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Can The Irreconcilable Differences in Your Marriage be Reconciled?

Solve those personality differences and unmet needs


Couple sitting at kitchen table discussing bills
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Legal Definition of Irreconcilable Differences:

Irreconcilable differences n. the usual basis for granting a divorce (dissolution) in no-fault divorce states. If one party says the marriage is irretrievable and refuses to reconcile then such differences are proved to exist.

The term “irreconcilable differences” came into use by the courts with the inception of no-fault divorce laws. The idea behind the concept of differences in a marriage that are “irreconcilable was to take the need for a spouse to blame the other of some wrong doing in order to divorce.

One definition I read said, irreconcilable differences are those which are determined by the court to be substantial reason for not continuing the marriage.” In other words the courts will grant a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences if it determines that the spouses can’t agree on certain basic issues.

I find the language, “the court will determine” interesting since I’m not aware of a divorce case under no-fault divorce laws in which the courts “determined” anything. And perhaps that is the problem with the concept of “irreconcilable differences” when dismantling a marriage or family.

Some of the factors a court will use to determine whether a marriage suffers from irreconcilable differences are:

  • Differences in personality,
  • Unmet emotional needs,
  • Financial problems in the marriage,
  • Built up anger and resentment,
  • Lack of trust in a spouse,
  • Squabbling and bickering,
  • Aggressive feelings or behaviors

In my opinion, one of the seven items listed above are “irreconcilable.” Aggressive feelings and behaviors is a grounds for divorce but what about the others? Let’s take them one by one and discuss how they might be reconciled in an attempt to save a marriage.

  • Differences in personality: No two people have the same personality. The personality traits that first attracted us to a person may end up being the ones that irritate us the most. Is being irritated by the personality traits of another good reason to divorce though?

    Normally these differences are magnified during times of stress like the birth of a child, financial difficulties or the ins and outs of everyday life. If you fell in love with him because he was easy going and laid back, it makes sense that you will find it irritating when he is late to dinner or can’t seem to get up the gumption to light a fire under the auto mechanic. That easy going, laid back personality that complemented your Type A personality now drives you up the wall.

    How do you reconcile this difference? You let him take care of the issues he is good at; you take care of the issues you are good at. If you are more able to light a fire under the auto mechanic, let that be your job. You should play off each other’s strengths instead of focus on the differences between each other.

  • Unmet emotional needs: Most of us deal with childhood wounds that keep us from being able to identify what are truly our emotional needs. We look to our spouse to fill a need that is not his/her place to fill. We bring toxic beliefs into the marriage and have unrealistic expectations of a spouse that leaves us unable to get our needs met because those needs are so unreasonable.

    For instance, if a wife’s emotional needs were never met as a child, if she was never given affection, affirmation or praise she will not have a need for those things. In turn, since she has no need she will not realize or be able to meet your need for those things.

    Marriage counseling or working with a marriage educator helps couples identify their emotional needs and how to get them met. If you need more touch, you have to ask for more touch, if you need words of affirmation you have to let it be known that such words are important to you.

    More often than not, when one spouse is not getting their emotional needs met, the other isn’t either. If you feel your emotional needs aren’t being met, instead of filing for a divorce seek out therapy because, divorce is no way to get those needs tapped off.

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