“Seriously? You want to end this? You want a divorce? I mean, I know we’ve had problems. I’ve tried to change. I’ll be better. Is this really what you want to do?”
If you’ve said those words or heard those words, it can be crushing either way you look at it. Divorce happens for all sort of reasons. And in that moment when you realize your spouse doesn’t want what you want, you search furiously for the one reason, the one thought, the one argument that will change your spouse’s mind. But it’s not one moment. It’s not even the past month. We call it turning. Turning away from your spouse is what causes divorce.
If divorce is your decision, your situation may have finally crystallized to the point where what you had to do became clear. If divorce is not your decision, you feel compelled to look at your marriage to find the clues you may have missed, the things that at the time, escaped you. It’s not an easy place for either of you. Even now, you have that in common.
In most of the cases we’ve seen in our practice, it’s difficult to find the precise moment when things changed in any particular relationship. You may be tempted to look back over the course of this turning, this unraveling to find the exact moment when it all started. But there’s no Big Bang theory available here. No single moment in time. Turning doesn’t happen overnight. It’s been a process. But it can feel like an avalanche of questions and emotions for both of you.
“Could I have worked less? Made more money? Been more attentive? Spent more time at home? Was it the last fight we had? The likely answer to most everything is yes.
You both have responsibility. Finding fault is not like setting pieces on a checker board. Things don’t necessarily fit into boxes. It’s far more nuanced. The easy thing at this point is to be black and white. It’s far harder to be willing to examine the complexities. What happened, where communication broke down. The places that each of you didn’t go to reach the other, the things you didn’t say.
Marriages ultimately end because [at least] one spouse sought passion or comfort or fulfillment outside the relationship with his or her spouse. These outside interests may start innocently enough, and don’t always take the form of another person or another substance. But when interest and attention is freely given elsewhere outside the marriage, it’s hard to keep up appearances on the home front. More things break down. More fights. More misunderstandings.
Your relationship didn’t just break like a plate in the sink. It took time. The feelings of disconnection evolved. Too often when we hear words like, “You didn’t” or “You never” we don’t hear the “I need” or “I’d like” that’s not said. We miss the sub-text. Maybe your situation would be different if you or your spouse had been that clear, that direct. It would be great to know that every time we spoke we said what we exactly felt. But we’re human. And all too often, we figure out the right thing to say well after the moment to say it came and went.
Getting your heart and brain around what happened in your marriage, asking those hard questions and dealing with the sometimes harder answers takes courage. You may be well past the point of fixing things. But if you approach the end of your marriage with clarity, it can have a positive effect on how you deal with changes in your life that are part of divorce.
These resources can help you sort things out–and they’re free:
Things are what they are. And what has happened, has happened. As you examine the arc of your marriage, you may begin to see the where changes started to happen, where turning was slightly more obvious. Not easy lessons to learn. As you turn from your spouse now, remember you are also turning into the next stage of your life. Chapters end. Chapters begin. Pages turn.
Arguments are like tennis. They sometimes start out like a friendly game. Not counting points or balls outside the service area. But as it goes on, it’s tough not to want to beat the person you’re playing. And losing a point only increases your desire to win. Before you know it, all you want to do is win. To beat your opponent.
Is that how you really want your divorce to go? Remember, this started out as a relationship. Heck, it still is. You still have a choice: divorce mediation, instead of litigation. If you approach this particular moment from the same side of the net, as it were, there’s a good chance you can come out of this with dignity and respect and and a lot less anger. Calling it a Win Win might seem like a bit too much work by the silver lining crew. The value here is how you are, long term.