With the divorce rate in the United States over 50% we can’t help but wonder whether those who choose to call it quits have thought through the decision carefully enough – and if they may have been able to salvage their sacred union.
In marriages involving unrepentant adultery, chronic abuse, addiction and abandonment, the option to stay together may not be tenable. However, a large number of divorcing couples just claim to have “drifted apart” or “fallen out of love.”
A sincere examination of the questions below may help you make the best decision for your future. Ask yourself these ten questions:
If your partner is willing to take responsibility for their part in your marriage problems and has expressed a desire to work on restoration, it is worth making the effort before deciding to divorce.
If you want a divorce because of someone new who ignites passionate feelings, the smart move is to end the attachment, let the chemical reaction that causes those feelings abate and address the marriage problems that made you vulnerable to an affair (either physical or emotional) in the first place. The reality is your new relationship is not likely to work out well. It is estimated that only 12% of all extramarital affairs lead to marriage and, out of those, 80% end in divorce!
Not all marriages are saved by working with a professional therapist; however, many couples report that counseling gave them the motivation and hope to stay committed. Experienced counselors can often help couples overcome the emotional, psychological and behavioral roadblocks to trust and intimacy, making it possible to believe that genuine change can occur.
Finances, parenting, sex and in-law challenges are four of the leading factors in marital conflict. They can be huge obstacles, but it’s not hopeless. A combination of communication training, problem solving and empathy along with commitment to healthier behavior patterns can result in greater resolution. Research shows that many of the conflicts plaguing couples earlier in their marriage are no longer issues as the marriage matures.
“No man is an island,” and your marriage will stay stronger with a healthy support system. Time spent with friends (Social Intimacy) helps couples manage both external and internal stressors. Since strong social relationships fortify the immune system, extend life, speed recovery from surgery and decrease the incidence of depression and anxiety, life is just better with friends you share with your spouse.
Depression can be “the silent killer of intimacy". It can cause one or both spouses to withdraw emotionally and physically, lose interest in shared activities and make less effort to be an attractive mate. It can create chronic physical symptoms, irritability and low self-esteem, which can further alienate partners from one another. Anxiety can create excessive worry, nagging, and a tendency to over-control the people and circumstances in life, which often causes the spouse to pull away. Depression and anxiety often distort a person’s perceptions and beliefs, which can result in seeing the marriage (and everything else) in a much more negative light. Effective treatment of the depression and anxiety often result in a renewed commitment to addressing legitimate marital concerns.
Passionate love is generally most intense during the first six months of a new relationship. As the fiery passion diminishes, warm companionate love grows. Companionate love is not dependent on the dopamine “high” associated with passion but is strengthened by mutual trust, respect and strong attachment. Too often couples respond to boredom, stress and the routines of day-to-day life by isolating from each other, becoming roommates. Boredom can often be lifted when you intentionally make the effort to have date nights, schedule fun activities together and intentionally put the spark back in your marriage.
Let’s face it, some people make bad decisions when it comes to saying, “I do”. Some relationships have serious problems from the beginning and, despite attempts to work on the issues, nothing substantially changes. In many cases, however, people considering divorce can recall time in their marriage when satisfaction and intimacy were high – they were in love and happy together. Perhaps it was before the children were born or when the demands of the job were less intense. Unless your marriage has been riddled with serious problems from the beginning, the dissatisfaction you feel today could improve when your circumstances change. Hang in there!
Before making any major decision it is important to think through the ramifications. A great deal of research is available on how divorce affects children and families, and it is critical that you know the facts before moving forward. For the majority, divorce greatly increases the possibility that your children will be prone to depression, less successful in school and later in life, and find it more difficult to weather storms in their own marriages. It also creates serious financial strain in most cases.
Nobody has a perfect record of making only good decisions. Nevertheless, it is important to take an honest look at your past decisions. When you look back over your life, do you see examples of big decisions gone bad because they were driven by strong emotions, impulsivity or impatience? If so, do your best to learn from your mistakes and take your time before you move forward with the decision to divorce. Even if you think getting married was one of those bad decisions, getting divorced may not be the best solution. Beginning a pattern of making wise, well-thought-out decisions can make a good marriage out of a “bad” decision.
I’ll be honest with you – if you’ve been considering divorce, I hope after reading this you will believe that there is hope and that your marriage is worth saving. I hope that you will come through the difficult days and develop a stronger, more loving bond than ever. But if you have made a decision to divorce, I strongly recommend receiving wise counsel from a therapist, a pastor or thoughtful friend or family member and carefully considering how all of the people involved will be affected. It’s a decision that will change the rest of your life.
Live, Work and Relate Well!