Every year there are thousands of couples that get a divorce and some wonder how in the world their relationship ended in divorce. By staying in tune with your spouse and being aware of signs of divorce you can prevent your risks of getting a divorce. To help be aware of the signs of divorce and what a married couple can do to prevent their chances of a divorce, I have interviewed licensed psychologist Jennifer Fennell.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed psychologist in the state of Georgia. I have 10 years experience in clinical psychology. I have a passion for helping others and I truly love what I have been blessed to do. I have experience with assessment, counseling, and treatment. My patients have included veterans, adults, children, adolescents and young adults. I have great awareness and sensitivity to cultural and socioeconomic factors that influence disorders and treatment. Given this, I seek to find ways to remove barriers so that clients can receive the help they deserve.”
“My specialty is in the diagnosing Posttraumatic stress disorder and treating trauma related mental health illnesses. I have received trauma training at the Atlanta VAMC, and various locations in Hattiesburg, MS, including the Shafer Center for Crisis. Due to my passion for the treatment of PTSD, I wrote a dissertation entitled: A Review of Various Medical Illnesses and their Relationship with PTSD. To increase my expertise in the area of trauma, I was specially trained with sexual assault victims, combat veterans, and national disaster survivors. My other areas of specialized training include EMDR and sex addiction treatment.”
“I am currently in private practice in Norcross, GA at the Pathway Center for Psychotherapy. My current practice services clients with various disorders and adjustment difficulties, including but not limited to mood disorders, substance use, psychosis, and personality disorders. I enjoy working with people of all ages. In private practice I see clients in individual psychotherapy, as well as family and couples’ settings. I currently run two adolescent groups as well.”
What are some signs that a married couple is headed for divorce?
“Headed for divorce is most evident if couples have stated they want a separation and divorce. However there are several signs a marriage is struggling and a couple is in jeopardy of divorcing. Different couples may exhibit different signs; however there are key signs to be aware of:
Difficulty between couples finding resolution regarding finances and financial planning. Couples in this predicament may find themselves “hiding” money and credit issues from each other. They may also start “spending separately.” In other words they don’t share possessions, may make large spending purchases without consulting each other, credit cards may be opened and balances run up with consideration for the other spouse, and couples may begin opening and utilizing separate accounts.”
“Different parenting styles, which cannot be resolved between couples. Couples may find themselves arguing in front of the children about differences in discipline, punishments, treatment, and privileges. In these types of situations, couples will often begin parenting separately, “undoing” the efforts of the other parent, and oftentimes undermining each other’s authority.”
“Lack of communication with each other. When a couple stops communicating all together that is a very unhealthy and clear sign of a problem. Lack of communication prevents couples from resolving the conflict all together.”
“Lack of intimacy. In a married relationship, intimacy is a way in which couples reconnect. It includes but is not limited to touching, alone time, kissing, laughing, sleeping in the same bed, engaging in “pillow talk,” and intercourse. Without establishing and maintaining intimacy couples become distant and disconnected over time.”
“New friends with vastly separate interest that are unknown to the spouse or not “shared” with the spouse. I tell my clients that new playgrounds and playmates that exclude the other spouse are dangerous and destructive.”
What can a married couple do to reduce their risk for a divorce?
“Communicate with each other. Oftentimes the major problems listed above can be mediated through healthy communication styles. Couples can learn how to communicate in a healthy way before problems arise in formal settings of therapy and workshops. Communication is the key to conflict resolution in all settings from family to business. I encourage my clients to discuss openly and honestly with each other.”
“Incorporate therapy or mediation in the relationship. If a couple finds that open and honest communication often results in fighting or arguing I strongly recommend a third and neutral party to help facilitate productive communication. From here, couples can begin to isolate the problems and tackle them one at a time.”
“Don’t let the intimacy die. Find things you can do, as a couple and both parties feel comfortable doing within reason individually. It is important for couples to remain connected over time through mutual activities but also to maintain their individuality without disrespecting the other spouse.”
“Seek individual healing. I was once told by my mother and often repeat to my clients “the only place two halves DO NOT make a whole is in a relationship.” Each person must take responsibility for themselves and seek to heal their own wounds and not expect their spouse to fix their problems for them.”
What can a couple do if they have trouble resolving issues within their marriage?
“Psychotherapy, find likeminded healthy couples to be involved with and read “self-help” books TOGETHER and reflect on them and process them as one.”
What last advice would you like to leave for a married couple that is at risk for divorce?
“Divorce is often a long-term solution to a shorter problem. Many of the issues I have mentioned begin small and increase in severity over time, especially if they are being ignored or neglected. So I suggest that awareness of “fires” that arise is the first key to avoiding divorce followed by taking any and all steps to put out the “fires.” Marriage is a special connection between a couple that but must be nurtured and protected. I encourage couples to nurture each other and nurture their relationship as they would their child throughout all time.”
Thank you Jennifer for doing the interview. For more information on Jennifer Fennell or her work you can check out her website on www.renewedserenity.com.
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