When Your Marriage Can’t Be Saved
“Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.” —Unknown
Have you given your marriage everything you have to give and you’ve nothing more to offer? Have your best attempts to keep it from crumbling into a pile of dust failed? If you’re like many in this scenario, you have likely come to the heart-wrenching decision to get a divorce. That in itself can be the hardest decision you’ve ever made. But if it’s over and you know it, this is likely where you find yourself.
Whatever the reasons behind the decision to get a divorce, and whether it was your idea or your spouse’s, the road before you may be long and arduous. The process to divorce is rarely simple, and never easy — untangling marital lives is a complicated business.
There are three main components to a divorce: legal, emotional, and financial. Getting married is pretty simple, and speedy if you so choose to forego engagements and wedding plans. But once a couple has come together in matrimony, you’re no longer living individual lives, but one in the eyes of the legal system, and, of course, the IRS.
And when two married people decide to end their relationship with a divorce, all the assets built and debts incurred while married must be legally divided, usually in a fair and equitable manner. If a couple has had children, a parenting plan must be put in place and custody and child support determined.
If that’s not enough to confuse and numb the mind, add all the emotional turmoil and fallout that often accompanies divorce. Under such pressure, the doubt that you’re doing the right thing may return.
How do you know your decision to divorce is the right one?
Just because you’ve decided (perhaps even started) to get a divorce doesn’t mean misgivings won’t return to haunt you. Is there a way to know for certain you’ve come to the right decision?
People get divorced for many reasons, but one we often hear from Wevorcers is that they thought it was the thing to do. Other reasons may be that you’ve grown apart, or one or both of you have lost their respect for the other. Another might be that as humans we are constantly evolving and changing. Two people may discover they aren’t the same people they were when they said, “I do.” Often, that means they no longer share common interests, even values.
An article for Family Education, “How Do You Know When Your Marriage Is Over?” provides a list of important questions to ask yourself that may help.
“How do you know when you’ve finally reached the point of no return, when putting your relationship together again is simply too much of a stretch?” the article asks. “In the end, of course, the answer is personal. But if your answers to the following questions are irrefutably ‘yes,’ it might be time to let go:
- Does every situation, no matter how seemingly trivial, evolve into a fight?
- Do you or your spouse continually refer to hurtful events in the past?
- Is all the respect gone from your relationship? Do you feel it is impossible to bring that respect back?
- Have your goals and directions changed whereas your partner’s have stayed the same? (Or vice versa.)
- Is your partner no longer fostering your individual growth?
- Have you and your partner both changed so much that you no longer share moral, ethical, or lifestyle values?
- Have you and your spouse lost the art of compromise? When you disagree, are you unable to forge a path together that is acceptable to both?
- Do you and your spouse have a basic sexual incompatibility? Do you feel completely unattracted to each other? Despite help from professional therapists, have you stopped making love?”
How to cope when your world has been turned upside down.
By the time you reach the necessity of divorce, your relationship may be on the verge of what feels like a nuclear explosion. Emotions are running hot, cold, up, down, anything but comforting or reasonable. But you and your spouse must come to a resolution of how you should split your household and move forward as individual, independent souls, and perhaps as co-parents to your children.
It’s normal, even necessary, to grieve the loss of a marriage, and it’s no different than dealing with a death; the stages are the same. And, it takes time. Each individual’s journey is uniquely their own and should be taken at their own pace. Be patient with yourself and allow the grieving to heal your wounds.
Denial comes first, as it’s the natural response to the initial realization that divorce is imminent. Then anger sneaks in to take action, like an explosion of emotion. This is a time when you may feel as if you have no control. Anxiety can turn anger inward, so be aware if you become despondent or depressed. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help when needed, especially if you are feeling self-destructive. Bargaining is an inner journey when you might begin a dialogue with yourself out of a desire to heal. And finally, acceptance allows you to move on, even start to look forward to beginning your new life and embrace the opportunities it presents.
These stages aren’t definitive, and each person’s process will be different. It isn’t uncommon to move back and forth, sliding back into a stage you thought was complete and behind you. There are no rules. There are no right or wrong ways to deal with loss. But the purpose of the grieving process is to reach a point where you can cope and look forward, rather than back.
If you find you’re not reaching a natural end to your grief, and you’ve become bogged down, stuck in the same moment going over and over the same negative emotions, you may need to seek professional help. When we hang onto our turmoil and pain, we keep ourselves from dealing with loss and cannot move ahead of it. It’s unhealthy and does more damage than good when feelings become destructive and self-defeating.
Letting go of the anger.
Approaching decision-making while angry, hateful, spiteful, or bitter can be dangerous, not only for your family, but for you. In a Wevorce article on Revenge and Divorce ;we discussed ways in which to think peacefully instead.
“Deep down, we all understand that knee-jerk reactions can lead us to make unwise, unhealthy choices. We know nothing good ever comes out of anger-driven actions or responses. The same goes for retaliating for perceived wrongs committed against us. Too often, facts are colored by our emotions and our assessment of the truth can become a bit skewed to one side — all to justify our anger.
One thing we strongly believe at Wevorce is that it takes two people to build a strong relationship, and it takes two to destroy it. Making your spouse suffer because you’re in pain is neither a healthy nor a productive approach to divorce. It will only complicate matters and rarely ever helps or gives one spouse an advantage. Especially if children are involved — they will NEVER benefit if you allow a need for revenge to dominate the divorce.”
If emotions are out of control, this is the time to take control and approach the divorce process with sensibility and calm. You and your spouse will be making decisions that will affect you and your family for years to come. In order to begin again in a healthy, happy way, you must build a strong foundation by making sound and wise choices. You can’t do that if you come to the table with anger and hate in your heart.
Discover what you really want from life.
Despite the changing times, we still live in a society that values marriage above all else. When in a serious relationship, everywhere you look, everything we hear, is a bombardment of messages that happiness is when you find your prince charming, your soul mate, your one and only. We are told fairytales about happily ever after being our main goal in life. We are sold the big engagement ring, the grand wedding, and dreamy honeymoon — somehow, the whole package promises the perfect start and wedded bliss. The house with the white picket fence and the children soon to follow are all built into the dream of the picture-perfect life together.
It’s in this process that we tend to get caught up in the vortex of what others deem to be the right thing to do. Shouldn’t we, instead, be asking each other the important questions? Shouldn’t we, instead, be forthright and honest about what we truly want out of life? Are we really ready for marriage? For children? Can we sustain these romantic feelings for our entire lifetime?
In this day and age, “‘til death do us part” may mean an awfully long time together. Perhaps we should write our own relationship model, based on what we want from life and how that may look when we choose someone to share it with.
One of the hardest things to do is to accept that a marriage is over. But when acceptance finally comes — and it generally arrives as the end of the grief cycle — it also marks the beginning of a new cycle. This time of new beginnings can mean many things; it’s an open book. Starting now, you can let go of what people expect from you, and instead move forward with your own expectations — those derived from the honest, true you.
We should take time to celebrate both the past and new beginnings. It is perfectly OK to cherish the marriage and allow yourself to remember it with fondness, not with sadness. Yes, your marital life as you knew it is ending, but it doesn’t need to be an awful thing. Don’t allow anger and bitterness to rob you of all that was once good between you and your spouse.
Forgive each other for the bad times to help heal your aching hearts. Then look forward, knowing you do so with a clean slate, with no negative energy to hold you back. Enjoy the excitement and joy that a new life brings, knowing you will fill it with hope and happiness.
This may seem an impossibility, or even ludicrous at this moment in time. But we promise, it can help even the most broken of souls to begin again.