A common question I get asked by many new clients is “can you help me figure out if I should get divorced?” Is this a question you have ever contemplated hard enough to scare yourself? Many people have…and the answers are not easy to find.
Question of Divorce
First of all, let me be clear on something important; “should I get divorced” is a loaded question…and it is a little off the mark. The real question sounds something more like this: “Can this marriage be saved?”
Do you hear the difference?
Think about it in the terms of someone struggling with their health. They are in the hospital. They are having trouble breathing, it gets worse and worse and as we all know, you won’t last long without air. The doctors don’t ask “should we let this one die?” They ask “Can we save him/her?” and they immediately get to work to stabilize what they can and then reassess their options.
If your relationship is looked upon as an entity all on it’s own “me” “you” and “us”….what do you need to know about the reality of your “us” in order to determine if life-saving measures are needed, will work, or are even desired?
Below is a list of reasons to save a struggling relationship. They may not completely fit for everyone, but with over a decade of experience, I can tell you that this list applies to a lot of people and I sincerely hope you find it helpful too.
Things to consider before you leave:
- Is the love still alive? Do you know you love your spouse, even if you don’t particularly like them right now? If you still have strong feelings, check yourself and make sure that your question of wanting to leave isn’t due to something like boredom or the “blahs” which can be a very normal part of relationships and is usually fixable.
- Check the time. How long have you felt this way? Are the problems that are making you want to divorce somewhat recent and can they be traced to someone or something that is outside of your regular lives together? If you have recently been through a particularly traumatic experience or event (death of a loved one, job loss, medical issues, etc) and it is taking a toll on your happiness and connection, you may not want to throw the towel in too soon. You may want to give this time to pass and figure out how to get back on the same team and ride it out.
- Take stock in the past. Have you had more good days than bad days over the length of your marriage? Did things used to be great but now not so much? Can you remember a time when you two were so close that you couldn’t imagine feeling the way you do now? If you have had more good times than bad and have a history of deep love (even if it was a while ago), then it may be possible to resurrect the feelings from the past and rebuild together.
- Wandering Woes. Have one of you cheated? Is this the only time it has ever happened? If this has happened in your relationship and it is the only time and there is remorse and a sincere promise that it won’t happen again then you may have a solid chance of not only staying together, but to get to the root cause of what is really going on and actually improve your relationship for the future. Now having said that, if this is NOT the first time and you have a repeat cheater on your hands, that is a completely different story.
- Who is in? One of the most important factors in any decision is motivation. Is your spouse telling you that they are willing to and wanting to try? One person can’t save a relationship, but two people reconnected and recommitted have a darn good chance.
What to do next?
Get professional help. Being able to find a safe place to work through the reality, the emotions, the frustration, anger, guilt, fear, hope with another educated, experienced person can be the difference between proactively choosing or losing by default. Another great benefit of a professional helper? If you make a decision and then change your mind again later, we won’t remind you about it on every Holiday for the rest of your life (it is nearly impossible for friends and family not to be emotionally vested in your decisions).