Conflict Avoidance—a Key Factor in Divorce for Couples Over 50 in California

Why are so many more couples over the age of 50 choosing to separate their lives and get divorced? For many, it comes down to a pattern of refusing to deal with things that matter because they want to avoid conflict. This pattern becomes exhausting and stifling and divorce often seems the only way to get a sense of relief.

Understanding conflict avoidance is important whether you are trying to save your marriage or working to establish the right terms for a divorce. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates have seen that when the patterns of conflict avoidance are ignored, it can cause complications in divorce and extend the time it takes to resolve critical issues.

What is Conflict Avoidance?

Conflict avoidance refers to a habit of avoiding confrontation or any hint of conflict in a relationship. The behavior can be intentional or inadvertent. When one partner does not want to upset the other, they end up suppressing the desire to discuss important issues such as hopes, dreams, and worries. They even avoid mentioning the things that annoy them.

Due to their fear of confrontation, they end up burying their personal feelings. When this pattern repeats for years or even decades, spouses end up as strangers. Even worse, they can end up as strangers who resent each other. Avoiding conflict does not make it go away. Instead, it festers like a wound that will not heal.

At some point, one or both spouses suddenly realize that there is no longer a “we” but only an “I.”

Trying to Avoid Conflict Avoidance

Our busy culture makes it easy to establish and maintain a pattern of conflict avoidance. Each partner can get lost in a world of:

  • Busyness
  • Over-work
  • Social media
  • Screen entertainment

It not only becomes easy to avoid dealing with difficult issues—it becomes almost impossible to even find the right time and place to start addressing these issues.

How Can You Tell if Conflict Avoidance is a Problem?

Some couples argue constantly. Others may engage in one huge confrontation where everything comes out like an explosion. But when one or both partners are avoiding conflict, you won’t see this type of decisive evidence. Conflict accumulates over time but never erupts. Instead, it festers deep below the surface. For self-preservation, one or both partners begin to avoid communication in general as a means to avoid conflict. If they don’t take steps to address the problem, the relationship disintegrates.

If you are asking yourself whether this is a problem in your relationship, consider whether you ever:

  • Sense pent-up frustration
  • Look back over your marriage and realize you don’t want things to stay the same
  • Feel as though you need to put an end to something
  • Sense the need to make a change or reconcile
  • Suddenly feel the urge to open up to your spouse
  • Feel like a dam is bursting

Dealing with suppressed conflict is not easy but it needs to happen for your emotional health. Facing the conflict sometimes leads to reconciliation and the rebuilding of a marriage. If there are trust issues, often preparing a postnuptial agreement can establish a safe set of ground rules while couples reestablish trust in each other.

Facing the conflict can also cause you to realize that it is time to end the relationship and get a divorce.

Work with a Divorce Attorney Who Recognizes the Issues That Need to Be Addressed

Conflict avoidance patterns are most common in couples who have been married for a considerable period of time, which is why it is a prevalent reason for divorce among couples over the age of 50. Divorcing at this stage of life, with retirement on the horizon, comes with its own set of unique challenges. Therefore, if you believe you may have conflict avoidance issues in your marriage, it is important to work with an attorney who is prepared to develop a plan to help with both the patterns of conflict avoidance and the financial and emotional difficulties that arise with divorce later in life.

Ironically, the divorce process often forces couples with conflict avoidance issues to address the issues they’ve avoided for decades. Even if they are not able to save their relationship, the process can help them develop better communication patterns for the future.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Helps Overcome a Wide Array of Family Law Challenges

With over 300 years of combined experience handling difficult situations in divorce, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, understands how to recognize potential difficulties and develop plans to protect your interests. We invite you to schedule a confidential consultation to learn more about the assistance we can provide if you are considering a postnuptial agreement to preserve your marriage or a divorce to prepare you for the next steps in life.


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