Think about healing the relationship rather than finalizing the outcome.
You're right! Your friends and family have agreed that you're right. "Get a divorce.""Walk out the door." "Leave with the kids." "Kick him out." "Tell her it's over, you need a life." "There is someone better out there." "Why go through the pain?" "You deserve better." "You don't need him."
But when you think about it, there is no "right" (except no right to child abuse, battering, violence, or crime). We have only a perception or a perspective of what is right. We establish our righteousness in order to establish power when we feel insecure. If you want to save your marriage, being "right" will not help. Taking some
responsibility, however, for why the interactions between the two of you have turned from passion and love to hurt and hatred may heal or mend a bruised relationship.
You are more than likely thinking that divorce is the only solution to a troubled marriage. As a matter of fact, the majority of married people have this thought from time to time when they are hurt or furious with a spouse. Perhaps you have seen an attorney or are already separated. But the very fact that you are searching websites for information, insight, answers, and validation shows that you are still hopeful that somehow, some way, something will happen or change so things can be the way they once were with your spouse.
As long as there is a shred of hope, it is never too late to save a marriage. Divorce can be stopped at almost any stage, even if you are experiencing:
By taking control of yourself, you open the door to healing the relationship. If ever there was a time in your life to seek help from a professional—a therapist, marriage counselor, or trusted clergy—this is it. You can work through this relationship even if your partner refuses to go for counseling, has asked for a divorce, is already separated from you, and says he or she isn't in love with you anymore. As a result of their clinical experience, therapists and counselors agree that you can change (not 100 percent repair) your marriage by changing something—one thing—about yourself. Small changes are first steps to bringing the hurt down one level. The message you give your partner is, "I am doing this for us, and I own some of the problem. Will you try, too?"
There are two main reasons why people divorce: They want to escape a painful, loveless or destructive relationship, or they wish to seek a more satisfying life, alone or with a new partner. The breakup, although possibly for the best, is not without unexpected consequences, depletion, and sacrifice. People are shocked to learn that their difficulties or unhappiness still plague them in spite of a new single status.
Two of the dynamics that interfere with a healthy marriage are anger and habits. Anger is a defense against intimacy; it creates distance. Under all anger is a wish, a need that is unfulfilled, leaving one vulnerable. Often, neither spouse has a real awareness of the deeper need (not the verbalized reason), which is where a therapist can guide a couple to self-awareness.
Your spouse's (or yours) announcement of unhappiness is serious, but it doesn't have to be the end of the relationship. Address and acknowledge your spouse's unhappiness, rather than arguing with him or her that he or she is wrong for having feelings of wanting to leave the marriage. Encourage him or her to work on the marriage and agree to work on it as well. Your spouse's perception is his or her reality, and by telling him that he or she is wrong will only makes him defensive and more entrenched in his viewpoint. Begging and pleading to stay never works and makes you appear needy and powerless.
The habits you both developed and the roles you both played have contributed to an unworkable marriage. You may not want to hear this, but your spouse may not be entirely the cause for your unhappiness. The fact that 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce is some proof that dumping one's problematic spouse isn't always the solution to eternal happiness. If you think about your spouse's patterns of behavior in terms of habits rather than personality flaws, change is more likely. Since habits are learned behavior, the destructive ones that interfere with relationships can be unlearned.
Divorce is permanent. It is costly and traumatic for the children. It produces unanticipated complications and outcomes. It keeps the raw anger, emotions, hurt, and guilt at high pitch for prolonged periods of time, from the inception of the decision all the way through the custody battles and visitation. Divorce erodes the family system, egos, and self-esteem, and betrays trust and security with children. Divorce forever changes more than just two people. Couples don't divorce. Families divorce.
Seeking out a therapist is helpful for venting your emotions and validating your feelings. Emotions can be bracketed from actions and behaviors. Learning how to act in a mature and responsible manner is more productive for you and your family, helps you move forward, gives you more power and control, and illustrates to your children healthier coping styles in times of conflict. A therapist can help with dialogue and self-awareness (of your defenses, bruises, and vulnerabilities), which can help you connect on a different level. Your power will come in learning skills of reflecting rather than overreacting, and through self-responsibility.
It is less destructive if your goal is consistently to heal the relationship rather than"getting it over with." If you decide to proceed with legal proceedings, be it mediation ordivorce, appearing considerate, mature, and reasonable rather than vindictive, spiteful, and strung out will gain you more amenities and onsiderations and make the process go more smoothly. It will help in years to come for your children's love and trust in you both.
Overall, the separation/divorce experience can reveal your inner strength and resiliency and provide an opportunity for your own healing and growth. The emotional framework of a separation can, for many, evolve into one of balance. Roles and expectations will have changed or expired; feelings that were once polarized can become mixed. Caring and mutual support replaces anger and bitterness. Reestablishing the relationship on a totally different level is actually the smoothest path to peaceful separation. This makes it easier to let go of a painful marriage so you can go your separate ways into new relationships and new lives—if, in the end, that is what you choose after having tried everything else.
For more information visit the Divorce Mediation: Main Line Family Law Center.
Carole Landis is located in Haverford, Pennsylvania (PA) on the Main Line in Montgomery County. Her service area includes: Philadelphia, Montgomery County (Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood, Villanova, Rosemont, Narberth, Gladwynne, Penn Valley, King of Prussia, Ardmore) and Delaware County (Newtown Square, Broomall, Havertown, Upper Darby).
Contact Carole for a free 1/2 hour phone consultation.