Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients
Unhappy in your marriage? Don’t move too quickly before you ask for a divorce. There are several things that you should consider. Slow down and make sure that you have thought things through.
Here are five questions to ask yourself before you ask your partner for a divorce.
1. Is my brain thinking normally?
Or is my brain clouded by interest in another person, a mid-life crisis or the single life? We know that there is actually a change in brain chemistry for folks who have an affair. This change in brain chemistry brings about amazing feelings of euphoria or the belief in finally having found a soul-mate. As with all new relationships, this change does not last. Eventually calmness and normalcy return. It is only during a time of calm and normal brain processing that someone should even consider a divorce.
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The same can hold true for a mid-life crisis. At certain stages in one’s adult life, there is often a period of wondering “what if?” and mentally or actually playing around with the idea of exploring a single life and new relationships. If this might be the case with you, a change in your marital status may not be the solution to the underlying angst. There are many different ways to explore change. Ending your marriage is a pretty drastic move.
2. Have I done everything that I could do?
Have I talked openly and lovingly with my partner? Have I asked for counseling and, if refused, gone on my own? Have I changed my own behavior rather than repeat the same old responses and reactions? Most problems in a marriage are usually not the result of one person’s behavior. Examining and recognizing your own part in the problem might lead to the changes that you desire for your marriage.
3. Have I rewritten the story of our marriage?
Am I consciously refusing to acknowledge the good in the relationship because of anger or unresolved concerns? Have I found someone “better” who makes me look at the duration of my marriage in negative ways that are unrealistic?
When you give up wanting to stay in the marriage, you often give up on the positives in the marriage. Thoughts and memories tend to just drift toward the negative and you forget all of the good reasons for getting into the relationship and staying there for as long as you have.
When you hold the belief that you will get through anything, then you can find your way through together.
4. Have I examined the normal stages of marriage?
in reference to where I am or we are right now? Do I know about the typical course of a marriage and where my spouse and I fit into that? Are we having problems that are “typical” for couples at our stage of life and marriage? Do I know what others have done to find their way through?
There is some truth to that old adage about a “7 year itch” and the “empty nest syndrome” to name just two. Understanding and recognizing the phenomena can make a real difference in how you view your marriage.
5. Have I thought about what I would say to my children about the end of our marriage?
Now if they are young, and later when they are adults? What would I like them to know about this decision? Will they see me as having given up? What do I want them to think about me, or about us, and the end of the marriage?
Consider writing down your answers to these 5 questions. Put them away for a week and then bring them out again. As you re-read them, consider to thoughtfully examine your thoughts about divorce before making such a dramatic decision.
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