Letting Go Of A Marriage
Although Rhonda eventually went back to work as a paralegal, taking some of the financial burden off her husband, the couple continued to fight about everything from money to how to raise their children. "I asked him to go to couples counseling, but he refused," she recalls. "I tried to reach him and talk it through, but he was so resistant. He would say that I checked out of the relationship, but I finally realized he had checked out and our marriage was over."
When it comes to a spouse, repeated infidelity, substance addiction and physical abuse are obvious reasons to cut and run. But there are other insidious problems that can wear away at the fabric of a marriage, like a spouse who speaks to you disrespectfully, takes you for granted, is no longer there for you emotionally or constantly fights with you, notes Debra Burrell, LCSW, a licensed social worker in private practice in New York City. Sometimes there are no clear-cut issues at all: You're just not happy. Yet that general sense of malaise can also eat away at a marriage. "If the relationship has gotten to the point that it's adversely affecting your health, like causing stress-related headaches or stomach problems, then it's time to consider a couples therapist," advises Burrell. If that doesn't help, it may be time to end the relationship. But what if it hasn't reached such an extreme? How do you know when to let go then? "No two marriages are alike, so the answers to that question are as different as the people who ask it," she says.
Bottom line: You have to decide for yourself how much is enough. Start by asking yourself: Am I happy? Am I fulfilled by my marriage? Am I willing to go to couples counseling? Do I even want to fix my marriage?
The answers can help you figure out whether to let go or try harder. "Unlike with friendships that are broken, parting ways with a spouse is more difficult because you've committed your life to this person. We hold those vows sacred," Burrell says. "And when you have children, deciding to divorce can be even harder. However, when a marriage isn't working despite your best efforts, you need to accept that, allow yourself to grieve, then move on."
There's no question that it's going to be difficult, and though friends and family (especially those who are divorced themselves) can offer much-needed support, it's important to have an informational chat with a lawyer to prepare yourself—even if you're still in the thinking-about-it stage. "Spending an hour with an attorney who specializes in family law can help you understand what your rights are, what legal steps you'll need to take, how to prepare yourself for a separation, even the best way to broach the topic of divorce with your husband," says Burrell. "And you don't have to feel obligated to tell your spouse about the meeting."
After all the anger and tears, you'll eventually come to a place of acceptance. And you'll realize that life does go on after divorce. Here's how to get there a little faster: Visualize yourself being happy in the future. "Close your eyes and imagine that you are walking down the street holding hands and laughing with another partner," suggests Burrell. "Seeing yourself happy and in love again can be a self-fulfilling prophecy."