If you’re considering divorce, I want to present several things to think about that may or may not be factors in your decision to do so. Divorce is not an easy decision, especially if you have a long marital history or have kids to consider, but it’s possible.
Dealing with your mindset or psychology: Getting to committing to divorce is the hardest thing, in spite of all of the other decisions you’ll have to make.
I usually help people come to that conclusion for themselves, because if you’re not there in your mind, your actions and apprehension will manifest in a number of different ways. Apprehension will make you drag your feet, give mixed messages to your wife and family, and generally brew frustration and resentment in you which you can’t outrun. Having an affair can also be an expression of divorce apprehension or be a passive-aggressive or conflict avoidant way to deal with (or not deal with) ending your marriage.
Dealing with guilt or obligation is important, because those are experiences that will keep you stuck in a situation you might not otherwise want to be in. You may want to preserve a marriage that isn’t right for you, or that isn’t making you happy, because you feel too guilty to end it.
I talk with a lot of clients who feel overly emotionally responsible for the spouse that they will be divorcing, and this responsibility can co-exist with guilt or obligation. Hanging in there because you feel too badly about hurting the other person, or because you think that they can’t handle it or can’t bounce back from divorce is your issue, not their’s. It’s most likely a way to assuage your negative feelings about divorcing your spouse, as much as the impact on their lives will be real, and in some cases, immediate.
Don’t cheat: If you’re considering divorcing, don’t cheat on your wife or spouse. It’ll make everything infinitely more complex. Get the counseling assistance to help you divest of your marriage before you start another one.
You may not have gotten certain things from your wife in your marriage, but seeking them out on the side does no one any good, and only adds fuel to the fire. You’re hurting your mate if you’re doing that. Try communicating with them about what you’re not getting in your marriage, and if need be, seek out a quality marriage counselor to talk through those marital barriers for yourself. If those things ultimately don’t work, going into divorce head-on is the best option because although it may hurt, you’re not adding insult to injury with an affair.
Some guys don’t know what they’re not getting from their marriage or their marital partner until they meet someone who has those qualities and that person. Then, that person “just happens to fall in my lap,” or I hear, “I didn’t mean to meet anyone – it just happened!” Not really. You may be unconsciously looking, or putting out signals to potential affair partners. In some way, you’re projecting some sexual or emotional energy or desire out into the world that you’re not directing towards your wife or marriage, and if that new person comes along, they’re going to pick that up and possibly send it back your way.
Working on your marriage – yes or no? This is the ultimate question – do I want to work on my marriage, or not? Do I want to stay and work out the problems between us, or do I want to find my happiness somewhere else?
It’s important to know that if you’re staying for the kids, your marital history, your lifestyle, your finances, your family, or any other reason other than your happiness, you may want to reconsider.
Many individuals – and couples – who are unhappy, and don’t have a marital foundation, find themselves staying together for those reasons listed above. I think marital happiness is something that has surely evolved over time, whereby marriages in the past were for different reasons, like bringing families together, financial or social reasons, etc.
Now, you don’t need to do that. Your kids probably already know that you and your spouse are unhappy, so you’re not fooling them. If you’re staying for your kids, ask yourself – and your spouse – if you’re doing it just for them? Ask yourself: are you willing to sacrifice yourself, and your lifetime happiness, for a marriage that makes you unhappy? Even if you want until your kids are age 13, or 18, are you willing to forego those years of being in a relationship that might work a lot better for you because you feel overly responsible for the welfare of the children?
Other factors can impede one’s decision to divorce, including religious beliefs (marital “vows”), family suggestion, fear of being alone, fear of paying for two households, fear of not finding someone else, fear of being “too old” or fear that they will lose relationships other than the marriage, including with their children (or that the relationships with the kids will be altered for good).
Thoughts on separation first: Many couples opt for this as a precursor – or trial run – before divorce, and I’ve never been sure how this helps, or if it helps, couples in the way that they way. I think couples think that if they “have space” or “perspective” away from one another, that they will be able to find clarity or will become more comfortable with their decision or thought process one way or the other. I have some differing opinions about this.
I practice Emotionally-Focused Therapy for Couples, and one concept incorporated with this style of therapy is that there are often one or both partners that “withdraw” or disconnect from their marriage or their marital partners, usually to protect themselves emotionally or from attack or pursuit from their relationship partner. To this degree, I think separation mimics this withdrawal pattern, so a partner who typically withdraws (I work with men, and see this a lot with guys) is unconsciously “activating” the couple’s dysfunctional relationship cycle.
Although it seems like a good idea on paper, it can actually – and unintendedly – do a lot more damage to the marriage, or never give the marriage a fighting chance to repair. Good marriage counseling can help you address these cycles of conflict, and see how the role of withdrawal may be contributing to your marital problems, and need for separation.
The idea, ultimately, is to create a safe environment in your marriage that’s conducive to communication – speaking and being heard – so that you and your spouse can learn how to work through the difficult and often times painful experiences you will share as a married couple. Separation doesn’t allow for that repair, let alone a chance to better understand your negative relationship cycle.
These are some initial ideas to keep in mind if you’re considering divorce for yourself. There are others, and there will be more to come on this blog, but I think that these are some of the more important ones to consider. Most importantly, coming to that decision for yourself, and hopefully a mutually-agreed upon divorce, would be ideal, but life doesn’t always work that way.