So many people see few possibilities lying between loving and divorcing. There are options! No need for all-or-nothing thinking unless pre-meditated murder is the next step! Read on.
In my practice I often see clients who come in sure that they want a divorce. Why? Because what else do you do when you want to make the pain, frustration and sense of futility go away. I offer them some insights into what lies between being in love and willing to communicate and falling out of love and failing to communicate. Many of my couples are now more in love than ever. Others know that they did everything and gleaned every bit of learning from the relationship before they divorced.
Certain people cannot and/or will not see that there is a Grand Canyon of space between wedded bliss and the inevitability of divorce. Divorce to those folks is the one strategy that makes the pain go away quickly.
BAD NEWS! It doesn't! So, it's very worthwhile to understand that there are many other options than divorce when things go sideways in your relationship.
Recently I was working with a couple who are both very "fixed" in their ways, and both prone to all-or-nothing thinking. (If you want more on understanding all-or-nothing thinking, this POST will help.) For them, having married later in life with all children grown and flown, they can construct their life together in the best possible ways for the relationship to flourish for both. Many options! Yet, because of all-or-nothing thinking, the husband can only process two ideas: being with her or being divorced from her. When I suggested that a very viable option was for each of them to have their own living space and share the garden which they both enjoy, it was glossed over like a well-loved Porsche! Not stopping for a moment or a breath to even consider the suggestion.
Divorce often doesn't end either the pain or the relationship. People do that. And, many people do not want to, or seemingly cannot, let go.
I've worked with people who have been divorced for more than ten years yet the battles still rage: children, money, you-did-me-wrong-and-you-need-to-pay. When children and money are paramount, the relationship between the two supposedly divorced people--really on paper and bank accounts only--is still primary. Strange , isn't it? You say you wanted rid of the person yet you engage, entangle and entwine yourself in their affairs for years beyond the divorce. So, divorce is no antidote for many poisoned relationships. The first consideration is to stop the source of the poison. Many people don't want to do that, so it continues. (If you find yourself in that situation and want it to end, I can help.
So, what are possible options between living and loving together and the supposed finality of divorce? Here's a few to consider:
- Invite your partner to talk about issues when they are small and fresh. Things that are not given voice tend to grow like yeast, escalate, fester, ferment and turn toxic.
- When you discover that you don't talk well together and do not feel any sense of mutual resolution, get help immediately. The lives of so many of the couples I work with would have been so much easier if they had come to see me sooner to recognize the real issues and gain insights and skills to work them through together.
- Spend time within yourself by yourself. Explore, examine and determine who you are and what is imperative for you to express and receive. Only then can you take yourself out of the loop of addiction to drama and other people's expectations. (For more insights on that, read our book, Soul Solitude: Taking Time for Our Souls to Catch Up.)
- When things get tough, keep going. Don't quit. Real commitment means walking through the tough stuff. You'll never have the partnership you crave if you cower in the face of tough stuff!
- Move apart from each other and keep up the therapy and relationship skills training. Having your own space to think, feel and grow allows you to re-visit courting one another again.
- When you've moved apart, leave the past hurts in the past and focus on the possible as you learn, change and grow together through relationship therapy.
- Do not think about who else might be out there for you. That's an attractive distraction. Remember: you will take yourself and your present set of attitudes and skills into a new relationship and you'll likely end up in the same place. Use your current relationship as the best place to learn about yourself and gain the insights and skills to have an emotionally mature relationship.
- If all this fails, consider divorce.
See! You have options. Oh, yes, they are not the big win, "I'll show you" options that you might like to tell other folks about. These are the real, gritty steps that lead to emotional maturity, true self-confidence, and learning that improves every aspect of your life. But, if you want the grand gesture and the approval of your friends who say you deserve better, just get a divorce. That's the easy way out.
Oh, and if you don't get any relationship help, call me when your next relationship goes sideways...because it's likely to!