Harness the Power of the Marriage Bond

I knew a couple whose divorce cluttered up the Broward County Courthouse for 10 years. That was before I went back to grad school for my doctorate but I kept thinking, “Surely something could have been done to release this couple from each other’s clutches.” There was. One party escaped the country and I never heard the rest of the story.

It shouldn’t have to go like that, but it often seems to. Couples who are sick of looking each other in the face tenaciously cling to each other in court. Does that really make sense? Think about it: The person you want to have the least to do with is the person most on your tail. Why?

Here’s my answer: When two people start a relationship, they show their most vulnerable sides to one another. No one else in the world is privy to such knowledge of another human being. This generates a connection, a bond. We have entrusted someone with our souls.

You would think that if the marriage goes sour, the connection withers, but apparently this is not the case. As warring couples fight their way through the court process, they are after something more, something they didn’t get but badly want. It is almost as if that original bond held out a promise and now the parties are still looking for payment on that promise, a promise that was never realized.

Someone from another planet who has never seen ugly divorces wend their way through the courts might ask: “Okay, I get that there was an original promise and I get that the promise was never realized in a concrete way. But I don’t understand why they would still be expecting delivery on that promise when they have clearly seen that that isn’t going to happen.”

That’s a good question and I attribute this bit of irrationality to the marriage bond. It appears that that bond trumps logic. Logic would have people let go; the bond illogically holds out hope.

You know, that is really powerful. Imagine this: People who hate each other are still connected. They think they’re trying to rid themselves of one another, but they’re fooling themselves. Perhaps that is why some very desperate people end up committing murder. And they regret it the rest of their lives. They don’t know any other way to relieve themselves of the connection.

This explains a lot. Not only does it explain prolonged court battles, but it explains why people remain with hurtful spouses.

So what’s the answer? How do people get out of this bind? Going to court is no answer. Staying in pain is a terrible answer. Running after someone who has pushed you away is not the answer either.

My answer goes like this: If the marriage bond is that powerful, let’s harness that energy. Let’s use it instead of fighting it.

What do I mean? In martial arts, a little 5’2” person like myself can take down a big man. (I loved my Ju-Jitsu classes!) This works by taking the direction of that guy’s energy and gently re-directing it rather than fighting it head on.

If the premise is correct that the reason for the strong bond in a couple is because the people are still looking for the delivery on previous promises, what better way to solve the problem than to help those people make that delivery. That’s really what marriage counseling is supposed to be for. Therapists got off track when they themselves became despairing of turning around tough, difficult clients and consequently recommended divorce. You can see it’s a poor recommendation.

The problem is that those therapists did not know how to relate to their tough, challenging clients. They did not have the tools to help them express their hurt, their wants, and their needs in a successful way. They did not understand the underlying need for those difficult people to heal in order to feel empathy for their spouses.

But that does not make the job impossible, and they should not recommend divorce. They should refer these people to therapists capable of helping them. This way, each person in a couple can learn to deliver on their early promises. Each person can heal from the pain they absorbed during the marriage. And each person can benefit from the joy of a powerful marriage bond that is also healthy and healing.

Related Articles:
How to Avoid the “Fast-track” from Kitchen to Divorce Court
The Greek Chorus and Your DivorceThe Greek Chorus and Your Divorce
To Divorce or Not to Divorce, That is the Question

© Copyright 2011 by By Deb Hirschhorn, PhD, therapist in Far Rockaway, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 10 comments
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  • Georgia

    Georgia

    November 10th, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    A divorce case that lasted 10 years?!? What a nightmare for the couple and the lawyers alike!

  • Simon

    Simon

    November 10th, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    A nice way to put things.And there are so many things you’ve mentioned that are quite obvious but are not easy to spot-like letting yourself open and vulnerable in a relationship.A relationship and marriage are very different from any other form of connection between two human beings and handling it needs special care no doubt.Very healthy advice from you was to not run to the court every time there is a problem but rather try to work it out-something that most young people just don’t seem to understand.

  • susan Key

    susan Key

    November 12th, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Wouldn’t you all agree that the marriage bond is the one that most needs to be strengthened in life, yet these are the ones that typically we pay the least attention to? We kind of after a while of being married start to take for granted that this person is always going to be around; but there are WAY too many divorce cases for this to be the truth. We forget how to communicate what we need and want without it turning into anger, and that is the point at which most people decide that divorce is the best option for them.

  • Annya

    Annya

    November 13th, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    I can get how someone who you profess to hate enough to divorce will still play a strong role in your life. That spouse becomes like a disease to you personally, but you can’t shake him or her because you have invested so much time with them over the years. That is almost as unhealthy as trying to keep it all together “for the kids”.

  • Paula Young, LMFT

    Paula Young, LMFT

    November 14th, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    I want to highlight Susan’s point. It is such a contradiction that the person we are most vulnerable to is the one to whom we pay the least attention. And, yet, it is so commonly true. Even in the simplest ways, most people do better, on a regular basis, with strangers, than with their spouse. For example, how about common courtesy? Do we say “please” and “thank you” to our partner the way we do to the post office clerk or the waitress, — strangers we may not even see again? (not that I am saying we shouldn’t be gracious in our dealings with others, just pointing out the disparity) I have written a post titled You Can Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar which is about how to sweeten your marriage; there are specific things that can be done on a regular basis to enhance the most primary, most important relationship.

  • Rhonda

    Rhonda

    November 19th, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    This might shed some light on my husband’s ex-wife. its been 6 years and he is well over her, but she seems to be looking for something still. I will have to give this to him to read. Thanks for the insight.

  • Jessica

    Jessica

    July 13th, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    Thank you so much for your articles! I have been reading them for the past 2 hours. They have given me some insight and I feel more prepared for my first couples therapy session with my husband on Tuesday. I appreciate your site and will be sharing my favorite articles with him.

  • DrDeb

    DrDeb

    July 14th, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Thank you, Jessica! Good luck in your Tue appmt.

  • Kimberly d m.

    Kimberly d m.

    February 6th, 2017 at 10:20 AM

    Great insight. The divorce rate wouldn’t be so high statistically if couples had that deep communication.Marriage is a contract that takes effort on both parties.

  • DrDeb

    DrDeb

    February 6th, 2017 at 1:26 PM

    Thank you, Kimberly!

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