There’s no EASY way to know when to leave, but there is an easier way.
At one time or another, almost every married person I know (including my husband and me) has questioned whether or not to call it quits.
It’s an incredibly painful question to ask yourself because the only way to answer it is to dig down deep, way past the superficial hurts.
And for most of us, there’s no black and white answer about whether you’re ready to leave your marriage or not.
There are just too many things to weigh and consider as you figure out what’s best for you (and your kids).
At its heart, your question is really about values, respect and what you fundamentally want for your life. (No one besides you will know how to answer this question for you.)
However, sometimes by looking at your marriage from different angles, you can gain clarity.
Here are six key questions to consider as you determine the larger question of whether you’re ready to end your marriage, work to make it better, or just accept it as it is:
1. How is your sex life?
Sex is an important part of marriage. At its best, sex is a baring and sharing of both bodies and souls. At its worst, it’s just another chore to either do or ignore. The two most concerning sexual problems to have are these:
- You feel trapped, scared or sad when you think about sex with your spouse (and you’re not in a sexually abusive situation).
- You’ve not had sex for a really long time (think a year or more without medical restrictions) despite wanting and asking for it.
In and of themselves, neither of these problems necessitate the need to divorce, but they are most definitely situations that you must address.
If your sex life isn’t what you want it to be, this is a golden opportunity for you to reach out and get help. You don’t have to continue to live like this. You deserve better and I can help you find the path to getting there.
2. Do you still have basic respect for each other?
Mutual respect is critical for any successful marriage, yet there are moments in every marriage when respect, unfortunately, goes out the window. There might be a serious problem if you feel either of these two things to be true:
- You’ve lost ALL positive feelings for your spouse.
- You believe your spouse can do nothing right.
This isn’t a one-way street though. Obviously, if you (the “core you”) truly believe that your spouse has lost respect for you, then that’s a problem too. And you need to consider it as you determine your course of action.
If respect is lacking in your marriage, you need to know that it is possible to find respect again.
It won’t show up overnight and you might need to start with showing yourself some respect. (I’ve helped many people rediscover the respect that their marriage was lacking.)
3. Do you find fault instead of finding solutions?
Sometimes it’s so much easier to play the blame game than to step up to the plate and admit your part in creating the current situation. It’s normal to do this once in a while, but spouses who consistently blame their partner typically do so because they’re too self-absorbed, too easily insulted, or simply ignoring the obvious solutions because their hurt (and resentment) runs too deep.
Ending the blame game requires one of you to stop playing, get courageous, and change the rules.
It’s by your willingness to change that you allow your spouse the opportunity to change too. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your spouse will take advantage of the opportunity in the way you want them to.
However, you won’t know what’s possible if you don’t quit finding fault and start finding solutions.
4. Have you developed bad habits?
Now, I’m not talking here about the little annoying habits that we’ve all got. I’m talking about biggies, such as:
- You’ve become just parents instead of remaining lovers and partners.
- Deception, lying, cheating (like feeling the need for a separate/private/secret phone) exist in the relationship.
- Bad/non-existent communication leads to fighting all the time or no fighting at all.
- You maintain a vice-like grip on the bad things that happened in the past and use them as weapons again and again and again.
- Every situation becomes a fight instead of asking how you can fix or deal with this.
- You’re so tired of trying that you just can’t force yourself to do so one second longer.
- You both refuse to meet each other’s needs.
- You’re living separate lives where you don’t really know or care about what’s going on with each other.
- You’ve stopped communicating about anything substantial.
Luckily, habits can be changed – even the bad ones. And even better, when you change, you encourage your spouse to change their bad habits too.
Yet changing habits takes work and awareness that most of us don’t naturally possess. (If we did, we would have already changed our habits.)
Most of us need someone else to help us change our behavior. When you’re ready to explore how changing your habits could change your marriage, it’s time to reach out for unbiased support.
5. Have you remained in your marriage solely because of religious beliefs?
For some people this is enough reason to stay in a marriage and work on it for a lifetime. But for others, their religious beliefs may be masking one or more fears such as loss, the unknown future or even judgment.
If you’re staying in your marriage for religious beliefs, but aren’t willing or able to work on your marriage we need to talk. Living in fear and misery is no way to live your life. You deserve so much more.
