You’re at lunch with your friends. Or on the phone with your mother. You get to talking about what a jerk your spouse is and how you wish you weren’t with them anymore. You rattle off a laundry list of reasons why you can’t stand them. In isolation, none of the reasons seem too bad. Taken together, the thought of this person walking through the door at night sickens you to the point of contempt. And you haven’t even gotten to the quality of your sex life — or lack of it.
You’re thinking about divorce but haven’t made a final decision yet, despite everyone around you urging you to pull the plug on your marriage. You want to go but think it may be better to stick around a little while longer for the kids’ sake. Those you’ve crowdsourced say it’s not worth it. Still, you remain unsure whether to stay or go.
The answer, like most other considerations during a divorce, is not clear-cut. Before deciding to stay or go, you need to ask yourself a few questions first.
Is there abuse?
There are many kinds of abuse, the most obvious of which is physical. There’s a slap. Or a punch. The abuse is the easiest to see because it comes with immediate pain. However, according to the Social Care Institute for Excellence, there are 10 different abuse types, including sexual, emotional, and financial, which are not always so easily recognized. Nonetheless, each one presents a viable reason to leave.
With non-physical abuse such as emotional abuse, the effect isn’t always visible from the outside. However, given how powerful the mind-body connection is, such abuses can have physical manifestations, as described in this article in Psychology Today. The effects can last a lifetime, negatively impacting your personality and how you interact with others, not to mention how you treat yourself.
If you or your children are victims of abuse, the answer is always to leave. Whether you are in immediate danger due to physical abuse or are like the fabled frog who doesn’t realize they’re in a pot of water that’s gradually getting hotter to the point that it will eventually boil and kill them, the answer is the same — go. Abuse gets worse, not better. Don’t wait around for your situation to push you to your breaking point.
Can you put your differences aside to co-parent?
From my experience, I can tell you this is a tall order. Also, from my experience, I can tell you it is possible. For five years, I remained focused on my four school-aged children, through two moves and years of homeschooling, which I led. My husband and I still had our share of disagreements about the kids, and I often chose to take the high road by walking away from an argument or finding a way to get from point A to point B via the path of least resistance.
It’s hard work, and it gets tiring after a while. If this is your choice, give it a go. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it forever. Marital problems, if not addressed, escalate and take their toll. It happened to me. Eventually, I left.
Are you both committed to repairing your marriage?
You may want to enlist the assistance of a marriage counselor to help guide you and your spouse through your issues and try to save your marriage. Marriage counseling can work. However, if both spouses aren’t invested in the process and share that common goal, your efforts will fall on deaf ears. To save a marriage, both spouses must want to save it.
A marriage counselor can play another vital role. And that is to help a couple exit their marriage with respect and dignity — for themselves and their spouse. A good marriage counselor will help you develop skills to interact with each other, which will cause you less stress and make the transition easier while facilitating that same environment for your children. As the saying goes, you are only as happy as your saddest child.
Staying in an unhappy marriage requires stamina. It requires knowing this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the understanding you won’t be able to live this way forever. At some point, something will have to change. If you and your spouse continue to remain on a different page, you will likely be the one who needs to turn it. Just ask yourself how long you’re willing to wait to do that for, and, more importantly, how will you best utilize the time while you’re waiting.
Each of us deserves to live a life we love, even if achieving that will temporarily disrupt our status quo and our children’s. You’d be surprised that when parents are happier, so too are their kids. Parents become better caregivers, better friends, better children, better employees, better bosses, and more productive people in general. Most importantly, instead of mourning the loss of one not-so-happy house, you, your soon-to-be-ex, and your children get to see what it’s like to live in two happier ones.