Over the last twenty years (or so) there has been an abundance of men (and some women) who claim they can speak to the dead (As Michael Shermer puts it, “Talking to the dead is easy; the real trick is getting them to talk back.”).  Maybe the most well-known of these “mediums” is James van Praagh, a self-titled “unique paranormal.”  Van Praagh will oftentimes perform “readings” before large, standing-room-only crowds (for upwards of $50.00 per seat).  During these “readings” he claims to be able to speak with the dead family members of his audience.


Van Prague will oftentimes point out an audience member and begin a conversation about the audience member’s deceased loved one.  He will then transition into how this person died.  He will often say something to the effect of “I am getting a sensation in the chest – did he die of a heart ailment or something in the lungs?”  The audience member will usually gasp in amazement, completely shocked that van Praagh had accurately predicted that their husband or father had died from a heart attack.  Amazing, right?


Actually, it is not amazing at all.  According to the Centers for Disease Control , the vast majority of people in the United States will die from either Heart Disease, cancer (usually lung cancer) or a chronic repertory disease (the lungs).  These three causes of death make up an astounding 70% of all deaths in the United States every year.  So, when James van Praagh tells a person in his audience that their loved one died from “something in the chest” he is simply playing the odds, and almost assuredly not speaking with a dead person.


(Just to round this topic out, the five leading causes of death in the United States are: Heart Disease, Caners of all types (with Lung Cancer being, by far, the most prevalent), respiratory diseases, stroke, and Accidents (usually car accidents or a fall).  The remaining ways a person in the US can die include Diabetes, Influenza, suicide and homicide, but they make up a remarkably small number of total deaths).


For better or worse, getting divorced is sometimes akin to dying.  People feel like their life is over; they feel like they will never recover and that everything they worked for all these years is gone.   Predictably, people will often try to recreate what happened and try to figure out “what went wrong?”


And much like figuring out how a person died, you do not need a psychic or a medium to figure out why people are getting divorced.  Study after study indicates that most Americans will get divorced for the exact same reasons; much like most Americans will die for the exact same causes.


These reasons include:


Poor communication: The most oft-cited reason for a healthy marriage is good communication.  It should be no surprise that the most oft-cited reason for a failing marriage is poor communication.   If a problem exists in the marriage it is exacerbated if the parties cannot discuss it.  This grows over to areas such as finances, sexual difficulties, how to raise the children and problems outside the home (ie: if one spouse is having trouble at work or with a member of the extended family).  If you cannot speak to your spouse it is virtually impossible to identify or rectify those same problems.


Financial problems: Usually when a couple gets married they grow into a certain financial lifestyle that usually remains constant throughout the marriage or one that may actually improve over time.  However, this is not always the case.  When the finances of a married couple turn for the worse, many couples suddenly find themselves arguing about money and complaining about the spending/savings habits of the other.  Usually this leads to a downturn in communication, sexual activity and ultimately any productive relationship at all.


A Lack of Commitment to the Marriage: How often have you heard it, “We just grew apart”?  This is more than just marital infidelity (see below); it is more about when one spouse removes himself or herself from the other to pursue interests outside the marriage.  This is more than just a man watching football on Sundays or a woman keeping up on PTA.  It’s a systematic denial of the other spouse’s marital needs, including sexual needs.  It also includes behavior such as going out most nights without the spouse, speaking to others about marital issues, and not trusting in your husband or wife.


A Dramatic Change in Priorities: People change and most of us understand that.  However, sometimes those changes are almost stark contrasts to the way the person was when they were first married.  Ambitious, career-minded people who marry at 24 can appear nothing like the same person at 45 who wants to spend more time with his family than he does at the office.  This is also true for values such as having children, political affiliations, financial stability, maintaining physical health and having the same basic interests as their spouse.


Infidelity: Lower on the list than some experts may believe, marital infidelity is still a leading cause of divorce and is often cited in as many as 1/3 of all failed marriages.  Obviously, the reality of discovering that your spouse is romantically and physically involved with another can be devastating.  However, most experts agree that adultery/infidelity is usually a reaction to another issues already festering within a failing marriage, and not its own individual cause.


Boredom: Biologically speaking, mating for even ten years with only one partner is actually an aberration.  As time goes on, most people, at one time or another, will grow bored with their spouse. While well matched couples will, naturally, stay together for much longer than this, and possibly for life, most do not. Some couples will eventually grow distant, disinterested, and eventually bored with each other. Such divorces are often the least bitter of all, and often end amiably enough.


There are other causes we see a lot, but not quite as often as those listed above .They are:


Addictions and substance abuse: This includes alcohol, drugs and gambling as well as lesser known addictions (ie: compulsive eating or shopping, anorexia, and bulimia).  Most people who suffer from these ailments will, predictably, bring them into the marriage and their marriages will suffer.  Some will seek help and others will be able to repair the problem on their own.  However, marriages that cannot rectify these issues will almost always end in divorce.  This is still very low on the list because most people do not have nor maintain such addictions.


Physical, sexual or emotional abuseAgain, thankfully as compared to every married couple out there this horrible behavior affects relatively few marriages.   However, when it is present it is a terminating event and marriages that must suffer through this usually do not last.


Why do I even bring this up?  Think about it this way: as a person embarking on a divorce, you feel isolated and alone, and in many cases the person society encourages you to speak to –namely your spouse –is not an option.  One thing that I have found that comforts a person as they embark on a divorce is the knowledge that their marriage’s end is not somehow unique to themselves.  In fact, when they interface with other people who have gone through or are going through their own divorce, they will oftentimes breathe a sigh of relief once they know that they are not alone and that what happened to them actually happens to many people.


When people come to see me and tell me their problems I will sometimes be able to predict how the story will come out.  Oftentimes a person will be in the middle of the story when I jump in and say, “And this is when the money problems started, right?”  or “Is this when you started to grow apart?” The person telling the story will stare at me wide-eyed and then exclaim “How did you know?”


I didn’t “know.”  Much like James van Praagh, I was simply playing the odds.

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