Relationship advice: Is your marriage worth saving?
Before taking those final steps towards divorce, make sure you’ve asked yourself if the marriage is beyond all hopes of rescue.
Is my marriage worth saving? If this question sounds like one worth asking, then obviously the marriage has already entered into a state of crisis. This question begs for a excruciatingly honest evaluation of a romantic and legal bond that should have lasted until death. Very few of us ever look forward to excruciatingly honest evaluation of ANYTHING we do, so weighing the benefits and liabilities of remaining married is bound to be painful.
Conventional Wisdom suggests exhausting all options before taking such drastic steps as legal separation and divorce. Then again, Conventional Wisdom never discovered a spouse’s illicit affair or suffered at the hands of an abuser. There are no easy answers when dealing with a situation as momentous as divorce. There are only two people who truly understand the situation- the rest of society can only be spectators and Monday-morning quarterbacks. What may sound reasonable on paper may not apply to the specific situations which brought the marriage to this fork in the road. Marriage counselors can guide couples towards finding solutions, but sometimes those solutions include legal separation or divorce. You cannot rely strictly on conventional wisdom or society’s opinion when evaluating your own marriage.
The short answer to the question is yes, most marriages are still worthwhile. If you need a reminder of that, simply think back to the days before you were married. Remember those lonely nights spent wondering if anyone will ever find you interesting enough to marry, or those endless days where all that kept you going was a dull job and TV dinners in front of the TV? There was a point in your life where the benefits of marriage outweighed the feelings of loneliness and isolation as a young single person. Even if you did have an active dating life, the short lifespans of those relationships may have become disillusioning. You may have longed for a more intimate and stable relationship with one person who understood your personality and shared your interests. Becoming engaged to that person brought with it a feeling of maturity and truly independent living. The marriage itself only helped to reinforce those feelings and demonstrate to the world that you care deeply for another person and you’re willing to commit to a long-term relationship.
But somewhere along the line, this feeling may have changed for one or both of you. What began as a wondrous adventure has now become a numbing routine of childcare, high-pressure jobs, stolen moments of privacy and far too many social obligations. Your wife’s body has changed and you no longer feel attracted to her physically. Your husband’s personality has changed and you no longer feel safe around him. You’ve had the same conversations for five years, and more often than not those conversations end in trivial arguments or hurt feelings. Meanwhile, that attractive new girl in accounting laughs at all your jokes, or that handsome instructor spends a few minutes after class discussing your ideas. Temptations may lead to experimentation, and perhaps to some unfortunate consequences. Your marriage has become troubled, begging the original question.
When deciding if a marriage is worth saving, there are a lot of outside elements to consider. Children can suffer during a protracted divorce, and they see first-hand how unhappy the two of you can be around each other. Divorce does not relieve either party from the responsibilities of child-rearing, so you’ll need to consider what’s best for your children. Are your problems so insurmountable that it’s best for you to be away from your spouse? A trial separation may give you the opportunity to cool down before taking more permanent steps. If the children can still see their dad, and dad is not busy screaming at mom, then they can adjust to the temporary arrangements. A trial separation can just as easily end in reconciliation as it could divorce.
Forget about families and in-laws and friends at the gym for a minute. Do you still have romantic feelings for that woman sitting on the other side of the marriage counselor’s couch? Can you still see the same qualities in that man who drops off the kids on Sundays? No one expects you to say ‘yes’ artificially. If the most honest answer you can give yourself is ‘no’, then perhaps a more permanent end to the marriage can be beneficial to both sides. But if there’s even the slightest version of ‘yes’, then it’s still worth pursuing marriage counseling or other means of bridging the gap. Try dating again- reintroduce yourselves and make time to do those things you did when you first met. Many times the real cause of marital strife is not a clash of personalities or financial woes, but the lack of quality time spent together.
Another factor to consider is financial. You might think you can get away with cutting a support check or alimony payments once a month, but there are always going to be other financial obligations between ex-husbands and ex-wives. The custodial parent might not be the one with the highest income, so expenses may have to be split equitably. Can you honestly say your spouse would be better off without your financial contributions to the household? Do they have the survival skills to find meaningful employment on their own AND raise children? Remember, you may have married someone who left their parent’s home and came directly into yours. They didn’t have time to experience life as an independent adult. Has your relationship with this person broken down so far that you’d be willing to send them into the world without job training or experience?
You can still agree to disagree, and reach a mutual decision to exit the marriage, but you should still consider your spouse’s ability to cope with the outside world.
The final thing you should consider is your motivations for considering divorce or separation.
Are you being genuinely responsible by ending a volatile relationship before it becomes destructive, or are you making decisions based on your own self-interests? If you’ve done everything in your power to save the marriage and your spouse shows no signs of repentance or meaningful change, then divorce might make sense. But if you’re considering divorce because you’ve met someone else who seems more appealing, then you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Married people face temptations of all sorts every day and don’t divorce because of them. As a married person, you need to decide which temptations are temporary and which are potentially harmful. You took a vow to remain faithful to one person no matter how their circumstances may change. The cute new girl in accounting or that handsome instructor in your night class may seem more appealing than your spouse at the moment, but neither one is a real solution. There is an old but true saying about leaving your spouse for another- all you end up with is someone who would leave their spouse if someone better came along.
Some marriages CAN deteriorate to the point of divorce, and both spouses can walk away knowing they did the best thing for everyone involved. But you must examine your motivations with brutal honesty before making any decisions with the legal and personal ramifications of divorce.