Marriage Woes? Before You Call The Divorce Lawyer, Consider THIS

Marriage Woes? Before You Call The Divorce Lawyer, Consider THIS
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If your marriage is on the rocks, you may need to practice communication before calling your lawyer.

"In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage." ~ Robert Anderson

So, you are one step away from calling a lawyer; yet, you feel some realistic confusion and are wondering, Is this the best path to take for all concerned? Sure you've just reached a milestone anniversary together but you know that you don't want to live the rest of your life the way things are going now.

Perhaps you feel concerned that the impact of the divorce will be devastating for the kids. You may have the sense that you "love" your spouse, but you don't feel "in love." You may have even fallen in love with someone else. 

First, let me say that I know you haven't reached this point lightly. People may say that divorces happen too easily, but as you already know, your road thus far has been fraught with guilt, shame, confusion, ambivalence, and fear about the future.

My goal is here is to play devil's advocate before you take the final step of calling the lawyer. If you are at all unsure and haven't called the lawyer yet, this could help you resolve the question, Am I making the worst decision of my life?

My basic point is that you may not know yet. Sometimes, you decide to call at a time when you don't have enough information. For instance, if you're suffering from a depression and blaming it on the marriage, before you decide about the marriage get some help for the depression.

You or your spouse may have a drinking problem. Without treatment, you don't know what the marriage will be like without the denying reality. You might be extremely unhappy with your job and have fallen in love with someone else in order to spice up a boring life.

If you're involved with an outside person, you will want to learn about the nature of the feeling "in love." Scientists have discovered that this "in love" occurs in your brain and lasts from six months to two years in the context of a new relationship. After that, the high from all of the amphetamine-like substances racing around in your brain will fade away.

At this point, you will again need to work to replace the "in love" feeling with the "I love you" feeling, which comes from a different part of the brain. This part of the brain helps you settle down, maintain a long-term commitment, and perhaps have children.

As you think about the marriage just now, you probably are thinking that the two of you just don't know how to communicate. If you are a man, you may feel that your wife won't be rational. If you are a woman, you may feel as though your husband never expresses his feelings.

Most couples that come to my office believe they are different and that this explains why their relationship is not working. Yet repeatedly, I find that differences in couples lead to their becoming a great team if all cylinders are working. When they are not, couples usually feel pulled apart by those same differences.

This gets to the most important area that I think might interest you. Whether or not you can maintain the "I love you" feeling, or the commitment feeling, rests on some very specific learned skills. John Gottman researched this in-depth by videotaping couples with a high level of relationship satisfaction and compared the results to couples with deep levels of dissatisfaction.

He reports that certain skills seem to make a huge difference in whether couples feel close to each other or not. For instance, how men handle conflict instead of avoiding it, and how women approach bringing up their concerns, influences whether any issues get resolved.

Whether a couples fights a lot is not a predictor of divorce; rather, the ratio of good moments to bad indicates a difference. In fact, many of the couples that never fight end their relationship with one member having an affair.

You can refer to other parts of this website to understand more of the basic principles of making a good relationship. See: relationships.

The point is simply this: the best time to decide on proceeding with a divorce comes after you've developed these skills and use them. You cannot evaluate your relationship accurately until you are employing skills that will lead to increased intimacy and effectiveness as a couple. Trying those principles can help you know what you have together, particularly if you feel that you love the person, but do not feel in love.

Relationship counseling is an extremely effective way to slow down enough to make a good decision. Even if you decide to call the lawyer, you will look back on this time and know you gave it your best effort to make the relationship work. Besides, you will learn many new tools and resources to make a future relationship work better from the beginning. Perhaps you will discover a new and exciting person who you've been married to all along.

As a marriage counselor and partner to his wife for over 40 years, Dr. Jim Walkup helps couples build their relationship to last a lifetime. Visit his website for a copy of his eBook "A Marriage Counselor’s Secrets To Making Your Marriage Sizzle". Or, if you're in the state of New York, to schedule a Skype appointment or an in-person office appointment, call 914-548-8645 or drop Dr. Walkup an email at jimwalkup@gmail.com

This article was originally published at Mid-Manhattan Marriage Counseling. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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