Your partner isn’t the problem, sweetheart … YOU are.
A marriage takes work — lots of it — and from each spouse. And the rewards for your effort are: happiness, contentment, peace, and, of course, loving and feeling loved.
But, what happens when you begin to question whether the hard work is worth it? What happens when the bad times significantly outweigh the good (and have for a long time)? The rewards suddenly seem more like a pipe dream than a reality.
What usually happens once someone reaches this point is … they blame their spouse.
They blame their spouse for being a sorry, excuse for a mate and they fuel their resentment of their spouse with fantasies about divorce.
But, whoa … wait a minute. Let’s back this divorce train up for just a moment. True, being married takes work, but it’s nothing compared to the effort and work that divorce requires. Getting and then being divorced is at least ten times more frustrating and infuriating than the common annoyances of marriage. Once the marriage ends, you and your spouse become straight up adversaries, who must now come to some kind of agreement about: child custody, parenting, finances, and possessions. And there’s nothing easy about that.
Also, you don’t just get divorced and then the hard part’s over. Once the legal divorce is “final,” you then begin living into the terms of your divorce. Your life remains firmly tethered to this other person (through children and finances) for years and years and years to come.
So before you decide your mate is the problem and convince yourself that your partner and your marriage are disposable, maybe you should pause first and ask yourself if it’s possible that YOU are the one with the lousy attitude in your marriage. Maybe YOU are the lousy spouse. Not sure if you are? Here are five harsh but honest ways to tell:
1. You keep a running log of every mistake
You might even throw temper tantrums or pity parties every time your partner doesn’t bend to your will in an effort to make them “behave” better. Either way, if they misstep, you’re right there to point it out to them.
And doing this makes your partner feel extremely belittled, badgered and miserable. They wish you’d disappear when you behave like that, and the longer it goes on, the less they even want to try to please you (or put up with your self-centered crap).
2. You pack your schedule full, leaving zero time for your partner
Yes, life is busy … and your dreams, desires, and responsibilities are important. However, in marriage, the health of “the relationship” is just as important as your individual wants or concerns. Ignoring your partner or telling them to “get out of your way” so you can “get things done” fuels resentment, driving a deeper wedge between you and your spouse. After all, no one wants a partner who continuously pushes them away.
3. The sound of their voice (or chewing, or breathing) grates your nerves
You cringe when they open their mouth, because you just know they’re going to say or do something you find annoying. You pretend you can’t hear them, walk away, or do just about anything to avoid them.
But here’s the thing, when your spouse (the person who promised to love and accept you the most) acts as if you merely breathing is a disgusting affront to them, you feel tortured and humiliated. Why would anyone want to open their hearts to someone who so clearly despises them? Doing this is just mean. And if it keeps up, your relationship won’t last long.
4. You insist they “never change” (when actually, they have)
You’re so busy assuming your partner is exactly the same person, you haven’t actually talked with them about “them” in forever. All you talk about is you and what you want. They feel diminished and unimportant to you. They constantly wonder whether trying to make the marriage work is even worth it — your selfishness drowns out any effort they make in favor of the “relationship.”
5. You begrudge every minute they spend away from you
In your head, marriage means you “own” your spouse. As such your spouse “owes” you their undivided attention, unless they’re doing something you approve of or gave them permission to do. Nobody wants someone controlling them this way — that’s slavery, not marriage. Your partner having a life of their own is not betraying you. You trying to micro-manage their existence, however, IS a betrayal to them.
So how did you fair? Are you a lousy spouse?
The truth is … we’re all lousy spouses … at times. This doesn’t mean all is lost. But it does mean it’s time you take accountability for the part YOU play in poisoning the marriage you claim you’re so oppressed by. Maybe skip running to the lawyer’s office, and head to a relationship therapist’s office instead. Maybe work on changing yourself before you throw your partner and your marriage away.
If you wish to improve your role in your marriage, but don’t know how, there’s only one thing you can do — ask for help! Grab a book on making marriage work. Read more articles about how to have meaningful conversations with your spouse. Talk with a marriage counselor, religious leader, a happily married couple, or coach to get the support you, your mate and your marriage deserve.
The work you put in will pay off. You’ll either be on your way to having a flourishing marriage or you’ll have healthy clarity about what your next steps are.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.
Guest post by Karen Covy, divorce lawyer, mediator, educator, and advisor. She’s also the author of “When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally”.
When you start thinking about divorce, the first question that pops into your head is probably not going to be: what divorce process should I use? Yet, there really is no question that is more important. The divorce process you choose dramatically affects your experience of divorce, and your life after divorce. Here is a summary of your divorce process options, and a few ideas about how to choose the process that will work best for you.
