Saturday, January 19, 2008
Diciding On Divorce
What should I do if I'm considering a divorce?
If you are considering a divorce, the first thing to do is to really think about why you want a divorce and how you think that will make you feel. Will you feel free?
Will you feel liberated? Will you actually feel as if you are going to be more successful in your life in a variety of areas? Or, are you doing this because you're so frustrated that you don't know what to do. Often people who are in marriages that are difficult think about divorce as a way out because they think their marriage should be perfect, they have unrealistic expectations of marriage, and when it doesn't work out perfectly or in a fairytale, then what happens is "I might as well get divorced and look for the fairytale to happen to me again, or at least the real fairytale to happen again". So, I think the people sometimes have a delusion that marriage is supposed to be more than it is. Marriage isn't a centrepiece of someone's life; it's a part of someone's life and when things go wrong in your life, it's easy to blame your marriage because that's the thing that is most prominent in your life, but in truth you probably have to look internally to see what's going on with you before you even contemplate splitting up from your spouse.
Who should I talk to if I'm considering a divorce?
If you are considering divorce, once you have really thought about it yourself and have become clear on why you think you want to split up, the best thing to do is talk to an objective third party. That doesn't mean your parents or siblings because they're not going to be objective. The problem with talking to a friend or relative is, if you decide to reconcile, once you have portrayed the other person demoniacally as people often do, it's very hard to go back and say, "No, no, I've decided to stay with Joe, Frank or Sue and they're great!" You've convinced someone else, because you want to convince yourself that they're really bad and you need to get out of the relationship and get a dicorve. So it's a good idea to talk to a third party who's objective. This can be a professional, like a psychotherapist, your family doctor or your clergy person that you see on a regular basis. Anybody who's going to have an objective, non-biased view and really help you figure out what you need and what you want when considering divorce.
How do I know if a divorce will make me happier?
If you leave your spouse you may not be happier, but you're going to feel different, and that means you're going to feel different about yourself and about a different spouse. That different spouse, however, may be variable in terms of, they may have more of one quality and less of another quality that you like, and so what may happen is, you may just actually trade apples for oranges. What you really have to figure out is, if your basic needs are being met by this marriage. Those basic needs are, the needs for affection, for attention, for support, for fun, for mutuality and yourlifestyle, for someone who you can talk to when things are bad and things are good. This is not a clone of yourself and not a person who's supposed to do everything you want to do in your life. And so, if you get rid of someone who you feel for example, doesn't play enough sports, you may find that you've...you may find an athlete but not someone you can talk to intellectually, and then you may feel there is a deficit there. So, what we find is that, if you're not really having your needs met you need to think seriously about trading one spouse for another. On the other hand if you want to be alone, and you are someone who actually can be alone, then it may be better for you to leave that spouse, and you may find more happiness just taking care of yourself and not in taking care of someone else. One of the things I hear over and over again is "I'm tired of taking care of my spouse, I don't want to take care of anyone else". If that's truly the case, and you want to live as an island by yourself, you may be happier. But ultimately, people get lonelier, particularly, when they move into their fifties and sixties. They start worrying about their health, they start worrying about who will take care of them, who will be there for them, and so it really depends developmentally where you are, how you're going to look at happiness.
How do I know if I should initiate a divorce?
The question of whether or not to initiate a divorce is probably the most difficult question that you are ever going to be faced with in terms of your marriage. It's even more important than getting married because you have an established life with this person. You often have children, you have property and you have spilled your life into his or hers, and vice versa. Whether to divorce is a very difficult question. The initiation of divorce brings on a lot of consequences; a lot of personal consequences and a lot of family consequences. You really have to think clearly if a divorce is what you want. I really advise people to take their time, as long as it takes, to really think about if that's what they want to do. First and foremost, I believe that you should work on your marriage. See what the deficits are that are making you think about divorce. Understand if they're about you or about the couple. Understand why your needs have changed, and understand why all of a sudden this person who was perfect for you five years ago is so bad at this point. It's amazing how many people denigrate someone who just a few years before they were totally infatuated with. It's very important to figure out what's going on with you. For many people, consider a divorce is a personal crisis; it has nothing to do with their partner. Sorting that our takes time. It often takes professional help. That has to be done before you initiate the divorce.