6. Are you and your spouse’s visions for the future different?
Do you have incompatible ideas about whether or not to have children, where to retire or even moral and ethical differences? These different visions could provide some interesting discussions (and maybe a few arguments) as you try to reconcile your different dreams and reach a compromise. Or, maybe they’re the last straw.
These 6 questions will help you more thoroughly evaluate whether leaving your marriage is the right answer for you or not. And that’s all they can do.
For some these questions are enough to help them feel more confident in making their decision.
For others, these questions add more confusion to an already confusing situation. If this is you, you may be ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Together we’ll figure out what your next best step is in determining whether you can save your marriage or if leaving your marriage is the right answer for you.
If you’re newly divorced, beware of these 5 ways you’re an easy target for users and manipulators.
The prospect of dating after divorce is exciting!
It is also pretty terrifying because women newly back out there are easy targets for players and manipulators.
I felt all the thrill and terror about dating after my divorce and my excitement won – at first.
I married at 19 and didn’t have intercourse until my wedding night. When I divorced (after nearly 18 years of marriage) I was totally unprepared for dating. I assumed it would be like it was in high school. Boy! Was I wrong…
Three months after my divorce was final, I fell in love. He just seemed to know me so well. It seemed like we’d known each other forever and I was eager to express my love for him sexually. I won’t lie – I had a whole lot of fun doing it!
But things changed when my life got complicated and I needed some emotional support. He disappeared. I naively kept reaching out to him thinking he must be going through a tough time too. He had told me he loved me and I couldn’t imagine that he would just vanish.
When I finally understood it was over, I was devastated. I thought I was rebuilding my life, that I was doing well, but I was just being used.
Unfortunately, my story isn’t unique. One woman I know was actually told “Wow, you’re like every guy’s fantasy. Like a little innocent kitten just set down in the jungle. I hope no lions or bears eat you alive.” Another guy even came back to her months after she left him to apologize and admit he had taken advantage of her the whole time they’d been together.
And being used isn’t unique to women. Men get used too. Several women I am familiar with have only gone out with men because they liked the expensive meals and gifts the men showered them with. But as soon as someone willing to spend more money came along (or someone better looking or even someone better in bed), they immediately dumped the men they’d been seeing.
Divorce shakes the foundation of your life and makes you virtually helpless prey for users and manipulators.
Here are the 5 reasons you’re an easy target:
- You’re lonely and naive. When you’re newly divorced you feel a profound lack of love and experience loneliness at a level you’ve never felt before.
The player can use this and you believe them when they say they want to spend time with you or even that they love you. You’ll believe just about anything to keep your loneliness bay. (Reminds me of how I fell for a user.)
- You’re not really sure what you want sexually. The whole world of dating is intoxicating after divorce. You want to get out there and experience it all – to reclaim (or maybe even claim for the first time) your sexual power.
But the truth is that after a long-term marriage (especially if you married the first person you had sex with), you’re inexperienced. You’re naive about what the dating world is really like. You’re unfamiliar with how to fully express your sexual likes and dislikes.
It’s your lack of knowledge and experience that make it way too easy for you to find yourself as the innocent little kitten in the jungle with every lion and bear around salivating to be with you.
- You’ve lost your dreams for the future. Your hopes and dreams for the future change dramatically when you divorce. (Well, that’s after they’re shattered and you realize you need to come up with new ones.)
When you’re newly divorced it’s pretty easy to feel stuck and unsure of what your future holds. So when someone tells you you’re exactly who they’ve been looking for and how you make their dreams come true, it’s super simple to get sucked in.
- You’re hungry for approval. You weren’t fully appreciated, validated or respected in your marriage. You’re anxious to have someone praise you for simply being you.
You believe just about anyone who seems to really see you and show you the appreciation you’ve been missing out on – maybe for years. In fact, you’re drawn to them like a fly to honey and then you’re trapped under their spell.
- You’re desperate for happiness again. Happiness is one of the most important emotions. It’s from a sense of joy that the energy to create, to work, and to love flows.
When someone makes you happy after (or even in the midst of) the profound misery of divorce, it’s easy to believe they’re exactly who you need in your life. They’re like a drug you can’t get enough of and you’ll do just about anything to keep them with you – which is exactly what the users and manipulators out there want.
But before you get too defensive, you need to know that these 5 reasons you’re an easy target also hold the kernel of 5 ways relationships are great!
