“But the grass ain’t always greener on the other side,
it’s green where you water it.”
– Justin Bieber, As Long As You Love Me
Bob and I wish we could save every marriage. We go “all out” when couples we’re counseling are in crisis: late night phone calls, emergency sessions, even marathon counseling on a weekend. Ultimately, success depends upon both partners having the emotional ability, desire and patience to save their marriage. Sometimes that’s not the case.
When divorce is being considered, it’s usually not a mutual desire; one partner wants to continue working on it and the other is ready to throw in the towel. Often the partner contemplating separation has not fully thought through what life will be like on the other side.
When times are tough, the drive to run away from a marriage is so strong that it blinds people from seeing the life they are running to.
We ask people considering divorce to think about the following 11 questions:
1) Have you and your spouse identified and explored the issues responsible for the marital breakdown?
Make a list of the reasons you want to leave. Ask yourself honestly, “Is there any chance you and your spouse could resolve or manage these issues?” Have you tried counseling? Find a therapist who specializes in marriage and give it a try before you call it quits. We often have couples come to us as their last hope before divorce.
2) Are you aware of your part of the relationship difficulties? Have you owned them and tried to address them?
The state of any relationship is the responsibility of both individuals. Each partner has a part in creating and resolving the issues that separate them. Naturally people blame each other, but when one finger points out, the other three are pointing back at you. You can only change your own behavior.
3) Have you directly told your spouse, “If things don’t improve I will leave”?
We often get calls from people, usually men, who say, “My wife is leaving me. I know we have issues but I didn’t realize they were that serious.” You may think your partner should know. However, if you haven’t specifically said, “I’m leaving if we don’t resolve this,” the other person may not recognize the magnitude of the problem, especially if it’s about chronic issues.
4) If you have children, how will divorce affect them?
Children will likely respond in their characterological way. If they typically act out under stress, they may express their feelings behaviorally in anger; if they typically withdraw under stress, they may swallow their emotions and feel depressed. Don’t think older children aren’t affected by the divorce of their parents. It’s not easy to lose the “family” you have known.
5) Are you aware of the financial ramifications of divorce, supporting two households, splitting retirement accounts?
I know it’s not all about money; however, divorce has a huge impact on people’s standard of living, the home you can afford, and the retirement accounts that have been built up for years. It’s just another reason to not rush into separation.
7) How do you feel about being alone?
Though it may seem like a relief when your partner is gone, being single comes along with having some lonely times. Clients say, “All my friends are married.” Or “I don’t know how to meet new people.” Or “Dating online is like another job and I hate it.” In addition, you will likely spend time without your children, since they will be with your ex-spouse. Splitting time and holidays is difficult.
8) How will you feel when your partner finds someone else?
Imagine your partner kissing or having sex with someone else. Are you so detached that you truly don’t care? How would you feel if your partner was happy in a new relationship and you were not? That new partner will essentially take your place with your spouse’s family and friends.
9) How will you feel when your children are with your spouse’s new partner?
If you have children, whomever your spouse picks will be a step-parent to your kids and to some degree will have an impact on their lives, for better or worse. It’s not easy to share your kids with another significant adult.
10) What will happen to your relationships on your partner’s side?
Your in-laws and extended family relationships on your spouse’s side will likely end or become distant. There will be no more family holidays and get-togethers with them. It would be nice if those relationships could stay the same but often the complicated feelings don’t allow for that.
11) Do you believe you have done everything possible to work on repairing the relationship?
Only you can answer this question, and the answer for every individual is different. We see people who “try” for a month and people who “try” for a year or more. Every situation is unique.
If we can be of service, don’t wait. Call or email us. We will work as hard as you do to move your relationship to a deeper, more loving, more connected place.
Image Copyright Stuart Miles