What should I expect out of a new marriage?
If you're recently married and you think you want a divorce, you have to look at what your expectations were for this marriage. I think at that point, it's really important to get into some good marital counseling to look at whether your needs are realistic and reasonable. Find out whether or not you are, on some level, telling your wife that you made this mistake, that you really don't want to be in a marriage contract or partnership. It's important to sort it out. "Did marriage not meet my expectations, or do I just not want to be in a marriage at all? I don't want anyone to control me." All marriage has a certain amount of control in it and interdependence, and often people do not expect that and are not prepared for it.
How do I tell my spouse I want a divorce?
Usually by the time you initiate a divorce, you've already talked to your spouse to some degree about it. You've already made threats. You've already talked about we should get out of this. It often happens at the end of a fight or during a fight. What happens is, because people get scared, they often put it out there and then retract it. Often they will make up and so it will go away temporarily. Marriages that end in divorce usually have a history of conflict that builds over time where finally, when someone says I want out, the other person is not shocked and surprised. There are times when, out of the blue, someone will say I've done my own personal work. I've really thought about this for a long time. It's not you. It's me, or maybe it's you but I want out, and that becomes a shock to many people because there's been no conflict that has been moving towards the crescento of a divorce.
What are some signs that my spouse may be planning to divorce me?
The first thing you should look at is whether or not your marriage is feeling good to both of you, and get some gauge, take your marriage temperature and find out: Are both you happy in this marriage? And that is usually done on almost a daily basis inadvertently by all of us. People will say, “I'm feeling good.”, ”I'm feeling happy.” “Things are alright.” But if your spouse is starting to withdraw from you, starting to pick fights with you, be angry with you, it may be that not only is that person is going through some internal psychological stress, but also is trying to tell you that they're not happy with you in a subtle way. And so what you need to do is sit down and say “What's going on?”, and if that person won't sit with you and talk with you, demand that you do it in front of a professional therapist, so you can at least lay it on the table and do the work you need to do before it explodes unnecessarily.
What do I do if my partner asks for a divorce and I don't want one?
If your partner asks you for a divorce and you don't want a divorce, you have to think about why you don't want that divorce. First and foremost, why do you want to be married to someone who doesn't want to be married to you? That's a self esteem deal breaker. You're going to find your self esteem plummeting if you beg someone to stay married to you when they clearly want a divorce. Also what's going to happen is, if that person acquiesces, you're going to find yourself very angry at them because you're going to know that they don't want to be there but you forced them to be there. Then you're going to be angry at yourself. So what's going to happen is the marital issue is still going to remain unresolved. It's going to be in conflict, but you're going to cycle in and out, in and out of the guilt and anger. So first and foremost, you have to acknowledge that the person is unhappy. You have to ask them what is going on with them - What's happening? What is it? Is it me? Is it you? Is it us? And try to really determine where that person is coming from. Unfortunately, people get very defensive. They don't want to listen, they want to defend themselves because they feel that their territory, their personal territory, their emotional territory is being obliterated at that moment and so they're going to protect themselves. They're either going to attack or defend. You need to listen. Listen to exactly what that person says. Why they're in conflict, what's going on. And then suggest some remedies. The first remedy may be marital counseling or maybe individual counseling for the person who's unhappy. But to go right to divorce from a moment of saying I'm unhappy, would be very, very premature and destructive to the family. Because even if the divorce is warranted, there's a natural process that has to take place in order for the divorce to be succeful, or even rendered unnecessary.
What do we do if we're not sure we should divorce?
If you are confused about whether or not you want a divorce you need to do the personal work. You need to sit down with a third party - usually a professional therapist - and talk about what's going on with you and why you are feeling the need to break up your marriage. When you break up your marriage, you often break up the family, or extended families. There are major economical consequences. A divorce often affects your job, because it's very hard for people to work during a divorce. There are social consequences; people lose social affiliations. Divorce also affects people emotionally and physically because of stress involved. There are threats of money, threats of isolation; divorce is a huge decision that should never be taken lightly. You need to think about why you are confused about marriage and divorce. What you are ambivalent about? If you are staying in the marriage just because of money, or just because of children, and you don't like the spouse, it's never going to feel good. You are going to be constantly frustrated and always be thinking about the sacrifice you made and why you made it.
