Saturday, October 07, 2006

Deciding to Divorce

The most intense, heart-wrenching decision comes at the start: Should you get divorced? Much has led up to this question, including the notions of separation and divorce. Up to now they have only been thoughts and words, with no immediate consequences. Now that you realize the time to decide has come, you have to contemplate action. The focus on action clarifies the situation, but also makes it seem more difficult and scary.
Any number of scenarios might lead to the end of a marriage. Sometimes there’s no choice; it’s your spouse who crosses the line. Often an affair ends a marriage. Other times physical abuse occurs, and the marriage becomes dangerous and intolerable. Circumstances like these leave little choice in the matter. A divorce becomes the only acceptable step.
But many divorces arise out of situations that are far less cut-and-dried. You may find that your marriage has grown dull. You look at your mate and realize that all the physical attraction you felt is gone. Or maybe the emptiness is in a different area. You might feel restricted, and even suffocated in everything you do. Your soul mate is no longer your soul mate. Your lives have grown apart. In situations like these others may still see your marriage as ideal, but deep down you feel it is all pain and misery. This may be one-sided. One partner may think everything is fine, while the other only wants out. Or you may be gasping for breath, and not even knowing it. If you come to the realization that your marriage is failing, should you get a divorce?
Before you take any steps you should contemplate where they might lead. Divorce is a painful, difficult choice. Ending a marriage is almost never easy, even when both sides agree that they no longer love each other. When one spouse still has deep feeling and the other doesn’t, or when there is any sense of imbalance at all—whether it be emotional, financial, or professional—that can only make it worse. In most cases you are ending a long relationship. There was love here once, and intensity. You are considering cutting the cord with someone who was the most important person in your life.
The presence of children amplifies the problem. The younger the kids, the worse it can be. Most children cannot help but feel torn when parents separate.
Divorce is often a financial earthquake for both parties. The family home might be sold. Two households are set up, both having to accommodate the children. Unless both parties are rich, this will affect your family’s standard of living.
Whether the problem is mental, spiritual, or a combination of factors, divorce is a step you should examine carefully. If there is no physical abuse in the picture, you may want to go to couple’s counseling before making the final decision. Offer to go with your spouse to see a therapist. Put it in positive terms, and make it a wholehearted offer. If you don’t think of it this way, counseling will have little chance of having any value. Your spouse may say no, but you will have tried.
If there is abuse, either physical or mental, couple’s counseling is almost certainly not the right course. Spousal or child abuse should not be tolerated. If it happens you need to protect yourself. In such a case you should simply look for the quickest, safest way out. Appeal to friends and family or, if necessary, go to a shelter. Do whatever you must do to effectively separate yourself and your children from your spouse, then look for a lawyer.
Has your spouse cheated? For me this was the cause of my divorce. Some will be able to forgive their spouse and try to save the marriage. I was unable to accept my husband’s affair and he quickly changed into a different person, both emotionally and physically, leaving me no choice but to file for divorce.
I know from my own experience, and from observation of many divorces, that your road ahead is long, frustrating, and probably ugly. The best scenario would be that you and your spouse begin by meeting with a mediator to agree on a fair settlement. If this route is possible it will save both of you thousands in legal fees. If you feel that your spouse will agree to an amicable divorce, this is the way to go.

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