Should I Stay Married or Get Divorced?
By: David Lechnyr, LCSW
All marriages have difficult times that at times can seem overwhelming and confusing. We all ask the question about whether or not it is worth the efforts to stay married. The question of, “Should I stay or should I go” weighs heavily on us. Sometimes, we end up stuck with the conflicting thought that our partner is too good to leave, but too bad to stay.
When we go through rough times, everything about the other person bothers us. It almost does not matter what the other person does, we tend to find fault with it. In the past we may have ignored certain issues. However, under stress, we find ourselves annoyed and irritated by what the other person does or does not do. In fact, there is no way that the other person could ever do anything right because we tend to be looking for the one thing that justifies our rage and upset with them!
When things are going wrong, we start to dwell on the faults of the other person. In fact, what initially attracted us to the person now seems not to be that cute anymore. So we go on obsessing, thinking, and building up a case for why we cannot be with this person any more. We lose our trust in them; become irritated by each thing they say and do, and resent that we are stuck with them.
At the same time, we start to fantasize about what it is that we could have. We wonder if we have been wasting our time when something better might be out there for us. We look at our age and think that we made a mistake because we were either (1) too young; (2) too trusting; (3) too insecure to take chances; (4) too whatever. We then think that we have little time left to become fully happy in life and we should not waste it on the present situation. So we continue to fantasize and fantasize about what could be, how it could be, and think about how to find that other person out there for us. Sometimes, we let our fantasies run wild even before the divorce and start to look for someone else to fill that role so that we are safe before we leave. This is when divorce affairs happen because we want to play it safe by having someone there for us before we end the present relationship. However, research shows that these relationships rarely work out for the long-term (one of the reasons for the high divorce rate in second marriages). The real reality is that after a divorce it takes months, if not years, to meet someone else. It also takes a lot of work and effort; more than what it would take to work on the present marriage.
Unless your marriage is hopeless, abusive, controlling, etc., or the other person is unwilling, and strongly opposed, to work on the relationship, think that you are just going through the grass is greener syndrome. Step back and think why you feel so upset and threatened. Many times it is not just what the other person is doing. It is something about you that you need to work on, to conquer, to resolve. Take a deep breath and step back for a second, or longer, for the emotions to pass. Don’t make a life-long decision in the midst of a huff or to prove yourself in some manner. Let go of your ego and slow down. Know that struggles are a normal part of any relationship. Know that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that there is a willingness to work on things and solve things by one and not the other. Strong people have problems. The difference is that they admit it and then go to finding solutions.
Maybe you are both just stressed out. Has other commitments, such as work, kids, friends, etc., gotten in the way of your spending the time you should with your mate. Have you avoided having time for a good vacation away together to just relax and not feel the pressures of everyday life. Have you really tried everything? Understand that each of us goes through periods of struggles in which neither of us are good mates to the other. We are usually more tolerant of our personal struggles than we are of the ones faced by our mates.
Stop and think why you first married the other person. Think of when you first met. Make a list of the good qualities of the other person and start to focus on them. Many times it is simply a matter of changing your attitude, not the marriage, that is the key to making things better. Some changes will take time and effort for a longer period of time than you would like. However, if it is something that both of you are willing to work on then it might be worth it. Everything is a risk in life. Trust is a risk in life. Nothing is perfect and no one is perfect. We each need to grow and change in better ways. However, we grow through our struggles. Running from what we fear is not the way to grow and mature beyond our old fears and problems. Facing them, solving them, and finding new ways of being are the keys to maturity and growth.
Remember, it is much easier to stay married than it is to get married again!