Divorce May Not Solve As Many Problems As You Think
Divorce is many things: common yet devastating; sometimes necessary, oftentimes not; hard on all parties involved, especially the children; a cause of suffering, pain, confusion, upheaval, and disillusionment; AND preventable.
For those of you who are married, how many times have you thought about divorce in the past year? More than 10? Once? Never? In long-term relationships it is natural to wonder what it would be like if you were not with your partner or were with someone else.
For the most part these are harmless thoughts that come and go, usually around difficult times. After the argument is over and apologies have been given you realize your thoughts may have been a little silly. However, if you find yourself considering divorce more often than not, your relationship could be in serious trouble.
A Greener Pasture?
According to marriage expert Michele Weiner-Davis, there are two main reasons people divorce: 1) to leave a loveless or difficult relationship and 2) to seek a more satisfying life. I bet when your partner is wearing on your nerves and you are having these thoughts of divorce you imagine a better life, whether alone or with someone new.
Your thoughts probably consist of: “I would be so much happier if it weren’t for my partner” or “If I would have married Rick (or Jenny) I would be happy.” It’s possible these thoughts have some truth to them, but more than likely they are complete bull and you are suffering from a case of the grass is greener syndrome.
Simply put, the “grass is greener syndrome” is the belief that you are missing out on something better. When these beliefs get out of hand, we start to place more value on fantasy than we do on the stability and comfort of the relationship that we have right in front of us.
Divorce May Fail To Solve Your Problems
In her book Divorce Busting, Michele Weiner-Davis purports that divorce does not solve the problems that it was meant to solve.
When we are unhappy or upset, we naturally look to find a cause for our distress. If you are married, it is very easy and convenient to blame your spouse for your problems. This leads you to the distorted thinking: since my spouse is the cause of my distress – if I leave my spouse – I will not be distressed – and I will be happy.
Reality check! It doesn’t work this way. When you are married it is a partnership and each person contributes to the atmosphere of the relationship. Likewise, whether you intend to or not, you take this contribution when you leave the marriage – and into future relationships.
This may explain why the bar graph shown above increases by an additional 10% with each new marriage. Many divorced individuals report that the same problems they experienced in their first marriage pop up in second marriages, as well as in their single lives!
You may also expect that your arguments with your spouse will cease once you are no longer together. More often than not, you will still be arguing over the same things with your ex long after the divorce is final.
It’s Not Too Late
You may think you have tried everything to save your marriage, but chances are you haven’t. Solution-focused therapists, myself included, help you to discover previously overlooked solutions.
Oftentimes, couples will attempt to save their relationships by trying the same thing over and over again, only to end up discouraged. With each attempt and subsequent failure they become more and more convinced that their relationship cannot be saved.
“Try something different” is the motto of many solution-oriented therapists. If something is not working, try something different.
If you have just a little glimmer of hope that your relationship can be saved, it can! It’s never too late to begin a new relationship with your partner.
An Excerpt from Divorce Busting
If you’re interested in getting started on saving your marriage immediately, I recommend ordering a copy of Divorce Busting by Michele Weiner-Davis. You can purchase this book from the Resources page.
Like Michele, I used to think that couples who feel like they have tried everything and are struggling everyday should go ahead and get a divorce. If you are unhappy, why not take actions to become happier? Well, knowing now that this is not how the scenario plays out, I have changed my views on divorce. I believe that all marriages can be saved (with very few exceptions).
Here’s an excerpt from Michele’s book that demonstrates the shift in her beliefs about marriage and divorce. She has just recounted her time spent with Ann, a client:
Early in my career, Ann’s pessimism would have convinced me that her marriage was irreparable and that it was time for her to take care of her needs. ‘The handwriting is on the wall,’ I would have said. ‘You certainly have tried everything.’ I would have furnished her with further evidence that, regardless of what she might do, Steve was unlikely to change. ‘Let go of the past and look toward a brighter future without the arguments and tensions of life with Steve’ would have been my next recommendation. We would have rehearsed how she might break the news to her children. After she wiped her tears, I might have suggested, ‘Perhaps you should join a support group for divorced and separated people to help you deal with the transition.’ And as she left my office I would have handed her a long reading list to guide her through the process.
But those days are gone. Now I do whatever I can to help people find solutions to their marital problems so that they can stay together. I do not get sidetracked by pessimism and hopelessness as I did in days past. Now I know that hopelessness is a reasonable response to an unreasonable situation. Nothing more, nothing less. It is natural for people to feel pessimistic when, day after day, month after month, nothing improves, problems never get resolved. Feelings of pain and rejection are always present. But now I am convinced that pessimism and hopelessness are feelings based on past performances; feelings that are changeable, feelings worth changing. People can and should stay together and work out their differences.
Why the switch? There are many reasons. Over the past several years I have witnessed the suffering and disillusionment that are the predictable by-products of divorce. I have seen people who have been divorced for five years or longer with wounds that won’t heal. These people failed to anticipate the pain and upheaval divorce leaves in its wake. I have heard countless divorced couples battle tenaciously over the very same issues they believed they were leaving behind when they walked out the door. They learned too late that the act of divorce does not free them from their ex-spouse’s emotional grip; some ghosts live forever.
I have heard too many disillusioned individuals express regrets about their belief that their ex-spouse was the problem only to discover similar problems in their second marriages or, even more surprisingly, in their new single lives. They admit to re-creating the same unproductive patterns of interacting in new relationships, repeating old mistakes or discovering that they are still miserable.
Disclaimer: I am in no way advocating for anyone to remain in an unhealthy relationship where abuse (emotional or physical) is present just for the sake of saving the relationship. There are some marriages that cannot, and should not, be saved.
Additionally, there are many couples out there that are very happy in subsequent marriages. Possibly happier than they would have been in their first, should they have stayed and worked things out.
Each relationship is different. Do what is best for you. Take care of yourself. But do not give up too early. Give your marriage a chance. Work for it. Know that the grass isn’t always greener. Your relationship can be saved.
Stay tuned for Thursday’s Weekend Activity…
and check back next Monday for another inspiring article!