Divorce Process Choices
- Mediation – Mediation is a process in which an independent, neutral third party (a mediator) works with you and your spouse to help resolve your divorce issues yourselves. The mediator can not give you or your spouse legal advice. The mediator also can not force you to make an agreement. The mediator can facilitate a discussion between you and your spouse, as well as brainstorm options to settle your case that will result in a “win/win” situation wherever possible.Mediation Works Best for: People who want to resolve their issues outside of court and decide as many issues as possible themselves. Mediation works best for people who are willing to voluntarily produce financial documents and want to work together to come to an amicable resolution of their case.
Mediation Does Not Work Well for: Couples with an extreme power imbalance, i.e. cases involving domestic violence or extreme emotional abuse. Mediation will not work if one spouse is purposely trying to hide information, or will not abide by the terms of the agreements s/he makes.
- Negotiation – Negotiation is known by many names, and can take many forms. You can negotiate directly with your spouse and reach an agreement that way. (“Kitchen Table” divorce.) You and your spouse can hire attorneys to negotiate for you. (This is usually in the context of a traditional divorce.) Or, you, your spouse, and your attorneys, can all sit down and negotiate together outside of court. (Co-operative divorce.) The key principles of negotiation are that you and your spouse are working toward resolving all of your issues without going to trial.Negotiation Works Best for: Everyone who is reasonable and has a spouse who is reasonable. Ultimately, every case either involves some sort of negotiation, or it is decided by a judge. The question is not whether you should use negotiation, but whether you should use it together with mediation, litigation or collaborative law.
Negotiation Does Not Work Well for: Anyone who keeps changing his/her mind, or who can’t follow the rules. If someone is determined to get their “day in court,” negotiation is pointless. If someone refuses to honor any agreements they have made, litigation is usually the only way to deal with them.
- Collaborative Divorce – In collaborative law, you and your spouse each hire a collaboratively-trained lawyer, and together the four of you put together a team, including a divorce coach (or two), a neutral financial expert, and, if necessary, a child specialist. The team works together to help you resolve all of your issues before anything is filed in court. If, for any reason, the collaborative process fails, then all of the professionals withdraw and you and your spouse have to start over with different lawyers. This provides a huge financial dis-incentive for anyone to cause a fight or walk away.Collaborative Divorce Works Well for: Couples with a lot of issues to resolve who want to stay out of court. If you have been in a long term marriage, have a complicated financial situation, own a family business, or have children with special needs, collaborative divorce could work really well for you.
Collaborative Divorce Does Not Work Well for: Couples where one party won’t be honest, or voluntarily provide complete financial information. If one spouse refuses to abide by the terms of the agreements s/he makes, or is determined to seek revenge, collaborative divorce is probably not going to be the best option.
- Litigation – Litigation is traditional divorce. It is going to court and fighting until you and your spouse either decide to settle your case, or you go to trial and a judge decides your life for you. It is expensive, nasty, and time-consuming. You can do it with or without lawyers, but going to court without a lawyer is never a good idea and generally does not work out well (particularly if your spouse has a lawyer and you don’t.)Litigation Works Well for: Couples who can’t resolve their case any other way. If one spouse is determined to fight, wants revenge, or refuses to be reasonable, litigation is the only way you can resolve your issues. If your spouse refuses to do what s/he is supposed to do, or follow the rules, or disclose information, litigation will help you resolve your case.
Litigation Does Not Work Well for: Anyone who wants privacy, flexibility, or control of their case. If you want to have a decent relationship with your ex, or you want to be able to cooperatively co-parent after your divorce, going through litigation is not for you. Also, if you would prefer not to pay your life’s savings to lawyers, you should choose any way to resolve your case other than litigation.
- Online Divorce – The truth is: there is no such thing! Getting an “online” divorce really means getting your documents written by an online divorce site. Once you have your computer-generated documents, you then need to take them to court yourself, present them to the judge, and get divorced.Online Document Production Works Well for: Anyone with a simple case, no property, no kids, and a short term marriage. While the quality of the documents you get may not be the best, if you don’t have anything together with your spouse, online documents may work just fine for you.
Online Document Production Does Not Work Well for: Anyone with a long-term marriage, kids, property, or anything worth fighting about. Also, if you are afraid to go to court alone, or you don’t have the time or energy to figure out how the court system works for yourself, getting your documents produced online and doing your divorce yourself may not be the best choice for you.
If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with the challenges you’re facing now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.
Karen says, “Trying to figure out if you should keep trying to make your relationship work or call it quits is confusing and heartbreaking.
