I have heard more than one client say something to the effect of “I don’t want to be one of those people!” What do they mean by that you ask? They mean they do not want to be divorced. Client after client struggles with being able to come to terms with the fact that their marriage may not make it. Even clients who have spouses that will not come to counseling or get into recovery and struggle with gambling addiction, sex addiction, or are just plain selfishness cannot even begin to see divorce as a viable option. Codependent’s often have a variety of reasons for not wanting to be divorced. Abandonment issues, thoughts of what others may think of them, what will happen with their children, believing he/she cannot make it financially on her own, and having to deal with families and friends are just a few of the reasons why “divorce” can be such a dirty word. Thoughts often spiral out of control to where divorce is just the worst possible thing that could ever happen and that life will be miserable afterwards.
Okay, so before I explain more of why this can hinder recovery, let me make myself clear that I am not advocating for divorce. I would love to see all of my clients in happy and healthy marriages, but lets face the facts, that will never happen. To know whether two individuals can both work on their issues takes time, but not being even able to utter the word divorce can be hindering to the therapy process.
The issue with not being able to consider leaving a relationship, is the fact that you are giving your partner a “no cut contract.” If your spouse knows you are not willing to end the marriage then why do they need to change? You have been codependent and a doormat in the relationship since its conception and your spouse is counting on you to continue to play that role. But, as soon as you starting learning and opening your eyes to who you really are in your relationship, you will start to have a voice and become more powerful. You will start to love and respect yourself enough to realize that you can make it on your own. You want your marriage to work, but your partner must get into recovery and start to create healthy changes as well to continue to be allowed to play on your team. If you change and become healthier, your spouse has no choice but to do the same. And if you truly become healthier you will no longer be able to be with a spouse that continues to be unhealthy and not working on their issues.
It can be compared to the fierceness of a lion versus a kitten. By telling your partner, “I need you to change and to meet my needs better to be happy,” you are meowing like a kitten and may or may not be heard. By saying, “I no longer will be in a relationship where my needs are not met and I am not heard (and really meaning it),” it is like the roar of a lion. You will be heard by your partner and they will have to make a drastic effort to get healthier, to hear you, and to meet your needs to not be cut from the marital team.
Now I am not saying run home today and tell you partner you are leaving! Separation or divorce is a huge decision that takes time and a lot of processesing to do. This is only the last resort if your partner is not working on their issues, not trying to meet your needs, or not coming to therapy. If your spouse is coming to therapy and gaining insight, then be thankful for this and there is no need to deal with cuts on this team because your partner is proving that they want to be a part of this team!
The biggest part of considering this issue is caring enough about yourself and getting your needs met that you are not willing to sacrifice being in a marriage where this is not happening. The thought of being strong enough to love yourself is empowering and will move you leaps and bounds in our recovery process!