One of the more frequent issues I see in my office is a spouse or even a couple together trying to decide if they should stay married or move on and proceed with a divorce. Many times that is what brings them to me, is to get a third party opinion or direction of what is best. First off, it is not my job to give advice. It is not for me to decide what is best for you to do in your marriage. I am here to help guide YOU into making the best decision for you. In saying that there are many aspects that are important to consider when making such a huge life decision.
Too many make the decision to leave their marriage in a reactive place. Their marriage is causing them pain, and has been causing them pain for some time and they just want the pain to stop. It is hard to see the reactivity when you are living it. It seems like the right decision, but again it just comes from a place of “this is painful and I don’t want to be here anymore.” The path to healthiness and connectedness seems miles away, and divorce may almost seem like a relief. It is often the quick path to relief, but not as long standing as working on healing.
I have worked with many people who have chosen to divorce, and the trouble is once the smoke clears and the dust settles, there is very often a question of “did I do the right thing.” Making decisions from an emotional place instead of processing through what would be best for us generally leaves a lot of question. Once the day to day pain the person was feeling from the marriage is gone, there is more room to think clearer. Things make more sense in our head. We may see things about us and our marriage we had not seen before.
The right answer is not always to stay married, and the right answer is not always to get divorced. The right answer is to look back in a year, two years, 5 years, and know that you made the right decision for you. So when you come in and ask what the right direction for you is, I will most often say, “wait.” Wait?? When you have been married 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, what is the rush? I encourage my clients to take 6 months before they make a decision one way or the other. If the relationship is really volatile, sometimes a separation may be needed. In 6 months things may look different. During this time, therapy is important to make sure that we are able to see what the issues are and try to move forward. But if you have years and children involved, what is the harm in taking some time to make sure we are seeing things for what they are.
The most important thing that taking time will do for you is a sense of knowing you made the right decision. Unfortunately some couples do end up getting divorced at the end of this time, but if they can do so and have peace about it and after some grieving time, it can make all the difference. Making the decision from a non reactive stand point can also really help the two be amicable and co parent well together. So, again when you are the one sitting in a steaming pot of marital pain, sometimes just getting relief from the pain is all we can think about. But trust me, you will be happy that you took the time and energy to do what is best. Looking back and knowing you did everything you could can give you a sense of peace that is priceless.