You feel complete and fully alive when you can comfortably enjoy and trust in someone’s company. Exploring your sexuality with a committed partner is amazing! Chasing your dreams with to the cheers of your spouse make them easier to reach. Being deeply appreciated by your lover for just being you emboldens you to be even more fearlessly you. And sharing the joy of simply being alive with your sweetie is blissful.
The only way to make sure you’re not an easy target and can honestly experience the thrills of a relationship is to make sure you’re ready to be out there again. Wait to date until you’re past the soul-sucking loneliness, until you’ve gotten to know yourself sexually, until you’ve created new dreams for your future, until you appreciate you for being you and until you’ve found happiness on your own.
If you don’t wait and instead run head-first toward the thrill of dating (like I did) you run the risk of being used, manipulated and hurt. The choice is yours.
It’s a choice I wish I had known about when I got divorced. It might have saved me a whole lot of hurt.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor 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. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.
Your misery is the result of 4 different emotions. Deal with them separately to get yourself unstuck.
Divorce is an upheaval of all that was – all that made your life make sense. The misery that comes with all the change is profound, but there is hope.
Staying stuck is optional. You can make it through your divorce. You can experience happiness again and maybe even find love again too.
How? First, you need to understand what misery is. Then, you do something about it.
Misery is “a SOS” from your soul. It’s a result of feeling alone, stifled, overwhelmed and scared. Taken on their own, each of these emotions is challenging. When you experience them all at once, the result is often soul-crushing despair.
However, your situation isn’t as hopeless as it might seem to you right now. The secret to getting out of being stuck in the muck of misery is to recognize that you can deal with each of these four emotions separately. By doing so, you loosen the bonds of your despair and move forward toward being genuinely happy again.
The following simple tips will help you deal with each of the four emotions of misery so you can get unstuck and feel better:
- Alone – You may have been alone during your marriage when one or the other of you had a business trip, took a quick trip to visit family, or even relaxed on a solo vacation with friends. But being alone is entirely different when you’re divorced. Before there was the knowledge that you would be together again. Now it’s a fact that you won’t. There won’t be a homecoming or an end to you being on your own without your ex this time.However uncomfortable alone might feel to you right now, it is just the result of you coming to terms with the new order of things in your life. Alone means more than being without your ex. Alone also means freedom – freedom to do things your way, to make your own decisions, even to parent as you see fit.
By focusing on your independence and how it supports you in creating your new life, you’ll discover that you can shift from feeling alone and lonely to self-confident. You’ll likely even begin to enjoy being by yourself so you can do things that nourish your mind, body and soul.
- Stifled – You’re probably going through a huge change in how you live your life. Now you’ve got less money available, rules about when you parent, and maybe even a change of residence. Even without the divorce, these are big changes you’re facing.On the surface you might consider your life as less than it was. But it’s this superficial view that is making you feel stifled and trapped.
Look deeper at your situation and you can see you’ve still got some choices – even if they’re decisions between alternatives you don’t especially like. When you have the freedom of choice, you can never be truly trapped. (Don’t believe me? Check out Viktor Frankl’s classic Man’s Search For Meaning.)
- Overwhelmed – During your marriage, chances are you and your ex chose the divide and conquer tactic for getting chores done, taking care of your family, and earning enough income. Now you get to do it all. And that’s a lot to have suddenly dropped squarely on your shoulders.Then, on top of that is doing what you must to complete the legal process of divorce. This is probably unfamiliar territory for you and figuring out how to meet the demands of the legal process on top of trying to keep your life together is understandably overwhelming.
However, it just takes a bit of self-care, organization and a willingness to ask for and receive help to feel more in control.
Take at least 5 minutes (20 minutes two times a day would be ideal) every day to do something that re-energizes you and helps you to feel more connected to life. You might try yoga, meditation, running, or even walking outside to hug a tree. By grounding yourself daily during your me-time, you’ll discover you have more energy and brain power to more easily tackle all that you face.
Do what MUST be done first and be willing to let your definition of MUST change. During your marriage, there were two of you to get everything done and so the things on the must-do list could be a bit broader. But now that you’re on your own, you must become ruthless about what must-do means now if you’re going to stop feeling overwhelmed.
However, sometimes there truly are more must-do’s than you can ever hope to accomplish on your own and this is when you ask for help – very specific help. The reason your requests must be specific is that it allows you to remain in control of your situation. If you simply ask for help in general, you run the risk of setting yourself up as a victim and undermining your ability to step powerfully into your new life.