How do we know if we should give our marriage another try?
You should give your marriage another try if you like your spouse i.e. you like who they are. I often ask my clients "would you date this person?", and the answer I get is "I wouldn't date them". Now, if you don't want to date someone, how do you want to be married to them? So you have to ask yourself; do you like this person, do you like their basic values, are you attracted to them as a person at all? If you can't answer yes to those questions, you're probably trying to hit a square peg into a round hole. Then you're staying in a marriage only for what you think are good reasons but not for the marital partnership at all. If you're thinking that you cannot survive in this marriage, you have to think about what it would take to make this marriage palatable and tolerable to you. If you can do that and still maintain a decent relationship, one that doesn't make you feel angry all the time, and you can get some of your needs met and be with your children and be in your home, then it's not a bad idea to stay in that marriage because on the other side, we're not sure what you're going to find. So, if you can actually do that, and lower your expectations to the point where you understand that divorce is not an option for you as it is for some people because of whatever reason, you may make your marriage work.
Can exploring the possibility of divorce improve our marriage?
There's no question that by you exploring your feelings about marriage and divorce - working on your marriage and doing a deconstructive analysis of it - can be very, very helpful. I think you have to do that in a framework of: "I don't want my marriage to end, I want to make my marriage better." From this, there is the option that if you can't make your marriage better, there is the option to separate or divorce.
Should we stay married for the sake of our kids?
Many people have the same question you have about staying married for the sake of your kids, and many people stay married for the sake of their children.
Unfortunately, children don't usually thrive in that situation where you feel resentful, where your needs aren't getting met, and where you're constantly thinking about how this is not the life I want. If children grow up in homes where there's high conflict, or they grow up in homes where they don't see affection and warmth and love, they're going to choose partners in a similar way, and they're going to replicate the misery that you have in your marriage. If you can't improve your marriage, you should seriously think about ending your marriage - despite the kids - because it truly doesn't benefit the children in the ways that you think it would.
What if I'm afraid to divorce?
Everybody's afraid to divorce. It's overwhelming and it is all-encompassing. There are fears of rejection by family. There are fears of failure. There are fears that you will be chastised by a social group, that people will look down upon you, that you have failed, even if it's not your fault. It's very scary to think about ending a marriage, because usually what happens is you will concentrate more about what other people think than what you actually think about it. You will sacrifice your own needs for what other people may perceive about you, when in truth, they do not care as much as you think they do.
What are some valid reasons for getting divorced?
The good reasons to end a marriage include domestic violence: If you are being abused verbally, if you are being abused physically, sexually, you need to end your relationship at least temporarily. No one should go on and be a victim of a marriage. If you feel that you have nothing in common with your spouse, you don't like your spouse, they're treating you poorly even though they're not abusing you, that there's no needs you're getting met. You have no children, you have no money that's being commingled, there's not much reason to stay in that marriage when your needs are not getting met and you have none of those connections. Finally, when you find yourself unable to take care of yourself and your spouse because you're so debilitated, so depressed because you're with a spouse that doesn't seem right for you and you've worked on yourself over and over again and you've worked on your marriage and you've been to marriage counseling and it doesn't get better and the patterns don't change; it may be time to end your marriage.
What are some bad reasons for getting divorced?
The worst reason to get divorced is because you're bored. Many people get bored and they want something exciting, and that's why they have affairs, and that's why they decide that the way they're going to repair their marriage is to hire an amateur therapist. An amateur therapist is another man or other woman to have an affair with. That person is going to make them feel temporarily better. That is absolutely one of the worst things that someone can do, because it gives you no good information about what's really wrong with your marriage, but rather just shifts your focus to something else and distracts you from working on your marriage, or working with that partner to get your needs met. You start splitting your needs off between your partner and this other person and so you don't give anybody a fair chance to actually meet those basic needs.