Unhappily Married? Divorce Isn’t Always the Answer

Forlorn woman looking out the window

In today’s world of fast-paced decision-making and on-demand solutions, such as DIY divorces, it is not surprising that many couples contemplate divorce the moment they find themselves unhappily married. Our culture’s fickle mentality often seems to advocate for the idea that when something is broken, it is best to discard and replace it rather than attempt to mend it. However, divorce isn’t always the right answer for an unhappy marriage.

Some couples discover newfound happiness and contentment by choosing to stay together and work on their relationship. Just ask the author of this New York Times opinion piece, which recently raised many eyebrows, including my own, when she and her husband, seemingly miserable with each other for years, stuck it out to eventually reach a place of what the author confesses she can only best describe as “easy rapport and mellowed love.”

As someone who found my soulmate the second time around, who successfully blended two families — my four children and my husband’s two — to eventually enjoy our lives as empty nesters as we do today, I was left scratching my head. Is there some alternate universe where my first marriage could have worked had we allowed our marital discord to run its course? A better question: Knowing what I know now, seeing what I have today, would I have wanted it to? The answer for me is a resounding no, but for others, such questions deserve further exploration.   

So before jumping to the conclusion that divorce is the only solution, let’s consider for a moment the alternative path of staying together and how it could lead to a more satisfying life with your partner. And why you might not need or want a divorce, even if you are currently unhappy in your marriage.

Emotional Growth and Resilience

One of the greatest gifts a challenging relationship (and I am not talking about abuse here) can offer is the opportunity for emotional growth and resilience. When faced with adversity, individuals have a chance to confront their fears, insecurities, past trauma(s), and emotional pain. This process can ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s partner.

More specifically, working through difficult times together can strengthen the bond between partners willing to stay the course, fostering empathy and compassion. Learning how to navigate the complexities of a struggling or unhappy marriage can likewise serve as a catalyst for growth, both personally and as a couple.

Children’s Well-Being

The impact of divorce on children is a significant consideration for many parents. Research has shown that children from divorced families may experience higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems, academic struggles, and difficulties forming stable relationships later in life. Of course, many of these issues can be alleviated by adopting a child-centered approach with a commitment from both ex-spouses to co-parent amicably.

While staying together solely for the children isn’t always the right decision, it can be worthwhile to weigh the potential consequences of divorce on their well-being. In some cases, working to improve the marriage and maintain a stable, loving environment might be the best choice for the entire family.

Financial Stability

Divorce can be an expensive and financially draining process. The division of assets, legal fees, and the possibility of spousal support or child support payments can have a significant impact on both parties’ financial stability. In many cases, the standard of living for both partners will decline following a divorce.

Before pursuing a divorce, it is, therefore, crucial to have a clear understanding of the financial implications that come with a separation and consider whether the potential benefits of splitting up outweigh the costs. In some instances, investing in couples therapy or financial planning (whether you decide to stay or go, especially if finances are at the root of marital discord) may prove more beneficial in the long run. Counterintuitive to some, couples therapy can help a divorcing couple to exit an unhappy marriage gracefully, should it come to that.

The Possibility of Rekindling the Romance

Relationships are always evolving, and as a result, feelings of love and attraction can ebb and flow. It is not uncommon for couples to experience periods of dissatisfaction or unhappiness in their marriage, just as the couple in the New York Times article mentioned above did. However, with time, effort, and commitment, many couples can rekindle the romance and rediscover the qualities that initially drew them together.

Therapy (individual and couples — both should be employed concurrently for best results), marriage workshops, self-help books, and resources provided by a family lawyer committed to relationship and family well-being can offer valuable tools to reignite the spark in an unhappy marriage where one or both partners are struggling. Never underestimate the possibility of a renewed connection and the potential for rediscovering love and happiness within an existing marriage.

The Impact of Divorce on Mental Health

Divorce can be a highly stressful and emotionally taxing experience for the entire family. Not surprisingly, it has been linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. While many individuals do recover and find happiness after a divorce, it is worth underscoring the potential mental health implications of such a life-altering decision.

In some cases, working to repair the marriage and address the underlying issues causing a couple not to get along may lead to improved mental health and overall well-being for both partners without the added stress and emotional turmoil of divorce. That said, research has also shown that staying in an unhealthy and unhappy marriage for a prolonged period can lead to mental health issues.

The Value of Commitment

Finally, there is something to be said for honoring the commitment made when marrying. It can be all too easy to walk away when times get tough. However, by choosing to stand by one another and face challenges together, couples can build a deeper sense of trust, loyalty, and dedication.

Commitment is a fundamental aspect of any long-lasting, successful relationship. By choosing to work through the difficulties that arise in a marriage, at least to try before calling it quits, couples can help foster a resilient and robust bond that can more successfully weather life’s ups and downs, of which there are many. That’s just life.

Final thoughts …

While divorce may seem like the most straightforward solution to an unhappy marriage, it is worth considering the potential consequences of splitting up and the alternative path to happiness that can come from facing marital challenges head-on. In some cases, staying together and working on a troubled marriage can lead to personal growth, emotional resilience, and renewed love and connection.

So before deciding on divorce, consider exploring other available options, including individual and couples therapy, self-help resources, and opening the lines for improved communication with your partner. With time, effort, and commitment, many unhappy marriages demonstrate the potential to transform into a fulfilling and rewarding partnership.

But if for whatever reason yours does not, remember, divorce is always here for you, ready to become your gateway to the life you empower yourself to create. Contact our team of Seattle divorce lawyers today.

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