It might be the most difficult decision you’ve made your entire live, and the one that will most impact your future happiness:
“Should I get a divorce?”
If you’ve been deliberating about whether you can truly stay in a marriage and be happy and fulfilled, chances are you’ve weighed the pros and cons, talked with trusted friends, engaged in some individual or couples counseling, and read a fair number of online blogs that discuss the impact of such a decision.
At the end of the day, only you know in your heart what feels right regarding a change in your marital status. Your intuition – that voice that doesn’t quiet down inside – is probably the most effective tool in making the decision that will lead to your greatest happiness. In addition to what I call you your “internal compass,” here are four signs that might help confirm your decision.
You’ve given it your all
If you end your marriage believing you did everything you could to save it, you’ll feel more at peace with your decision.
Committing to a period of therapy is part of this equation. Both couples and individual counseling sessions just might draw you closer together. On the other hand, diving deeper into the core relationship issues with a professional might instead confirm your decision to separate for the long haul. Therapy does take time (think of how long it took for the issues to develop), and the right fit of therapist, but if you’ve been regularly attending sessions (consider six months as a reasonable benchmark) without any change, chances are that the relationship issues will continue to be the ongoing experience.
Along the way, one outcome of therapy will most likely be a serious commitment to concrete changes – such as changing communication styles, regularity of affection, attending to a partner’s individual desires, building trust, or fixing other misaligned needs. Take these changes seriously and do everything in your power to made an effort if you truly want to understand whether the relationship can be savaged. Half-hearted efforts will leave you always wondering whether you could have done more to save the relationship. (And for those reading this who are not immediately considering divorce; getting involved in counseling for regular tune-ups and preventative work generates far greater results than waiting until problems arise).
You’ve lost yourself
Losing yourself in a relationship isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s a beautiful give and take and a transformational experience – one in which you lose yourself and then live closer to your highest potential.
Other times, you feel like your soul is dying or you don't recognize yourself anymore. You don’t love the new person you’ve become. Your boundaries have been destroyed and your values are no longer driving your daily decisions. You don’t demand the respect you know you deserve and you may have given up on the things that make you happy – such as hobbies, health, or even social circles and loved ones. Maybe you don’t even know who you are anymore and feel lost and engulfed by the drama of your current marriage. If you’ve lost yourself in this way, it might be a red flag that you’d be happier without the weight of your current relationship.
Sometimes this is a tricky one because if you are unhappy with your life – your career, health, or financial status for instance – it can be easy to blame a relationship or use it as a scapegoat. You may have become preoccupied with your relationship because, for one reason or another, you stopped engaging in the practices and activities that make you feel like yourself. Check in occasionally and confirm whether you are satisfied with most aspects of your life, such as your career, network of friends, free time activities, health, and learning opportunities, to determine whether your relationship is truly the component of your life that most gets you down.
Your values are no longer aligned
Misaligned values are often addressed in the dating phase and can result in the dismissal of a relationship early on. Yet, sometimes these differences are overlooked or ignored in service of the relationship continuing. In other cases, people change over time, and along with shifting personalities comes changes in values around finances, politics, child-rearing, beliefs, work-life balance, intimacy needs, and personal time.
When there is a respect of differences and a willingness to communicate this respect, these value differences can sometimes be integrated into the relationship. However, when there is a lack of respect for each side, or a difference that contradicts the values of the other partner, sometimes these differences divide, and ultimately, conquer.
Even more complex than this, misaligned values can quickly turn into significant conflict in a relationship, and in some cases, spiral into abusive behaviors (e.g., verbal, mental, physical, sexual and/or financial). Turning things around on you when you try to voice your feelings (otherwise known as gaslighting), withdrawing affection or financial support, manipulating the kids when you disagree with him/her, cheating on you, disrespecting your emotional or physical boundaries are just some of the ways conflict can be acted out in abusive ways. If these patterns are starting to form, it’s time to take a serious look at how the relationship can be negatively effecting your own personal ethics. When values and boundaries are consistently compromised, it’s hard to build a foundation on which to grow and evolve together.
You can’t see a future together, anymore
It’s time to get really honest with yourself. Perhaps it’s a feeling in your heart, even a visceral feeling in your “gut” that you simply don’t see yourself growing old with this person anymore. While your marriage once held so much promise, now you view a future with your spouse as one that is stressful, lonely, and unfulfilling. Maybe this feeling is driven by infidelity that you just can’t ever fully overcome, or consistent, escalated arguments. For these reasons and hundreds of others, you believe deep down inside that you’ll be happier in life without this person. And, at the end of the day, that feeling is maybe the only one that really matters.
If you have questions about whether you are ready for a divorce or want to talk to a neutral professional about this important decision, contact Center for Shared Insight for the support you deserve. Or, learn more about our process-oriented divorce group for women going through this change by visiting our event website and contacting me, Dr. Hick, for more information on this transformational group.
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