Contemplating Divorce: The Grass is NOT Always Greener So Look Before You Leap

5 questions to determine whether you’ve done enough to save your marriage.

Susan Pease Gadoua

Susan Pease Gadoua

October 18, 2009 / Psychology Today
By Susan Pease Gadoua

Anyone considering leaving a marriage because of “irreconcilable differences” may want to do some research to find out what normal is when it comes to marital discord. Simply having problems or issues with your spouse can certainly give many reason to question whether the marriage is workable or not, but is it reason enough to leave?

For many, the answer is a surprising “no.”

Why is this so? Well, this is obviously a generalization and if the problem is something like violence or physical abuse, you may have to leave your marriage. But for the sake of keeping it simple in this article, I’m talking about more common issues such as one spouse being controlling, or emotionally unavailable.

Every couple experiences uncomfortable interactions with their spouse but the problems arise when they wait too long to tell their spouse about their feelings (hurt, anger, resentment, etc) and/or too long before getting counseling to work on changing relationship dynamics.

Tom is a perfect example of this. He’s a 45 year-old man who was married to a Barbara. Eleven years his senior, Barbara is a very outgoing woman who is an extremely successful business woman. After many years of being married, Tom grew tired of, what he felt was living in Barbara’s shadow. He felt less than and basically disempowered in the marriage. Without doing anything about it such as working on himself or telling her about his feelings, he left.

A year later, Tom realized that, while he had gotten away from Barbara (the person he blamed for “making him” feel bad), he hadn’t been able to shake the feelings of being “less than.” In fact, not only didn’t the low self-esteem go away, it actually got worse!

The couple’s friends maintained ties with Barbara and distanced themselves from Tom, shunning him for leaving her. Barbara still had her success and money. As a result, Tom was left with few friends and very little financially (since they had a prenup).

Realizing that there was no one else to blame for the fact that he still had this sense of inadequacy, Tom had no choice but to face himself and do the harder work of getting to the root of his low self worth – his upbringing and his inner self-talk.

Tom learned the hard way that, wherever you go, there YOU are. Barbara would have been more than willing to go to therapy or do whatever it would have taken to work on the relationship, but she couldn’t because she had no idea that Tom had been feeling.

To this day, she feels cheated that he never told her what was bothering him. Instead, he chose to blame her and leave. Because he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be honest, Barbara has no desire to reconcile, stating that her trust of Tom was irretrievably broken.

If you find yourself contemplating divorce, before you make such a drastic decision, ask yourself the following five questions :

1. What work have you done on yourself to resolve your own issues?

2. How honest have you been with your spouse about what’s bothering you?

3. What’s your part in the problems you’re facing?

4. What work have you done as a couple to resolve the issues between you?

5. What do you tell yourself about why the grass is greener? (Be sure to run this by several people you know in order to get a reality check)

Tom has realized his error but, unfortunately for him, there’s no turning back the hands of time.

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