Deciding on Divorce
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Sometimes relationships cannot be salvaged. There are problems that cannot be resolved with therapy and an effort at better communication. Some people are incompatible at their core. Some relationships are violent and contaminated by drugs or alcohol, and some relationships have such a serious lack of trust that they cannot be restored. In these situations there is no choice but to divorce. Although divorce is difficult for children in any situation, it is worse to stay in a marriage that is destructive to your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
When Breaking Up Is Bravery, Not Cowardice
This is one of the most difficult decisions a woman can make. If you are the one having to decide whether your marriage is healthy for you and your children, I pray that you have the internal guidance, wisdom, and strength to make this decision wholeheartedly. If you have to make a difficult choice you should not beat yourself up over it. You are not a failure or a bad mother for choosing to end a destructive marriage. If you make the decision with thoughtfulness and an eye toward the larger implications, you should be considered brave. It is one of the most difficult situations you will ever face. It may seem as though your world is coming to an end, but you can survive and create a new and better life.
The most important thing you need is faith in yourself. Endurance doesn't hurt either. Divorce is an internal emotional battle as well as a conflict between two people. A strong support system is a blessing. So is faith in something higher than yourself.
Some married partners manage to “uncouple” by mutual agreement—they manage to make the break amicably. When it is done this way you can present it to your children in a united way and there will be less stress in the way you work out the details of your ultimate separation.
In reality, however, divorce tends not to be friendly. Even when both people eventually come to agree that divorce is the right thing to do, most divorces are instigated by one partner against the other.
Emotions will flare and blame and accusation will become the order of the day. Once the decision to separate has been made, human nature requires some kind of emotional distancing. This is why former lovers often become the bitterest of enemies. If one person is the so-called “wronged” party, he or she is going to have a particularly strong need to depersonalize the relationship and make the former partner an adversary.
Deciding to Make the Break
People can become very dysfunctional when their marriage is in trouble. My first husband and I tried therapy and were literally fired by our therapist. We definitely could not communicate. To make it worse, we were both trained litigators. We were not married very long—only four years—but it was long enough to make an impression on me. And we also had a child together.
Before you even think about tying the knot, get to know yourself. Then, any decision you make about a partner is not going to reflect what you need to learn the hard way; rather, it will create a foundation from which you can build your dreams.
I've been married twice. Neither marriage had any real chance for permanence. Each time I married, I lacked the self-awareness to know that what I was doing was not right for me. My first marriage was so unsuccessful that I tried everything possible to keep the second marriage alive long after I should have thrown in the towel. I slowly realized, however, that I had once again chosen my marriage partner poorly.
Deciding to end this relationship was one of the healthiest things I have ever done. It gave me a chance to use what I had learned to create a life that would sustain my emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Even though I had two difficult experiences, I would always recommend marriage if you find the right person.
Divorce is not the easiest way to cope with dissatisfaction with your marriage. It comes with a high price, particularly when there are children involved. Unless your marriage threatens you physically, mentally, or spiritually in a significant way, you and your husband should try everything possible to keep your family together.
Early Steps to Separate Lives
When you decide to end a marriage you are going to feel temporarily insane. You may need some psychological help because divorce is one of the most stressful situations you will ever experience. You have to get used to the reality that someone you loved is no longer even a friend. When you first split up you will be amazed at the amount of anger involved. You might not have a conversation with your estranged husband except through lawyers. You might be facing a war over things that otherwise would not seem important. Divorcing couples fight over the division of property. And, most important, they fight over how to care for the children.
More on: Dealing With Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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