For my fifth post I will focus on why people stay in unhappy marriages and thoughts to consider when deciding whether to stay or go.
Here is a list of some of the main reasons why people stay in unhappy marriages:
Unless you have children, it is difficult to understand why a person would stay married for the sake of his/her child. Having a child myself, I can see why a person would not want to give up living under the same roof as their child in exchange for remaining in a crummy marriage. However, when abuse of any kind is part of the equation, divorce may be the best option for both you and your child. Children are like sponges, they absorb what they see, feel and hear. Children are very perceptive and they will certainly pick up on your unhappiness. Remember, you are your child’s role model. Are you modeling for your child that is okay to stay in a loveless situation? Or even worse, are you modeling for your child that it is okay to take abuse?
I have found that sometimes two (2) single but happy parents are better than one unhappy family unit. Studies have shown how children of divorce fair after their parent’s breakup depends upon the two (2) parents conduct towards each other as well as towards their child during and after the divorce. Both parents need to put their child’s best interests first. If both parents display a unified front for their child, reassuring him/her that they both love him/her dearly and the divorce has nothing to do with them, the child will, of course, fair better than a child with battling parents.
FEAR OF CHANGE:
How often do people stay in bad situations because the unknown appears more scary than the known? People simply do not like change, in fact most people fear it. I believe that fear is the absence of love. When I meet a potential client that is struggling with the decision to divorce, his/her story often reveals to me whether I should recommend a good therapist to guide him/her through the divorce process or if I should recommend a marriage counselor to help the person work on their marriage.
I recommend a therapist when I really do not hear any reason from the client that leads me to believe the marriage can be saved. Usually these cases involve infidelity, substance abuse, verbal and/or physical abuse. When a client is treated like garbage and disrespected, I really cannot find a reason for them to continue the cycle of abuse by staying unhappily married.
I recommend a marriage counselor when I recognize that the marriage might be able to be salvaged. I believe that marriage is serious business and therefore the thought of dissolving your marital relationship should not be considered lightly. However, for a marriage in trouble to be fixed there needs to be a willingness on the part of both spouses to work on the relationship and change. Yes, there I said it CHANGE. Often change requires a party to recognize a pattern of behavior that needs to be changed. It also often means greater communication between the couple. Greater communication and other changes can often occur with the assistance of a savvy marriage counselor. But be warned, if only one spouse is interested in counseling, the counseling will fail.
In both instances, I ask the client to make a private “pro” and “con” list regarding their marriage to aid them in their decision regarding whether to file for divorce.
If the negative list is infinitely longer than the positive, I tell them they may want to consider filing.
Remember, life is hard enough and it is certainly harder when their spouse is not in their corner. We all have the right to be happy and sometimes we unfortunately have to fight for that right.
PHYSICAL AND/OR EMOTIONAL/ECONOMIC ABUSE:
Serious abuse in any marriage is never okay. Sadly, if the abuse is bad enough, an abused person may be so beaten down that they do not have the confidence to move forward. In some extreme circumstances the abused spouse might be too afraid to leave. All I can say is, in these instances, please get help. Check out my web site at www.wollandwollpc.com for more information.
I cannot tell you how many of my cases involve substance abuse of some sort. Sometimes a spouse who is abusing drugs or alcohol must hit rock bottom before they realize that he/she is about to lose everything of importance in their lives. Sadly, this realization often comes too late. If you are married to an abuser ask yourself these questions:
Remember, at some point you need to realize that you cannot control your spouse but you can certainly control yourself. When you are married, you are part of a marital partnership. You basically sink and swim in that partnership. If it is time for the partnership to end, dissolve it now and stop the madness!!!!
Like substance abuse, I cannot tell you how many of my cases involve infidelity. Often, if one spouse is cheating, the affair is an indicant of a bad marriage and not the cause of it. Since people are usually afraid to be alone, they may not end a bad marriage until they have someone new in their life. I know it is a cop out that is true in a high percentage of divorce cases.
Often a cheating spouse, on some level wants to get caught. Clients often come to me to file for divorce after reading their spouses text message or e-mails that reveal the affair. I would therefore caution you, dear reader, to be careful what you put in print these days. If you need to end your marriage, have the decency to come clean with your husband or wife. Do not let them find illicit photos on the home computer. The more your spouse learns about your affair, the more difficult your divorce case is likely to be. You loved each other enough to get married, so try to like each other enough to end it with respect.
If you do decide you need to file for divorce please know that you and your spouse, to a large extent, create your own divorce experience. I have cases where the parties are at each other’s throats and in court weekly. These parties usually realize that the fight was a colossal waste of time, energy and money. On the other hand, I have many clients who understand that the best possible divorce is an amicable one. If you and your spouse are trying to have an amicable divorce but cannot agree on what that looks like there are many types of “alternative dispute” resolution options available so long as both parties are willing to work towards resolving the case peacefully. The later type of client understands that compromise by both sides in the long run leads to the best result.