Relationships are funny. Who we lust after in the beginning is not always a good match for us in the end. Marriages that start off hot and full of fire can end up an icy, cold mess because the key to making things last is in commonalities, shared interests, and healthy coping; that chemical attraction stuff is simply the starter pack. So if you’re noodling the idea of divorce, it’s likely that you and your spouse got lost somewhere in the tepid in-betweens.
In most successful relationships, there is a strong sense of oneness. There is an understanding that the relationship is more important than either person, and though the marriage might lose some of the heat (as do all long-term relationships), the couple sits satisfactorily in comfortable middle warmth. The sacrifice of self makes sense to the happy pair, because the value of the relationship as penultimate is understood.
Valuing the ‘we’ more that the ‘me’
Marriage is a shared life, one that both partners partake in as their authentic self. And just as a football team would fail if only the quarterback’s needs were met, or a kitchen collapse if the sous chef is ignored, a healthy pairing is one where two people are consistently able to value the ‘we’ more than the ‘me’.
So when the idea of divorce becomes something that is considered, it is usually a sign that one or both partners feels disconnected from the pair. And too often, that distance has been growing for some time.
Separation is often slow, and there’s no universal truth of indicators. The divide can start with many things, including these oft heard complaints:
- The relationship with your spouse has negatively changed, whether because of a change in communication, intimacy level, or simply the way you treat each other
- You find you can’t shake that “blah” feeling about your relationship
- You find yourself snooping on your spouse – searching through phone messages, checking social media outlets, etc.
- You feel like giving up on your partner, because “things will never change.”
- You find yourself beginning to feel apathetic toward your spouse, e.g. their pain and joy is no longer shared by you.
- You talk about ideas for stuff you want to do, now or in the future, and very little or none of it involves your partner (or vice versa)
- Your family makes jokes about whether or not your partner is real because they’re NEVER around
- Your fights have dissolved into nastiness
- You don’t discuss each other’s work problems
- You spend more than one night a week sleeping separately
But just because a relationship isn’t all sunshine, it doesn’t mean there’s not something there to salvage. The trick is identifying what feelings exist now, and then determine the best path forward. I have seen relationships come back from the brink of death and I’ve personally helped couples rejuvenate a relationship where the divorce papers had already been served. With the exception of partnerships where there is abuse (physical, emotional or mental), trying to breach the divide, before heading towards divorce, should always be considered a viable option. Good couples work can do amazing things, even if it’s simply to set you and your partner on the best possible path towards a mutually acceptable end.
So how do you know if it’s time to start looking for help?
Just like a dietician might have you keep a food diary to see how eating habits influence your health and well-being, so can a relationship diary catalogue marriage health. For 30 days, grid out your relationship interactions and the way they left you feeling. Were you happy after an evening out together? Smiley face. Did you find yourself questioning life and its meaning once a quarrel had ended over? Probably thumbs down. Catalogue the feelings you had after as many interactions with your spouse as possible. Then, at the end of the 30 days, take a look at the trends. Does being around him/her always leave you feeling unsatisfied? Do you find yourself feeling rejuvenated after seeing their face? These trends could be the ‘tell’ you and your partner need to successfully uncover what is wrong, and that’s a great deal of knowledge that can help in allowing things to get better.
Divorce is a big deal
Divorce is a pretty heavy decision; one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As a society as a whole, we could be doing a little better job with the whole marriage situation. For starters, we should really be ensuring we first only enter into marriage with a great match. Sadly, many of us aren’t given great examples of what a healthy relationship looks like from the start. So we enter into marriage with discord already afoot. But even then, we should be ensuring we’ve exhausted all possible avenues before we give up on the person we thought at one time would be with us for all of life’s great adventures.
Some relationships cannot be salvaged. And what’s more, some actually shouldn’t be because of the negative impact the relationship has on the people in it. There is no shame in that. And if you are questioning if your marriage is healthy, in all honesty, it probably isn’t. But that doesn’t mean you need to chuck it. You might just need to change it. And change, if embraced by both partners, can be the chasm bridging thing that can help ‘you’ make it back to ‘we’.