The Most Important Thing To Try Before You Sign Divorce Papers

One last step before you quit your marriage.

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In my more than 20 years as a licensed psychotherapist specializing in marriage, family, and child counseling, I have observed almost all of the clients who wanted to get divorced had one thing in common — they were pointing at the other partner as the cause of the problem. Yes, I understand when someone cheats on you, it appears to be all of their fault, yet even in this situation, I have noticed there is as much for the cheated-on person to learn.


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Here is the number-one most important thing I recommend if you want to save your marriage before you call it quits: Go to counseling.

Be sure you have done your work before you break up your family. What do I mean? Find a counselor who specializes in family systems so they can help you evaluate where you came from. Where you came from is why you see the world how you do. It’s where your expectations, values, and images of how relationships are supposed to be come from. It’s where the ideas you have about yourself get developed.

Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family systems psychotherapy, showed the meanings we make about ourselves are first formulated in our early childhood experiences, and science now shows us self-image may even start in the womb. Quite often, as we grow up, if there are stressors, we compensate according to what is happening. The younger we are, the more challenging it is for us.


Even if our parents abuse us, we are likely to blame ourselves — in other words, make meaning about ourselves as "I am not important or I don’t matter.” Why do we do that? Well, we can’t run off our parents. We are too small, and we need them to survive. So if something is wrong, we put it on ourselves.

Now, what does this have to do with you deciding whether or not to get divorced? Everything! When your partner makes you angry, if you check the meaning you make in a stressful situation, I would wager you are making meaning about you, something like, "I am not important." Yes, it’s the same one you developed (not consciously) when you were young.

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Because this is how you see yourself (you probably don’t realize it, though) if you leave, you will likely find someone new — and guess what? You’ll find you have the same ideas about you as before. You just broke up with your family for nothing!

Now, the good part. These meanings are formulated and processed inside you. That means if you do your work, you'll find a way to make a different meaning for yourself in any situation.

Now hear me out — when your partner makes you angry, and you (if you’re honest) make the meaning "I’m not important" or "I don’t matter," it’s you who is doing this to you.

Becoming more of an adult means learning to challenge these meanings. It’s not your partner’s fault you make the meanings you do. If you could ask yourself in the heat of the moment, “Is it true I’m not important or I don’t matter?” the answer is always “no” and always has been and always will be.




Do you want someone else to decide whether you matter or not? Would you teach that to your kids?

As a child, you didn't have much choice in the matter since you were dependent on your parents, but you are an adult now, and you can build the character (get help with this) to be in charge of your worth no matter what your partner does.

Is this easy to do? Not. But if you get the right help and start to transform the old ideas you have about you, you will see a significant difference in your situation, even if your partner doesn't change at all.


In systems, if one part changes, the rest of the system has to change. Imagine the pressure release for your partner when they don’t have to figure out how to make you feel better about yourself when they make a mistake. This has a critical impact on relationships.

If you figure out and be responsible for what meaning you make about yourself in stressful situations, you will know why you feel the way you do.

Once you learn how to do this, decide what to do about your marriage.




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Steven Keeler, international psychotherapist, consultant, and bestselling author, is an expert in human potential and transformational change. His successful private practice, A Better Life through Therapy and Healing, has helped thousands of people and multiple organizations around the world. His bestselling book Leap: But How Will I Live, Eat or Pay for Gas?


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