As divorce attorneys, we spend a lot of time talking to clients about divorce. Typically, a client will spend what feels like a hundred years thinking about divorce and wondering if it’s the right or wrong thing to do. They’ll be saddled with dozens of questions but they’ll have no answers, at least they’ll feel like there aren’t any right answers. They often wondered during their marriage: “Are my married friends happy? What is it like to be happily married? Maybe we’re all silently miserable but pretending to be happy.”
The truth is that when people are in good marriages, they don’t find themselves contemplating divorce or fantasizing about it. They are happy, so they make the unconscious decision to stay married. On the other hand, people in bad marriages are in a constant state of confusion, stress, and seemingly endless, and sometimes torturous tension. They think about divorce...a lot. Maybe not every day, but for some unhappy spouses, it’s always in the back of their mind.
Are You Unhappy?
Do you know firsthand what it’s like to be captive in a never-ending state of anxiety, sadness, unhappiness, and marital unrest? If so, you may feel like you’re going mad, or if you’re not there yet, you’ll lose your mind soon enough. Should you stay? No! Will your unhappy marriage suddenly get better one day? Highly unlikely. What are your options? You have a few.
Are you happy? Could you be happy? What should you do? If marriage counseling is out of the question, or if it won’t solve your problems – divorce is probably the best and only solution. As you read this, you may be thinking to yourself, “I know the answers to the above questions but I’ve been ignoring them.” Instead of facing reality, perhaps you’ve been telling yourself, “I’m not the kind of person who gives up. I’m not the kind of person who divorces.” And, maybe you’ve been believing that for years. Or, maybe you don’t believe it, but you’re just waiting for the straw to break the camel’s back. You’re waiting for something big to go wrong so you can finally do what you’ve been planning to do all along.
‘I’m Not the Kind of Person Who Divorces’
Guess what? There is no such thing as a “kind of person” who divorces. We have seen every kind of person get a divorce – the soccer mom, the CEO, the artist, the religious person, the numbers guy or gal, the professional, the homemaker, the teacher, the wealthy person, the person who came from a great family, the child of divorce who is all grown up, the doctor, the lawyer, the restaurant worker, and everyone in between.
Maybe you’re a serious person, who isn’t fickle, flamboyant, or frivolous. Maybe you’re a doer, a fighter, who will do everything to save your marriage, even if it makes you absolutely miserable. But is a broken marriage beyond repair worth fighting for? Will it bring you true happiness? Can you imagine still living like this in 20 years?
What it Takes to Fight
What a lot of unhappy spouses fail to understand is that in order for them to fight for their marriages, they need to have a real marriage in the first place. That can be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. When someone fights for their marriage, they’re fighting for that connection, that intimacy, that loyalty, and love. Or, they’re fighting for the memories of those things and hoping to get them back – if they can remember what happened to them, and how to get them back.
What if you’re fighting for these things, but you never had them in the first place? What if you were never truly “connected”? What if your spouse has a wandering eye or has been cheating on you? What if they lead a secret life, or they prefer to be away from you than near you? What if your spouse bailed out on you a long time ago?
Then, you have to ask yourself, “What am I fighting for exactly?” The Hawaii vacation that we take every year? The annual Christmas card picture that I mail out?” Of course, there’s the kids. But are they living and breathing the same misery as their unhappy parents? After all, day-in-day-out toxicity isn’t exactly healthy for their growth, development, and overall wellbeing.
Other Unhappy Married Couples
Let’s do a little exercise: Take a moment and think about an unhappy married couple you know. How long did that take you? Five seconds tops? You know they are unhappy and you can sense their marital discontent from a mile away. You can see it with their hostile behavior toward each other, their negative remarks about each other, their lack of smiles and playfulness with each other, and the physical and emotional distance they keep. Oh, let’s not forget about their eye-rolling when talking about one another. There’s always some eye-rolling. With this couple, you probably think to yourself, “Why don’t they just divorce already and get on with it?”
Often, a client will say to us, “No one will believe me when I tell them we’re getting a divorce,” as they explain their reluctance to tell anyone about their divorce. Our natural response is, “We doubt that.” Some clients think people will be surprised, perhaps because they tried to pretend like everything was perfect, but we can almost guarantee unhappy couples are not as good at hiding their troubled marriage as they think.
If you’re afraid to finally break off your unhappy marriage, please realize that you are not lazy, irresponsible, or uncaring! It doesn’t mean you’re a quitter, or that you’re a bad person. It means you and your spouse deserve a second chance at happiness, especially if you’ve given it your best shot, and happiness together, is out of reach.