The term irreconcilable differences has become the standard court approved rationale for couples seeking a no-fault divorce. When two people just cannot find a way to make the marriage work and there has not been cheating, abuse, fraud or another categorical reason, irreconcilable becomes the default. According to our good friend Webster, irreconcilable means “so different that agreement is not possible.” Short and sweet, eh? And yet, like most things in this world, the devil is in the details.
In the aftermath of divorce proceedings, necessary mind-clearing getaways and lots of memory clogging, someone eventually comes out of their stress induced coma to talk about what really happened, what really went wrong.
Tina checked the irreconcilable differences box but the only thing that was irreconcilable was that she and Tom could not come to agreement on how to properly divide the chores up. You see, from Tina’s perspective, two spouses working outside of the home whilst one (her) was responsible for 90% of the housework was just not fair. This was especially true given that Tom took everything she did for granted and often didn’t even do his small part.
Emily did not agree with Mack’s tendencies to continuously correct her at every turn and talk to her in a condescending and patronizing manner. So yeah, let’s chalk that up to irreconcilable differences.
By now, you can probably tell that I have a bone to pick with the phrase irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable implies that both parties attempted to reconcile and just could not. This, of course, would imply that both parties had things to reconcile and that both parties had a desire to attempt to reconcile. So you’ll forgive me if I find the label to be, as my British self would say, complete bullocks. Tina, Tom, Emily and Mack were clients of mine and I know how those conversations went.
Tom thought that Tina was over stating her contributions though he did not categorically deny each individual contribution she made or any detailed breakdown of the responsibilities he skirted. As well, when I asked Tom what he thought Tina could change that would make the marriage better from his perspective he responded with “quit bitching about what I don’t do and focus on what I do”. Translation: My categorical responses prove that I am not pulling my fair share but can you try and give me credit for what I am doing?
Mack thought Emily was over sensitive and never wanted to be corrected. I asked him if the manner (words and tones) by which he corrected Emily were disrespectful. He said “no”. I then asked “what if the roles were reversed and someone talked to you in the manner in which you talked to Emily?” Again, I got a “no”. Mack saw nothing wrong with his words or tone and thus had no desire to change that aspect of him. I then asked him what he would like to see Emily change for the betterment of the marriage and he noted that he thought things were fine.
Are these two cases of irreconcilable differences? Uh, no. Nor is the case where Alan filed for divorce from Hilary because she babied him all the time. She justified such behavior by pinpointing every little thing he did that she thought was ‘stupid’ or ‘immature’ and went on to tell me that when they get a divorce, I should ensure that he is not allowed to date until he finds his penis. No self-reflection, no ownership with regards to how she contributed in a negative way, this was all Alan’s faullt; at least according to Hilary. Got it. I have an irreconcilable difference of opinion with Hilary’s treatment of Alan. Alan did as well, hence his divorce on irreconcilable differences.
I find the term to be disrespectful towards the mature and open minded half of a couple that was willing to seek reconciliation, willing to look within themselves but ultimately faced the wrong end of a donkey’s body. I especially find it disrespectful when partnered with the term no-fault, as if to suggest that each side gave its all in attempting to reconcile something as serious and meaningful as a marriage. If you are not pulling your weight in the marriage or to reconcile the marriage, you are at fault. Period.