Have you recently, or perhaps over a longer time, asked yourself questions like:
“Should I get a divorce?”
“Is my marriage over?”
“Should I leave my relationship?”
If these thoughts have crossed your mind, you are not alone. In 2023, the United States witnessed nearly 700,000 divorces (while just under 2 million marriages were celebrated that year). These statistics do not include the those who are in committed relationships without the legal bond of marriage, or the countless others are contemplating whether their marriage holds the potential for revival.
However, statistics fail to unveil the anguish that accompanies a relationship teetering on the brink of collapse.
We find ourselves consumed by self-doubt, questioning whether we have done enough to salvage our relationship.
We may feel overwhelmed by a sense of guilt and ruminate over our own perceived shortcomings and the potential ramifications of a separation. Such repercussions extend not only to ourselves but also to our partner, children, and other dependents, intensifying our emotional burden.
Countless people find themselves trapped in a state of uncertainty and bewilderment, often enduring this state for years on end.
But you can choose a different path.
Whether you are continuously overcome by waves of discontent or feel entangled in a web of conflict and nagging doubts, you can take charge of your destiny. The power to transform your life lies within your hands, awaiting the moment you choose to take action.
Is my relationship worth saving or should I get a divorce?
When you find yourself grappling with the challenges of a struggling relationship (or one that's going nowhere) and are wondering what the future holds for you, it’s time to take a close and honest look at your relationship.
This is more difficult than it may seem at first because you are very invested in your relationship in many ways – your emotions likely run high when you think about your partner, reminisce about the past and assess where you stand today.
Your relationship isn’t just a solitary affair, it’s interwoven within a larger social fabric. You may have children, family ties are entangled, and you may share friendships. You likely share assets like a home or your finances as well.
The stakes are high, and you want to make sure you’re making a decision that’s right for you and your family.
As you ponder the future of your relationship, keep these aspects in mind:
In successful relationships, we find there is a good match between what partners want and what they actually get. Every person has unique needs in terms of intimacy, passion, and commitment. These needs are often subconscious and we are not aware of them. The closer you are to your ideal – to what you want to have in your relationship – the happier you will be. The farther away you are from that ideal, the more dissatisfied you are.
The key lies in recognizing and understanding these unconscious needs, and assessing whether they can be realistically be met by your partner (and whether you can meet your partner’s needs). Any discrepancies you find provide an opportunity and a potential basis to improve your relationship and restore your connection
Your partner’s willingness (and your own!) to work on your relationship
You can only change the path of your relationship if you’re both willing to work on it. Are both of you committed to and believe in your relationship? Are you willing to invest time and effort into your relationship and make an honest attempt to save it?
Every couple experiences recurring issues and stubborn conflicts that linger. You may find that your viewpoints do not align on an important issue. That’s OK, and it’s normal.
Perhaps you’re at odds regarding the best way to discipline your children or you have to make frequent compromises on how to spend your time together because your interests and dispositions are quite different.
The key is not that you need to get rid of these issues – you won’t. The question is whether you can find an equilibrium that honors both partners’ needs and is satisfactory to both of you.
Successful relationships are built on a basis of honesty and mutual respect, rather than deception and betrayal. Ask yourself: Do you find yourself plagued by lingering doubts, questioning the sincerity of your partner’s words and actions? Do you have doubts about their intentions or proclaimed whereabouts? Do you have a feeling there’s something off but you can’t put a finger on it?
Are your children regularly exposed to significant conflict in your relationship?
Witnessing frequent parental conflict can have serious negative consequences for children, like heightened stress, anxiety, or emotional instability. Are your conflicts so frequent and intense that they have a significant negative impact on your children?
Are you being abused by your partner? Abuse should never be tolerated in any relationship.
Are you happy with yourself in your relationship?
Is your relationship bringing out the best in you? Do you like who you are in your relationship? If you are unhappy, is that unhappiness truly due to relationship issues, or does it stem from an unhappiness deep within yourself?
Give the issues above some serious thought. You’re likely to emerge with a sense of more clarity and the purpose you need to pursue the path to a future that brings you joy, fulfillment, and contentment.
How to save your marriage
If you’re both committed to your relationship and would like to restore your connection and find your way back to happiness, a solid plan is of the utmost importance – you need to address the true shortcomings in your relationship, work out concrete action steps, evaluate your progress frequently, and be willing to change direction, if necessary.
So, how do you craft a great plan that maximizes your chances for success? It begins with taking a step back from the immediate whirlwind of emotions and getting a detached perspective on your relationship.
Keep in mind that the closer your relationship aligns with your ideal vision, the greater your potential for happiness.
