There are no easy answers to that question. Only you know whether you should stay with your spouse or seek a divorce. However, there are some points to consider that may help lead you to a decision. Susan Pease Gadoua, licensed therapist and author of Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go, suggests that individuals contemplating divorce focus on some preliminary questions that can lead to straight-forward answers. Sometimes it is the emotions behind the answers that can be most revealing.
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What are your Reasons to Stay Married?
If the reason to stay married is focused upon moving toward a goal, such as “I want to raise my children with two parents,” the person is more likely to stay married. However, some people choose to stay in a marriage to avoid pain or fear. An example of this type of thinking is, “I don’t know how I will make ends meet without my spouse,” or “I won’t be able to find anyone who will love me again.” Individuals following this thought process are less likely to stay in their marriage.
Why do You Want to Get a Divorce?
If you are moving toward a goal, rather than away from a fear, you are more likely to actually leave a relationship. Examples of going toward a goal or away from a fear are “I want more out of life than an unhappy marriage,” or, “I need to get away from this abuse.” This individual would be considered action-based. In contrast, people motivated primarily by avoiding pain are usually fear-based individuals. They see the world through problems and negative repercussions of what might arise from their actions. Often, they are imprisoned by their fears, not only as they pertain to deciding whether to stay in or leave their marriages, but in all areas of their lives. These people stay small, unhappy and unfulfilled with the thought they will remain safe. If you believe you operate from a position of fear, take heart. With training and support you can change from a fear-based individual to become more action-based.
Whose Needs are Driving the Decision?
Besides examining fear-avoidance versus goal-oriented behaviors, one should consider whose needs are driving this major change. The ramifications of your leaving must be considered and balanced with your personal needs. This part of the decision process often goes wrong when the individual forgets his or her own needs and puts those of the spouse or children above all else. The reverse is also unhealthy. Only focusing on one’s own needs and ignoring others is just as detrimental. Some people postpone their own fulfillment and happiness for months, sometimes years. They will say they are afraid of losing their spouse’s income or the support of a co-parenting relationship, only to realize eventually that they are carrying the majority of the responsibility anyway. The spouse doesn’t contribute to the marriage, but rather takes from it. Once this dynamic is realized, and the client recognizes they had done everything possible to improve the relationship, most immediately file divorce paperwork. Life got much easier, not harder. There was no longer the added burden of taking care of people who were supposed to be partners. No more dealing with the many negative emotions their spouses invoked. You see, what was feared prior to taking action, never manifested.
For almost all of these clients, letting go of the unhappy relationship was the best decision ever made.