There are those who believe that people who get divorced simply take the “easy way out.” As someone who has studied and written about human behavior and relationships, I can assure you that there is nothing easy about divorce.
Reaching the point in the relationship in which you can be sure in stating, “I want a divorce,” can be a long and painful journey. It’s a path that, for many, comes with great inner conflict: One minute, you may be angry, frustrated, and fed up; the next, you may find yourself calm and believing that things can and will change for the better.
If you are in any stage of confusion, counseling is the best first step—for you, your partner, and your children. If, after counseling, little progress is made or your home situation is actually getting worse, it’s time to take a good hard look at the possibility of divorce.
There are a few general signals that it is time to leave your relationship. While some of them may seem obvious, it is hard to be objective and see things clearly when you are in the middle of a distressing situation. And while every marriage is unique, if you find yourself in a relationship that is no longer mutually satisfying or respectful, where your needs are not being met, where one or both partners is unfaithful, verbally, physically, or sexually abusive, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, divorce may be the clearest path to change..
1. Your partner is physically abusive to you or your children.
People entering a relationship often gravitate to familiar patterns from their childhood and family of origin. They fall within a comfort zone, allowing people to do what they know how to do. That is how people sometimes repeat the very relationship experienced in their family of origin.
For example, if you or your spouse experienced repeated abuse in childhood, either one of you partner might feel that abuse is a normal and familiar behavior. If either partner is not open to counseling in the face of continued abuse or sees nothing wrong with the behavior, then leaving may be wise.
2. Your partner’s habits put you and your children at risk.
Violent and/or abusive behavior, drug addiction, gambling addiction, gang membership – all of these habits have the potential to put loved ones at risk. It is wise to seek counseling and professional help first, but sometimes the safest course is to remove you and your children from the situation.
3. Your partner cannot stop cheating on you.
When infidelity becomes a habitual occurrence, and professional counseling does not help, it may be time for you to move on.
4. Your partner cannot stop lying to you about important matters.
Suppose you find your partner making important family decisions independently and unilaterally without considering your feelings, hiding important information, or lying about information that affects you and your family—whether money issues, health issues, or other personal issues—and counseling does not help. Such action has the potential to hurt your family’s future, not to mention trust in your partner. Marriages are built on mutuality, love, and trust. When that trust is broken on a regular basis, it can be difficult to repair the damage done to the relationship. And, when that trust is violated under circumstances that put you and your children at risk, it is smarter to remove you and your children from the environment before serious harm is done.
5. You and your partner have completely opposite life paths.
Couples do not always start on a path with the same life goals but usually work together to find each other mutually and help each other meet their goals. Sometimes, however, two life plans diverge so completely there is no hope of supporting one another. Say you both marry wanting to have children. Then, two years into your marriage, your partner announces that he absolutely no longer wants children. Professional counseling may help partners reconcile their opposing goals, but if not, divorce can afford each partner the opportunity to pursue their desired lives.
6. You can’t make anyone love you.
When you feel that your marriage is like holding hands—it will be gone if you let go—you are not in a mutually loving and connected relationship. You can’t control another person’s feelings or behavior, and you can’t make anyone love you.
The idea that your behaving in a particular manner will make your partner nice and loving amounts to magical thinking. It is difficult enough to affect your own actions, never mind controlling those of your partner.
And finally, if you have such strong feelings of attachment to an intimacy-deficient mate that you sacrifice your sense of self and self-esteem, you must ask yourself why you love someone who doesn’t love you back?
Couples divorce for many reasons. Sometimes those reasons can be reversed or repaired. But sometimes divorce is the right decision for all parties involved. Then it is up to each partner to ensure they have a better divorce than they did a marriage.