Virginia Family Law
A Blog by Jason A Weis, Esq.
Virginia & Maryland Family Law Attorney

Virginia Family Law: Tips on How Not to Hate Your Spouse – Constructive Desertion

Couples who often use the words “we” and “our” have happier marriages than those who usually use the words “I” or “his” or “her.” That is the conclusion of a new University of California, Berkley study on why couples fight and how they resolve marital disagreements. Researchers analyzed the conversations of 154 middle-aged couples while those couples discussed conflicts within their marriages. As part of the monitoring, the researchers recorded common psychological indicators of stress and anger such as heart rate and sweating. Couples who used lots of “I” words were more likely to turn the discussions into bitter fights and to express overall dissatisfaction with their marriages. On the other hand, couples who consistently spoke of their problems in the context of “we” and “us” were less stressed by disagreements and happier in general. “Individuality is a deeply ingrained value in society,” Robert Levenson observes to the Edinburgh Scotsman. “But, at least in the realm of marriage, being part of a ‘we’ is well worth giving up a bit of ‘me.’”

Though in Virginia one spouse is not justified in leaving the other merely because the two are “unable to live together in peace and harmony” or there has been a “gradual breakdown” in the marital relationship, courts do recognize the concept of “constructive desertion.” This is the concept that one spouse’s conduct may be sufficient to justify the other spouse leaving, despite the fact that the complained of conduct by itself would not constitute fault (most often cruelty).  So, for example, if your spouse’s conduct creates conditions “so intolerable that you cannot reasonably be expected to remain in the home,” you might leave the home without committing desertion. Often, constructive desertion requires a showing that the fleeing spouse’s health is in danger, but not always. If you would like to learn more about constructive desertion or desertion for that matter, feel free to drop me a line.


My experience and background reflect the hallmarks of success one must demand of a lawyer in Northern Virginia's legal landscape.  As a native of this area, I have here focused my practice on providing sound and balanced representation to clients navigating the difficult legal waters of family law, including contested divorce, custody, visitation, spousal and child support, and equitable distribution.  More >>>

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Jason A. Weis, Esquire
Curran Moher Weis
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Fairfax, Virginia 22030

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Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you find the information here as enjoyable to read as I find to write. Please note that reading this blog does not create a legal relationship between you and Jason A. Weis, Esquire or any other attorney associated with Moreover, all postings on this blog are merely attorneys' commentary on the state of family law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. THE POSTINGS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE – if you have a legal issue or question, I strongly encourage you to contact a lawyer. I would be pleased to refer you to someone if I am able.