- Scared – Change is scary. You might be feeling anxious because of all the losses you’ve suffered. You might be fearful because of what you’re having to do to get your life back on track. You might be scared because you don’t know what the future holds for you. And you might simply be terrified by all of it!The thing is that at the root of all these fears is negative thinking that changes your situation into a terrifying horror story.
When you’re scared, the best thing for you to do is take 10 deep breaths and ask yourself some positive “what if” questions. These questions will redirect your thoughts to the positive possibilities and aim you toward taking the necessary actions to make your life better and get you unstuck.
By putting these tips into daily practice, you’ll soon find yourself moving toward what you want in your life instead of feeling miserable about what isn’t there anymore. You’ll gradually recognize that although you still feel some pain and grief about your divorce, you aren’t consumed by it.
And, don’t worry if you do feel miserable from time to time after you start feeling better. It’s normal to feel like you’re going backwards every now and again.
You’ve developed a bit of a habit of feeling alone, stifled, overwhelmed and scared. So it will be a bit unfamiliar at first to shift your thinking and actions to one of responding positively to “a SOS” from your soul. But the more you practice taking care of yourself, looking for solutions and changing your thoughts to positive “what if’s” the less miserable you’ll feel.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor 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 interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared on DigitalRomance.
Coping with a divorce is difficult – make sure you are talking to the right people for support.
I cringe whenever someone tries to comfort their friend who is going through a heart-wrenching divorce by lying to them. Even though the lie is told with love and without malice, it’s still destructive. Without meaning to, these people are undermining their friend’s chances of quickly healing from their divorce.
These people are telling their BFFs that it just takes time to heal from divorce. It doesn’t sound all that bad, but it’s the same as telling someone with an appendix ready to burst that it will just take time before the pain in their abdomen stops—completely inappropriate and potentially life-threatening.
Divorce is one of the most disruptive life events anyone can go through. It takes effort to get your life back in order. Although many choose to go it alone as they heal from a failed marriage, working with a divorce professional who is skilled at identifying and resolving divorce wounds can help you heal more completely.
Helping professionals who specialize in divorce can guide the complete healing of your divorce wounds because there’s usually more to a divorce wound than at first appears.
One of the divorce wounds that appears rather quickly are relationship habits. Maybe you had the habit of taking care of your ex-spouse so they didn’t have to do things like pay the bills or care for the kids in the middle of the night when they got sick. You might have even cared for your ex-spouse to the point where you scheduled all of their medical appointments and you ran all the family errands.
This über-caretaker relationship habit is one of the easiest to spot when a couple separates. The initial symptoms of this divorce wound are that the spouse who was taken care of will either feel completely lost or be asking their ex for help to accomplish the tasks they’re not used to doing. The tricky part of healing this divorce wound is preventing the hidden wounds appearing later sometimes years later.
One of my former clients was an über-caretaker. When she and her ex separated, her relationship habit was brought to light because he kept asking her about financial details he had not had to deal with during their marriage. She told me her initial reaction was to help him understand what was going on financially without giving it a second thought. Then she got mad. First, she got mad at him for asking for her help instead of figuring it out for himself. Then, she got mad at herself for helping him!
Rather than seek help to heal her divorce wound, she chose to go it alone. She worked on developing boundaries with her ex and successfully dealt with the initial symptoms of her divorce wound.
After their divorce was final, she started dating. It wasn’t too long before she was in a new relationship. At first everything was wonderful, as it usually is with a new relationship. But before too long her relationship-habit divorce wound started appearing. She found herself automatically doing things for her new partner that she used to do for her ex. In fact, her new relationship started to feel a lot like her failed marriage. It was when these hidden symptoms started appearing that she chose to work with me.
With our work together, she came face-to-face with her relationship habit and changed it. She was willing to put in the work and listen to the guidance of a divorce professional. The result for her is that she no longer feels the need to be the über-caretaker in any of her relationships. Her divorce wound is completely healed.
The need for concerted effort to heal even the initial symptoms of a divorce wound are exactly why your BFFs attempts to comfort you with the lie that time heals all wounds is so destructive. If all you did was wait for things to be better, at best you’ll feel exactly the same a year from now. The more realistic result would be that you would wind up a bitter, resentful person. Using time to heal your divorce wounds is the only way you’ll truly be able to move on.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Which of your divorce wounds have you been waiting on time to heal for you?
