“My belief, partly based on my own personal experience, is that many of those who see marriage as a bond that can be terminated at any time by their partner may work harder in the marriage to keep it alive,” says Susan Pease Gadoua, author of Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go.
If married couples have “exit plans,” they may be more likely to save their marriage than if they think divorce is not an option. That is, couples who think their vows can never be broken put less effort into creating a maintaining a healthy marriage! If you’re thinking about divorce, you’ll find Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go helpful. And, read these tips for unhappily married couples…
Thinking About Divorce? 4 Options for Unhappy Married Couples
Getting divorced versus trying to save your marriage aren’t the only two options for unhappy couples. There are other avenues to pursue…
1. Stay married and hope the marriage improves. “Although it may sound silly, you do have the option of doing nothing and hoping things improve,” writes Gadoua in Contemplating Divorce. “Sometimes, putting the problems on the back burner does make issues go away for a period, but in most cases they usually resurface somewhere down the road.” But remember: if you choose to ignore your marriage problems now, those problems may lead to a future crisis, such as physical or emotional affairs, financial losses, addictions, or mental or emotional breakdowns. Ignoring problems can make unhappy marriages even unhappier in the long run. Ignoring marriage problems may only temporarily solve the problem of whether to get a divorce.
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2. Save your marriage with internal interventions. “Internal” marriage interventions include reading books about saving your marriage, books about divorce, and books that help you figure out what the root of the problem is. Or, a couple can, through rational discussions over a period of time, methodically and objectively explore and resolve the marriage problems that lead to this point. This can be difficult for unhappy married couples, but it’s doable! Internal marriage interventions involve dedication on both spouses’ parts. Both partners need to be committed to making the marriage work. Other internal interventions include career changes, geographical moves, or even having a child – but often these are distractions that temporarily hide marriage problems. Whether those interventions work depends on the source of the marriage problems.
3. Save your marriage with external interventions. Mort Fertel is a marriage coach who doesn’t offer marriage counseling – he has other solutions for unhappy marriages up his sleeve! If you’re thinking about divorce, you might consider couples counseling, family or marriage therapy, legal divorce mediation, or even a trial separation. But, be aware: “People sometimes have unrealistic expectations of how much these outside influences can accomplish,” says Gadoua. “What couples should keep in mind is that the success rate of any intervention they employ, regardless of what it is or how capable the professional, will only be as good as both spouses’ levels of motivation.” If you’re not motivated to save your marriage, you may be headed for divorce.
4. Get a divorce – initiate divorce proceedings. If these options for unhappily married couples don’t appeal to you, then perhaps it’s time to start actively pursuing a divorce. This can involve talking to a divorce lawyer, reading books about divorce, attending divorce support groups, and learning how to share the news of the marriage breakdown to family and friends.
The decision to get divorced or stay married is never easy – but making a decision and then working towards that goal can be empowering, liberating, and even healing!