Start by examining the intimacy, passion, and commitment you want desire in your relationship. Evaluate whether these desires are being fulfilled. If not, pinpoint the discrepancies and delve deep into your own needs as well as those of your partner.
Although we tend to believe that we know what we want, many of our needs and desires are subconscious.
Often, couples find themselves grappling with challenges because they uncover unmet needs they never even knew existed (and that a partner may be unwilling or unable to meet).
Once you’ve become aware of the differences between you and your partner, it’s time to assess whether they can be reconciled.
Can the two of you come together and bridge these gaps? If the answer is yes, it’s essential to develop concrete action steps that will keep you on the right path.
Remember to include other important factors in your plan as well, such as recurring conflicts, the potential need to rebuild trust, or your children and other dependents, for example.
Can we heal our relationship?
There are two more insights I’d like to share with you as you continue on your journey:
First and foremost, remember that finding your way back together is indeed possible, if that’s what you desire. It won’t be effortless and there may be hurdles along the say, Yes, it will be work and you’ll face setbacks, but couples have proven time and again that they can reconnect and heal.
You are unique in what brings you happiness
Second, it’s crucial to acknowledge that your priorities and desires in a relationship differ from those of others, and that’s perfectly fine.
While your partner, parents, friends, and even society might try to impose their own ideals of what a relationship should be, it is ultimately your own understanding of what brings you happiness that truly matters.
What to consider when you’re considering a separation or divorce
Once you’ve given it ample thought and consideration, you may come to the conclusion that parting ways with your partner is the best way forward.
It’s vital for you to take the time to contemplate the implications and consequences of your decision, envision a life without your current partner (or with a new one), and strategize your next moves.
By approaching this phase with thoughtfulness and foresight, you can navigate the intricacies of a potential separation and pave the way for a future that aligns with your aspirations.
Take into account the following points:
Consider your relationship and your life
Once more, carefully consider your relationship and its implications on your life:
Your current relationship
Before going through with your decision, have you thoroughly explored the option of compromise with your partner? Have both of you genuinely given your best effort, and is there still a mutual interest in saving the relationship? Reflecting on your past relationships, do you notice a recurring pattern of failure stemming from the same issues?
Your life without your partner
We quickly get used to routines we share with our partner; we may share income and chores and depend on each other in everyday life. Consider how you would fare without your partner – both practically and emotionally. How would your children be affected, and who would take care of them when you are not available?
The consequences of a separation
Consider the financial implications of a separation as well as the impact on your children and other dependents. If you’re married, consider whether a separation or a divorce is the most suitable course of action.
Consider options for divorce
If you’ve never given it much thought, you may be surprised to discover the variety of options available for divorce, depending on your personal situation and the state you reside in. It’s important to note that a legal separation does not end your marriage; only divorce does.
When both parties agree to pursue a divorce and how to divide assets, there are several paths to consider, each differing in terms of cost and duration. For instance, you may choose an uncontested divorce, where both parties reach an agreement, or explore options like collaborative divorce or divorce arbitration.
In cases where agreement seems impossible, a litigated divorce may be necessary.
The more you are willing to compromise and collaborate with your partner, the less expensive, time-consuming and stressful the divorce will be. Take the time to explore these options and make an informed decision.
It’s in everybody’s interest to have a divorce that minimizes costs and preserves emotional well-being. For that reason, preparation is key, particularly when you are the one to suggest a divorce.
Before you have “the conversation,” take the time to engage in several conversations with your partner about your relationship and your dissatisfaction, particularly if you believe your partner may not be aware of the extent of your unhappiness.
More often than you would think, people are blindsided by their partner’s unhappiness and concerns. Give your partner a chance to understand how you feel and express their own feelings.
With your conversations and interactions, you are setting the tone for what will happen down the road.
Before “the conversation,” reflect on what you want to say (and what you do not want to say) and how you can remain calm when a discussions ensue.
You may also want to consider the location of your conversation – talk in a place where both of you feel safe and are able to have a serious conversation in peace and quiet.
Prepare for the practical elements of separation and divorce as well – document your finances, make copies of relevant documents, and organize your affairs.
If you have children, think about how you will approach the topic of divorce with them, how childcare will be organized in the future, and how you would like to share responsibilities with your partner, for example.
And finally, make a plan to preserve your well-being during this challenging period. Find a support network, explore childcare options, create comforting and reliable routines, or embark on mindfulness practices like meditation, for example. These measures will help safeguard your sanity amidst the inherent stress.
Regardless of the path you ultimately select, remember that with a carefully devised plan you have the capacity to make decisions that are both responsible and true to yourself and your family.
I wish you all the best for your future!