Do you catch yourself thinking, “Man, I just want to run away!” Or, “Things would be so much easier if I weren’t married”? Do you look at your divorced friends and wonder what you’d do with all your free time if you weren’t fighting with your spouse?
If so, it’s probably not a big leap to say that you’re contemplating divorce.
Since about 50% of married couples divorce, the good news is that you aren’t alone in having those thoughts. But, here are three motivating factors to consider as you decide whether divorce really is right for you.
1) Emotional Support−Do you feel like your spouse is there for you? Often, one partner senses a lack of emotional support, which can take the form of:
· Questioning your decisions
· Playing Devil’s Advocate
· Picking fights
· Discounting ideas, or
· Devaluing contributions
The partner who feels like his or her spouse doesn’t hear them, understand them, or “get” them is far more likely to contemplate divorce. As you consider your decision, how important is emotional support for you? It’s possible that if your spouse isn’t giving you what you need emotionally now, he or she may not ever be able to without significant time in couple’s therapy. At some point, you have to decide whether that’s acceptable to you.
Janine, a 42 year-old mother of three left her marriage because she lacked emotional support. Her husband of 20 years never hit her, rarely yelled at her, but could control how she felt with just a look. When she finally decided that she was ready to embark on a new career, his lack of support was the final straw in an already imbalanced marriage, so they divorced. “I finally have the chance to fulfill my dreams and I’m happier than I ever thought was possible−not because my life now is easy, but because it’s MINE.”
2) Physical Affection−Do you and your spouse have different ideas about what a physical need is?
Some partners crave daily touch, whether it’s hand-holding, neck-rubbing, sitting close on the couch, a morning and evening kiss, or spooning in bed. Other partners crave sexual contact more than the daily affection. If this imbalance in priorities is present in your marriage, how much of a factor is it in you contemplating divorce? Is it a big enough issue that you’re willing to seek professional help, or are you already thinking about or engaging in infidelity? Some signs that you’re thinking about cheating are:
· Going out more often with single friends
· Cultivating friendships with members of the opposite sex
· Flirting in front of your spouse
· Fantasizing about a life with someone else
· Engaging in physical touch, however platonic, with others
In the movie Bridesmaids, the character Rita (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey) says to newlywed Becca (played by Ellie Kemper), “Oh I have sex all the time. But I haven’t been kissed in five years.” That’s a common complaint from women who have married a long time−that sex becomes a higher priority for their husbands than the daily physical affection they, as women, want. A good question to ask is: how big of a problem is that for you?
3) Trust – there are many situations in which trust is broken between spouses. Those include:
· Physical or emotional affairs
· Money-management issues
· Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
· Extreme secrecy
· Electronic surveillance of email, texts, or cell phone bills
Once trust has collapsed, the likelihood of it being mended depends greatly on the willingness of both spouses to work through the issue. Certainly, there are couples who remain married after a significant breakdown in trust, but staying married requires a commitment to forgiveness and trust-building or a decision to stay married despite the lack of trust. Both Kate and Donna’s husbands had long-term affairs with other women−affairs that included sex but also extreme lying and “secret” lives. Both couples are still married. Kate, though, has said, “I won’t ever completely trust him again, so I put money away every month…just in case he does it again. I love him, though, so I’m staying for now.” Donna, on the other hand, had a different plan. “We went through three years of intense couples counseling and he started to stray again once during that time. Through all that hard work, I’ve completely forgiven him and chosen to believe that he won’t ever do that to me again.”
You know, especially if you’re spending inordinate amounts of time dreaming about running away from your life, that divorce is not an easy decision to make. In fact, it’s one of the hardest ones you’ll ever consider. So, before you make it, it’s your responsibility to get clear on what you need from your marriage, what you may not be getting from it, and whether or not you want to work hard to stay with your partner.
Listen to yourself and your intuition about the issues of emotional support, physical affection and trust. Listen to your friends and family a little bit, too. Then you’ll be better prepared the next time you put the car in drive and point it in the opposite direction.