What’s grounds for divorce for one couple is just a bump in the road for another…”
Each and every time I work with someone who wants to save their marriage, I have to ask myself, “Can this marriage be saved?”
I know there are few iron-clad rules to follow when trying to decide if there’s still hope for a marriage.
But the first questions I always ask are about the deal-breakers.
You need to ask these questions too and absolutely, positively call it quits if:
- you, or someone in your care, is the victim of abuse by your mate
- there are untreated addictions
- you and your spouse are providing an abysmal example for your children
But, outside of those situations, rest assured there ABSOLUTELY IS HOPE.
Unfortunately, hope doesn’t make fixing a relationship easy (if it did, you wouldn’t be reading this). Chances are you’re probably feeling very alone in the world as you ask yourself “Can this marriage be saved?”. Chances are you’re wondering whom you can really trust to be objective about your marital concerns. Everyone in your personal life has an agenda even if they are coming from positive, loving places.
But getting good feedback, honest, solid, real feedback, is critical to making a decision as tough as this one. That’s where I can help.
Maybe some of this sounds familiar:
- You wonder if your spouse will ever be able to change.
- You question how much of the problems are because of you.
- You believe you’re in a no-win situation.
- You find yourself frustrated by your inability to communicate with your spouse.
- You feel trapped and worry if you can ever feel free to be you again.
I get it. I’ve been where you are right now. When I married my husband in 2009, having both been through the struggles of divorce before, we knew that we had to prioritize our marriage (aka work on it) every day. To do this we regularly examine what does and doesn’t help us get through our days. We work hard to shed the roles, rules, rituals, and responsibilities that don’t work for us. Is it easy? No. Are we always on the same page about things? No. In fact we’ve both questioned the viability of our marriage individually and jointly many times. But one of us will always start the ball rolling to make things better. We each put in the effort to get the support we need, do our research, and check in with our guts and goals.
Being on the other side of the,”is there hope if I stay?” question and making my marriage better, there’s one important thing I want you to know: it only takes one to start making things better. I know this because I’ve done it myself and through my work as a divorce coach I’ve also helped lots of other people to do it.
And I can help you too.
No one can tell you exactly how things will turn out for your marriage because you, your spouse, your family, and your marriage are unique.
Why does this matter?
Because the truth is that there’s a balance sheet that only you can fully understand. What does this look like? As you think about your marriage, ask yourself if the efforts you’re putting in match up with what you’re getting out of the marriage. This balance sheet can be calculated in love, in time, in life events, in connection, even in the fulfillment of your big life goals. If things are adding up, there’s a check in the “keep it going” box; if not, there’s some thinking to do to make a good decision if staying is the right thing for you to do.
But in order to get there, you need to turn over every stone by examining your reactions to your spouse, how you speak to and with your spouse, and how they respond to your new ways of doing things. It’s through this thorough process of exploration that you’ll be able to make a confident decision about the viability of your marriage.
And you can do this in one of two ways: as a victim or a victor.
What do I mean by this? Some people are afraid to ask for help because they’re embarrassed or ashamed. They would rather wait for their spouse to make the decision for them, or they believe they can do it all on their own. But a great marriage requires honesty, purposeful action, and support. If you believe otherwise, then you’re not being true to yourself. And by not being true to you you’re allowing yourself to be a victim of your circumstances instead of the victor of your life.
Being a victor takes commitment.
And commitment requires that you’re more direct, heartfelt, true and real in your life. Then, and only then can you really figure out if your marriage can be saved.
When you choose to be a victor, the one very special guarantee you have for your efforts is that you will live without regret. You will know without a doubt because you did the work, asked the hard questions and really explored the life you’re considering leaving, that you made the best decision for your life. And that is a gift that you will appreciate for the rest of your life.
If you’re ready to ask for the support you need to confidently and without regret make one of the biggest decisions of your life, schedule your Complimentary Consultation with me. We’ll use the time to start creating your unique path to understanding if the hope you have for your marriage can blossom into the wonderful and fulfilling relationship you both deserve.
Still wondering if working with me is right for you? Here’s what one now happily married man had to say about working with me:
“I want to say THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! My wife and I reconciled in August 2012 and dealt with a lot of underlying issues mending all of the past hurts. I have kept your advice in the forefront of my mind daily about being positive and always moving forward. The emails (newsletters) I still get always remind me to stay humble, grateful and to be happy in the moment. I can say confidently that our marriage is calmer, more supportive, more passionate than ever.Thank you for making a profound difference in my family’s life!!!! You are a blessing in this troubled world.” James
Schedule your Complimentary Consultation now.