What contributes to the breakdown of a relationship? Personalities, expectations, family relationships, childhood experiences, and behavior all play significant roles, according to Dr. Edward DiCesare, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in marital and family therapy. Recently, I attended an informative educational session featuring Dr. DiCesare, presented by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The program was designed to help attorneys better understand and contextualize the experiences of our clients during divorce and custody cases. I wanted to share some important takeaways.

Helicopter Parenting of Adults

In the first stage of a marriage, the couple forms a family. They must protect that boundary and not allow their family of origin to interfere. Interfering parents can destroy the foundation of a marriage. It is like helicopter parenting that continues into the adult years. In my practice, I have clients who are adults, yet they receive texts from their mother several times a day. They are never allowed to grow up or even to fail. The parent is not helping them; rather the parent is sabotaging them and their marriage.

Personality Disorders

In a normal healthy marriage, you need to be able to empathize with each other. Spouses with personality disorders are simply incapable of doing so. Narcissists lack empathy. They cannot take criticism and crave admiration. While outwardly charming, they can be very manipulative. Similarly, it is challenging to be in a relationship with a borderline personality. They are insecure, impulsive, and emotionally unstable. They tend to be angry. These are examples of personalities often seen in high-conflict divorces. Knowing how to navigate them effectively is key to working with, or against, these individuals. Otherwise, their characteristic lack of trust will cut off professionals who don't go along with their needs.

Past Trauma

Past trauma plays a role in marriage. An experience that is so fraught with fear and anxiety gets embedded in the brain and cannot be processed at the time, but can resurface with symptoms in the present. That’s true no matter who we marry. However, people tend to gravitate toward those who resemble our past experiences, which could perpetuate a cycle of abuse and trauma.

Differences in Gender

Psychologically, men do suffer more from divorce, tending towards anger, having higher suicide rates, and experiencing greater feelings of abandonment and rejection than women. Women seem to be more resilient in a divorce. Interestingly, 70% of divorces are initiated by women.

Lack of Communication

A successful marriage depends upon communication. If a couple is divorcing, chances are that communication is not effective. Yet, the court system expects a couple to suddenly communicate effectively and positively as they co-parent. That could be unrealistic. If there is an order for co-parenting counseling, it is helpful to have the psychologist report directly to the court, so the judge fully understands the reality of the couple.

Insights such as these can be particularly valuable in the negotiation process and can contribute to a more strategic and efficient legal process. Instead of focusing solely on legal aspects, we can consider the broader context, including emotional, psychological, and social factors, to provide comprehensive support to our clients.

If you are seeking a top Bucks County family law firm for divorce proceedings, custody or child support in Pennsylvania, we can help. Contact us at 215-340-2207 or email info@bucksfamilylawyers.com.