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Why do seemingly stable marriages end in divorce?

Actress Jane Seymour, famous for her role in "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman," recently announced that she was splitting from her husband after 20 years of marriage. The two have teenage twin sons. Sources close to the couple are saying that they were having difficulties trusting each other. When seemingly stable marriages suddenly end in divorce, it can make people question the institution of marriage generally.

Despite all the negative statistics about marriage and divorce in Massachusetts and the U.S. more broadly, people still believe that marriage is special and beautiful. That is why it can be particularly surprising and saddening when a long, stable marriage comes to an end. The comments are invariably the same: "if they couldn't make it work, then no one can." This comes from an assumption that marriage should get easier the longer the couple is together, because the couple learns how to effectively accommodate each other.

The truth is that the length of a marriage does not necessarily correlate to the health of a marriage. Sometimes couples simply ignore major problems - such as trust issues - for as long as they can. Often couples will attribute their problems to their "new" marriage and hope that things will change as their marriage ages. This is particularly common when a couple has children because they want to try to stay together for the sake of the children.

In reality, some marriages do end in divorce, but many others last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the end of a marriage of long-married celebrities, is widely reported on, whereas when long-married celebrities celebrate another anniversary, media is silent. This skewed reporting makes it seem like it is impossible to have a long-lasting marriage, but this is far from true. In addition, if a marriage simply is not working, couples should not feel shame about seeking a divorce. Divorce can help each person get out of a dysfunctional relationship and start their lives anew.

Source: Huffington Post, "Jane Seymour and James Keach: Twenty Years Married, Why Doesn't It Get Easier?" Dr. Jane Greer, April 18, 2013

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