By Claire Sparks –
With Brad Pitt reportedly blindsided by Angelina Jolie filing for divorce this week, how can a marriage deteriorate so badly that the decision to end it takes one side by surprise? Did it really come out of the blue for Brad or did he ignore the alarm bells?
Relationship experts share the warning signs of a marriage on course for divorce and explain how to navigate the rocky ground of separation and come out in one piece. Brad and Angie, listen up.
What to look out for
The experts are in agreement: the biggest warning sign that divorce is looming isn’t arguing all the time, or the absence of intimacy, but simply a lack of respect.
“I often think the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference,” says psychotherapist Arabella Russell, a counsellor for leading relationships charity Relate.
“Indifference, a lack of respect, contempt, scorn: those are very difficult to come back from.”
Is there any way back from the brink?
It is possible to bring a relationship back, even if care and respect have disappeared, if the couple are prepared to work for it, says Liz Hann, couples therapist and Counselling Directory member.
“It can be really quite simple things that make a difference, like agreeing not to swear at each other any more. It’s quite surprising the really horrible things couples say to each other. Giving that up makes a big difference.”
Arabella Russell agrees that you can overcome a lack of respect but says it can be difficult. “When those feelings are in the room, you have to be able to talk about it, and be explicit and upfront. Contemptuous feelings can creep into a relationship almost without people realising. I often say to couples ‘do you think there’s anyone else in your circle of friends or family you’d talk to in the same way as you talk to your partner?’ and often they say ‘absolutely not!’. If they can address the way they’re talking about each other then there’s a chance [they can work things out].”