Believe it or not, denial is actually a helpful state — in the beginning. It keeps you from feeling or experiencing too much at once, but over time denial can become a way of waiting for time to heal you instead of putting in the effort it really takes. If you recognize that you have a divorce wound that you’ve not dealt with yet, chances are you’re ready to deal with it now.
Is self-treating your best option?
Once you know you’re ready to tackle one of your divorce wounds, seriously consider whether you want to go it alone. Many divorce wounds have initial and hidden symptoms. It’s the hidden ones that no one can identify without the help of someone else.
Uncertain whether self-treating is your best option?
Then schedule some time to talk with a divorce professional—someone who can help you identify whether or not your divorce wounds have hidden symptoms that you’re not yet aware of.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor 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.
Even if you’re scared, coming clean with your spouse is the best thing for both of you if you want to save your marriage.
Not everyone who has an affair set out with the intention to cheat. Most affairs just sort of happen. That’s probably how you wound up in this situation – by accident.
Part of you thinks it was a very happy accident because you’ve not felt this alive in years. Then there’s the other part – the part that’s guilt-ridden about betraying the trust of your spouse.
It’s the guilty part that’s got you wondering if you should come clean with your spouse and admit your infidelity. But it’s also got you fearful of the additional guilt you’d feel if you saw (and had to deal with) your mate’s reaction.
Most people in your shoes feel trapped and that just sucks.
My guess is that if your spouse made you feel as good as you do with this other person you never would have cheated in the first place. Heck, I’ll even bet that your spouse used to make you feel this good, but somehow life got in the way and your relationship changed. And this just adds to the misery you’re feeling.
There is a way out of the trap you’ve caught yourself in. You MUST tell your spouse you cheated.
It won’t be easy. I know it’s probably one of the most horrible things you can think of doing right now and, frankly, you’re terrified of the repercussions…of what they’ll think of you and how they’ll react.
But here are the 4 most important reasons why you MUST tell:
- You had sex without a condom and your spouse has a right to know their health has been compromised. It doesn’t matter whether you see a future for your marriage or not, this is one time where you have to tell your spouse as soon as possible.
STDs are a real threat and, according to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/stdfact-teens.htm), can be passed through having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Yup, if you’ve even only had oral sex without a condom, you’ve put yourself and your spouse at risk.
Many STDs don’t cause any symptoms that you would notice, so you can only know whether or not you have one by being tested. Both you and your spouse need to be tested.
- Your spouse already “knows”. One of the amazing things about being married is that you can read each other. Most spouses can tell when there’s something up with their mate before anything is said. They can just feel it.
Your spouse probably already knows there’s something going on. They might have even asked you about it. (And you’ve probably denied it at least once.)
Their “knowing” isn’t going to go away whether or not you tell them. Telling them will allow you to take their worry away, begin alleviating some of your guilt, and allow the two of you to start the process of figuring out what’s next. It’s the kindest thing you can do for both of you.
- You promised your spouse you’d be honest. You cheated! That’s about as dishonest as you can get in an intimate relationship.
Your guilt stems from your dishonesty with your husband or wife. You know that relationships can only work when both partners are respectfully honest with each other. You will continue to live with the nagging guilt of your actions until you come clean with your spouse.
- You can’t rebuild your marriage on a lie. If you want to recreate your marriage into what it can be and frankly must become for it to be worth saving, you both need to get real about what is and isn’t working.
There must be some pretty significant stuff that isn’t working for you to find yourself in this situation. Talking about the fact that you cheated and what the affair gave to you that’s missing from your marriage in a way that your spouse can hear will go a long way toward allowing you both to know if things can be better and how to make them that way.
But it’s no guarantee that you will be able to save your marriage. Telling them about your mistake is just the starting point.
Just because I believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to cheating, no one can tell you exactly what the best course of action is for you (unless you’ve had unprotected sex). No one else has to live with the emotional toll of betraying your mate. That’s your burden.
But, you can free yourself from the trap by having a real and respectful conversation with your spouse.
If you continue to avoid the facts, you’ll continue to feel the guilt and the regret for the rest of your life. Yes, you’ll get used to the misery over time, but it will still be there sucking away at your soul even if you choose to end your marriage until you can be honest about your behavior and admit that you’ve made a mistake – even if it was by accident.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor 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. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.