This week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a split from wife Sophie Grégoire.
The married couple of over 18 years shared Instagram posts claiming to have ‘made the decision to separate’ following ‘many meaningful and difficult conversations’.
The exact reason behind the breakup remains a mystery, but Trudeau, 51, confirmed they would continue to raise their three children – Xavier, 15, Ella-Grace, 14, and Hadrien, nine – together.
‘As always, we remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and for everything we have built and will continue to build,’ read the pair’s identical messages.
The news came as a shock to many, especially since television presenter Grégoire had in recent years described the relationship as an ‘adventure’ and her husband as her ‘beloved’, saying they’d ‘loved each other through it all and that love knows no limits’.
Despite speaking candidly about going through ‘hardship’ and ‘ups and downs’ in the past, there were no outward indications that the childhood sweethearts were heading towards divorce.
It’s possible, like most things that go on behind closed doors, we may never know what led to the separation. However, there are a few reasons for marriage breakdown professionals see time and time again.
We spoke to divorce lawyers and relationship therapists to find out the most common issues they come across in their line of work.
The marriage runs its course
While sometimes a marriage ends due to a major dispute, often it’s simply because one or both partners have fallen out of love and lost the spark.
Caroline Elliot, partner and family law expert with over three decades’ experience at Roythornes Solicitors, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I see a lot of people who’ve been married 20, 25, 30 years or more, and very often what happens is it just runs out of steam.
‘There isn’t anybody else involved, but they’ve kind of had enough of each other really. Sometimes it’s the kind of empty nest stuff, the kids have grown up and gone and they end up wondering, “what have we got left in common?” or “what do we talk to each other about now?”
‘I think people just get sort of get fed up with each other.’
Another slow-burn road to divorce is what Mig Bennett, relationship counsellor at Therapy Finders, calls ‘the neglected relationship.’
She explains: ‘It worked once, then the adult couple lost sight (and sound) of each other as life’s stressors hit: stressors such as children, job loss or failure, death of a parent, illness and so on.
‘Couples often come to get help at the first hurdle of adjustment to career success and babies. They take their eye off the relationship and it slips down the pecking order, below the dog and the gym.’
Mig recommends date nights at least once a month and weekly check-ins to keep relationship health at the top of your priorities.
‘Ask each other, “What’s it like to have been in a relationship with me this week?”’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Give positives first, then info on anything that was tricky or upsetting. Listen to the answer. Be open to what you hear! Say, “Yes. I get it. I can tweak that.” And thank them for anything they’ve told you.’
In the experience of Anuradha Kurl, partner and solicitor at Crisp & Co, if infidelity isn’t the main reason for the divorce, ‘there’s often elements of it throughout.’
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Clients may not always raise the issue initially; there have been occasions during the process where it becomes apparent that one party is living with someone else or has entered into a new relationship.’
According to Anuradha, couples in shorter relationships are more likely to divorce as a result of cheating.
‘However,’ she adds, ‘in long marriages, often where couples have children and more complicated finances, adultery may have occurred but sometimes the couples reconcile and give it another go because of the children and their circumstances.’
Money is one of the main causes of arguments in relationships, and if things continue to be strained, it can also lead to their end.
‘When a family run into financial pressures, there can be resentment between the parties, perhaps if one person isn’t working or if another person has lost their job,’ says Anuradha.
‘In these situations we find clients thinking although initially it may be financially difficult, in the long term they would prefer to be alone.’
She predicts divorce relating to money worries may become more common amid the cost of living crisis, especially since enquiries already spike around January each year when cash is tight.
Anuradha adds: ‘They’ve spent a difficult Christmas, money is tight and then they think “I don’t want to be in this situation next Christmas”. “There is of course the element of “New Year, new start” as well.
Addiction or ‘bad behaviour’
James Maguire, managing director at Maguire Family Law, groups together ‘behaviour’ issues like drinking, taking drugs, and criminality as a common reason for marriage breakdown.
Caroline also says: ‘In one particular case I’m working on, the husband’s a gambler, so he’s run up a lot of debt due to that, and that’s what’s led to them separate.
‘Like alcoholism, you can only help with so much unless somebody wants to change.’
Lack of intimacy
‘It stuns me still, after 30 years working with relationships that sex is not spoken about by couples – either not at all (leading to huge misunderstandings) or in a way that creates a battleground,’ says Mig.
‘My experience is that most (but not all) women need to feel connected to feel sexual. Men usually (but not always) feel connected through sex. Talk about it. Or get help to talk about it.’
Otherwise, it could snowball into a far bigger issue, such as the aforementioned infidelity and potentially divorce.
Not hearing each other
Mig explains: ‘The biggest reason for marriage breakdown, which trumps all in my experience, is not listening to each other, not feeling heard by the other, and therefore the connection they once had is frayed to the point of permanent rupture.’
Sometimes better communication helps a couple refresh their relationship, but the outcome may also be that they discover ‘the relationship is in a death throe and choose to divorce’ – albeit with less acrimony than before.
‘I see poor communication all the time. It’s a ping pong game of attack, defence, blame, outdo,’ she continues.
‘It’s laced with criticism and even contempt and becomes a battle of who is right.’
‘One of my favourite suggestions is that you can either be right, or you can be in a relationship.’
‘Another big factor in divorce is abuse,’ explains Anuradha, adding that this umbrella term can cover ‘physical, emotional as well as economic’ harm.
She says: ‘There are many cases we deal with where the first step isn’t actually divorce but in fact is applying to the Court to place injunctive measures to protect a party before the divorce commences.
‘Economic and emotional abuse can sometimes be more subtle, and this includes things like controlling behaviour and gaslighting. However during the process, sometimes they can become more pronounced as the divorce unfolds.’
Although it’s more prevalent in shorter marriages, Caroline says that she regularly deals with young couples divorcing after a change of heart.
‘It tends to be, “actually we’re not that keen on being married to each other” or “I didn’t think it’d be like this” or “this isn’t really what I want after all”.
‘I think young people are much more prepared and often much more in a position to say right, let’s call it day and go our separate ways – it’s a more fluid approach.’
And some not so common reasons
James also says he’s seen a few bizarre issues deemed grounds for divorce.
These include ‘witchcraft, killing slugs in the back garden, and squeezing toothpaste from the wrong end of the tube.’
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