Fears can keep a couple in limbo for years. It doesn't have to be that way
The idea of divorce doesn’t just arrive. It creeps in like a whispering snake. Your mind resists the thought: it's too earthshaking. Then one day you surprise yourself. Perhaps you blurt out the word divorce in a fight. Maybe you tell a friend and suddenly hear what you are saying. Maybe you wake up from a daydream and see that you have been imagining a future without your spouse.
The hard part comes next. For many people there is a seemingly endless time of debating with yourself. One day you are thinking, I cannot bear the tension in this house another minute, I want out. Or perhaps it sounds more like this: my marriage is more lonely than living alone would be. Or this: I’ve done everything I know how to make things better. Nothing works. I give up.
The next day you remember how it felt to hold each other and fall asleep in the good times. You open a closet and smell your spouse. You look into your son’s smile and see the other parent. All the sensations of a love full of promise come flooding back. Give up all that we have built? Give up our dreams? Give up growing old together? What was I thinking.
A shared life is not a simple commodity to be put down with a sigh. Yet the pain of a damaged relationship destroys the two and all those in the vicinity. How do you know when it is really too late, when the right action is to say goodbye?
Here are some questions to get you unstuck:
- Look first at why you are stuck. Are you afraid of staying? Afraid of leaving? Fear must be and can be faced. You have more wisdom, fortitude and competency than any fear allows you to believe.
- Try imagining in detail each of the two alternatives. Live with one for a day. Then spend a day with the other. What makes you most afraid of leaving? What makes you most afraid of staying? Stay with the fears for a while. No matter how unthinkable now, in a new life they will become manageable.
- Do you say to yourself, maybe things will change if I stay and wait? If you are doing nothing to make change happen, this thought wastes your time and energy. Do not expect your spouse to be different. Each time this thought comes to mind, tell it you don’t have time to waste. Take your spouse as is, then decide.
- Have you taken any action to move toward leaving, or toward staying in a different way? Take one action in one direction or the other. On the leaving side, get real information: talk to a lawyer to find out what it takes, or look for a place to live. On the other side, tell your spouse what you are thinking, or make an appointment to see a therapist yourself. When you take an action you are not committing to a decision. You are letting the possibilities become real.
Look in the mirror and stare until you can see the real person with the moxy to face what is hard in life. Either way you decide, now is the time for the courage to grow up once again.