Ask yourself — Are you happy?
Are you fulfilled in your marriage or are you pretending? Do you fantasize about life as an “independent?” Would friends and family be shocked if you announced that you and your spouse were divorcing?
Of the 60% of intact marriages (give or take a few percentages), many are not what would be considered good or healthy relationships. Yet, people stay because they made a commitment or because they’re afraid to leave the kids with the other parent.
Most would face financial ruin if they split up. I may be jaded because I'm a therapist who listens to the problem couples have day in and day out, but I suspect that the number of truly happy marriages is likely the exception rather than the rule.
Given that we now live in a time of so much choice, older people aren’t staying in their marriages any more. Gray divorces (those Americans over 50-years-old) have doubled since 1990.
But what if, rather than change your marital status, you change the status within your marriage? What if you focused less on having the “love of your life” who fulfills all of your needs and more on having a high functioning relationship that fulfills a good portion of the key areas in your life?
What if you could preserve your legal union but expand your life from this home base?
Not every marriage could handle these kinds of changes and before elaborating on this idea, I feel it’s important to distinguish between a “bad” marriage and a “good enough” marriage.
In a “bad” marriage, one or both people feel unsafe in some way or things don't improve despite attempts to help the relationship (or, your partner blocks you from getting help in which case, the marriage is surely doomed.)
A “good enough” marriage is one in which you and your spouse have a basic trust of one another as co-parents or you feel comfortable relying on each other financially, socially or simply as a roommate.
If your marriage is good enough, try talking to your mate about changing your agreements and goals for the marriage. An example of this is transitioning from a love-based partnership to a purpose-based relationship.
One Colorado couple, Cynthia and Dennis, went from having a “traditional” marriage to a Parenting Marriage because they decided that the romantic part of their relationship had expired but their kids were still young enough that they both wanted to be as present as possible.
Since they co-parent well together, this arrangement has really worked well.
Some couples have chosen to live in separate homes, while others have agreed that they won’t have children and they’ll focus on creating wealth by being DINKS (double income, no kids).
Still others will stay married in order to share experiences, travel, co-exist in the house, or take care of each other. Betsy and Warren Talbot exemplify the couple who at one point were focused on earning to their maximum potential. Currently, they're traveling the world and have started a blog/website called Married with Luggage. Last we heard from them, they were in Spain.
In researching my latest book, The New I Do Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (co-written with Vicki Larson), we uncovered 7 alternatives to the love-based model we’ve come to equate with conventional marriage that people are already practicing.
With the exception of the first model (which is not a legal option because it’s against public policy to plan the demise of a marriage), all of these options are being practiced in one way or another with people throughout the Western world (even in the U.S!).
These alternatives have helped many people remain in their marriages by allowing couples to taper their nuptials to their own needs. If marriage in general is going to survive, it surely needs to change. If you feel your marriage needs some changes in order to survive, you may want to research one of these options. Tweaking the way we relate within the institution of marriage is truly a way to have your wedding cake and eat it too.
(This article was inspired by a recent interview with noted FoxNews radio personality, Vipp Jaswal that may be heard here)
This article was originally published at psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.