You Do Not Have Irreconcilable Differences

Modern divorce papers have a box you can check for “irreconcilable differences,” and checking it is standard protocol for starting a divorce. But the term suggests something that rarely exists.

True irreconcilable differences, for example, might exist between a radical Muslim who wants to convert a devout Christian. When there is no possible way to work out differences, like the example above, those are justly called irreconcilable differences. What you have are not irreconcilable differences.

You Do Not Have Irreconcilable Differences

The real problem between married couples who want a divorce is the refusal to understand each others’ point of view; or more usually, each one insisting they get their own way without regard of the other’s perspective. In those cases, experts agree there should be a different box to check: “refusal to act maturely.” That would be a far more honest checkbox.

Those who push for irreconcilable differences are lawyers or therapists who are not practicing at a high level of integrity. They don’t want to insult you and lose your business, so they assure you that it’s your spouse who is wrong and won’t listen to reason. They want divorce to be easier for you. It means more money for them when you can’t resolve your differences. But it’s your marriage, your life, and your children’s lives that are at stake.

Do you really need an “easy” way out of your marriage? Or should you stick to the original plan of a lifetime marriage?

Maybe it’s a good time to learn more about marriage. If you knew more about relationships, communication, and what to expect from marriage, you would be less upset. If you knew how much easier it is to rehab your marriage than get a divorce, you would be better off.

Most people would be embarrassed if they heard themselves say the real reasons they want out. Most “reasons” for divorce are excuses for not learning how to get along.

But maybe I’m being too hard on you. After all, when relationship problems spiral out of control, it’s primarily ignorance that prevents you from getting your marriage back on track. It’s not your fault that society doesn’t provide marriage education for us. And the experience of being married doesn’t teach anyone how to be married — not at all. So you just get bounced around like a balloon in a storm, not knowing what to do.

Your differences are normal — they are not irreconcilable at all. You are a man and a woman; you are different, so you have your differences. But you make those differences points of contention instead of delightful treasures.

Differences Should Be Expected

Differences should be appreciated. You are as different as could be because of your gender. There is supposed to be a natural balance between male and female energy, even between same-sex couples! The differences are there for us to learn and enjoy. We are not supposed to get hung up on them through a lack of understanding or impatience.

Lack of consideration adds to our feelings that our differences are irreconcilable. But that’s the mind tricking us.

When we lose our patience, we become far less user friendly. You get mad because you aren’t getting your way. Your spouse gets mad for the same reason. So, instead of looking at your own “stuff,” you point out what you see as your spouse’s weaknesses and expect them to change to suit your idea of what is acceptable.

Marriage Is An Education

One of the great lessons of marriage is that it’s nobody’s job to make you happy. Life and marriage are not fairy tales; they are opportunities to grow and evolve. You can and should be happy when you are married, but you can’t put the responsibility for your happiness on someone else, like they do in movies. That doesn’t work in the real world.

Your differences are not irreconcilable. You can rise above most and work through others. And you can take the shortcut in learning how to do it.

Paul Friedman
Paul Friedman
Founder, The Marriage Foundation
Paul devised an entirely new approach to marriage that empowers individuals to finally understand and cultivate expanding happiness and love in their marriages.

He has written two books, produced several video educational programs, regularly speaks on marriage, and founded The Marriage Foundation as a non-profit organization.

Our mission is to end divorce by spreading Paul's revolutionary marriage system around the world. We have helped thousands of individuals and couples for nearly 20 years and in over 45 countries.

5 thoughts on “You Do Not Have Irreconcilable Differences

  1. princevinco Reply

    Couples who see themselves as having irreconcilable differences are those couples who are deeply engulfed in their selfishness. It is selfishness that made couples stick to their own idea and decisions not minding how that decision affects their partner. It is that posture that made their differences appear to be irreconcilable.

    If couples would realize that that they possess deferent personalities with individual differences. If they will recognize and respect these differences, they will never have the problem of irreconcilable differences.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Dear Princevinco,
      Claiming that individuals are deeply engulfed in their selfishness is quite harsh, and irrelevant in this case.
      Although it is often true that we can see each other’s behavior as selfish, it is very difficult to see our own flaws, or our partners for that matter, objectively.

      When you study our marriage teachings you will find that “selfishness” is the result of biological drives to survive. By identifying the root cause of the fear that drives selfishness we can gain control over our individual mind, and not be terrorized by our mis-perceptions.

      Couples on the verge of divorce must be able to envision a real path to freedom, not be admonished for reacting to their current trials.

  2. Ann Reply

    My husband seems to struggle finding his career path at midlife. He has 3 college degrees. We recently moved halfway across the country to be closer to my family, which he has been against since we moved away 13 years ago. Now that we came “home”, he has struggled to find his path. I have had the same job for 11 years that allows me to relocate with no decrease in pay. We sold our house from across country (which was my decision) but after being back home for 1 year, I filed for divorce. He says he is destroyed and believes it’s never too late. He’s never cheated on me and professes his love for me constantly. We slept in the same bed for 3 months after I filed but have now gotten my own rental home in the same town. We have 2 girls in grade school (4th/Kindergarten) and he says this divorce isn’t right and the girls will have irreparable harm done to them emotionally. I believe he has/had a drinking problem but he has been in individual therapy (per my recommendation) for almost 2 years and his therapist claims he does not. Our girls love him and he loves them tremendously. I have always been the “breadwinner” for our family since marriage but he isn’t providing enough. He never goes out with friends anymore but I still feel like he spends too much money. Mostly on add-ons to his car and things around the house. I filed as irreconcilable 2 months after signing a 2 yr lease where we had already been living for one year but feel I had to do it.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      I hope there are things about him you are not saying, but all it sounds like is selfishness on your part that is off the carts, and complete inconsideration for your own daughters.

  3. Docta Reply


    What a selfish and dirty play on your part. You convince your husband to move to closer to YOUR family and then a short while later you get rid of him. Now your husband is “stuck” there because he has 2 young children that he apparently adores and most likely will not abandon. I think you knew full well the Legal rules and that splitting up with your husband only AFTER you got to live where you wanted pretty much guaranteed he can’t leave unless he doesn’t want a relationship with his kids. This exact thing happened to a friend of mine. A well planned, smart, and dirty move on your part. Your ex sounds like a pretty good husband that tried to make you happy (ie. moving so you could be closer to your family) and is an excellent father to your children. I hope he finds someone else that can appreciate him. My friend did and he is better off for it.

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