has differences they “reconcile” daily. He’s a dog person, she’s a cat person. He loves eggplant, it makes her gag. She’s crazy about opera, he’s into heavy metal. He loves camping, she’s afraid of bugs. He watches demolition derby, she follows the soaps. She scrapbooks, he’s into chain saw art. Differences. They make us interesting. True, they sometimes present real challenges. She’s Catholic, he’s Jewish—how do you raise the kids? He believes in spanking, she doesn’t—how do you discipline the kids? She likes to travel, he’s a homebody—how do you spend vacation time? Challenging, yes. Irreconcilable, no.

At what point do differences become irreconcilable? It’s the moment when you run out of the energy and desire to do the hard work. Admittedly, the time may come when you can’t do more, don’t want to do more, and want out. That’s okay. However, except in limited situations, e.g., where one won’t stop smacking the other one around or give up side nooky, when a couple splits it’s because they gave up, not because their differences are truly irreconcilable. Maybe this is a distinction without a difference. But perhaps more couples would go that extra mile if, when contemplating divorce, they ask themselves, “Are our differences really irreconcilable, or are we quitting because we’re running out of steam?” So long as you can't honestly say your differences are irreconcilable, then it's possible to work things out.

If you're running out of steam, envying your single friends, or you or your sweetie are spending way too much time on thin ice or in the dog house, maybe it’s time to put the attitude brakes on and make a U-Turn in the way you think about your still-significant-other. Try this: Think of times when your sweetheart made you think you’re the luckiest person on the planet. Those times don’t have to be the stuff of epic romance novels, just sweet times. Maybe it’s the day you planted the now fully matured roses, or sat on a bench holding hands enjoying the view, or cooked Thai food together for the first time. Reliving those memories just might give you the oomph to work a tad harder at keeping your marriage together. Do it everyday. It’s like vitamins—taking one won’t make you healthy, but taking them every day is a step in the right direction. What have you got to lose?

Getting married is easy. Staying together often takes effort. But remember: There’s only one thing as good as new love fireworks and it’s this: the contented intimacy that comes with time and experience, with having grown old together. Hanging in there. It’s worth it.

Shela Dean
Relationship Coach, Speaker & Bestselling Author