Here are five critical questions you must ask before you give up on your marriage.
Ask yourself: Who am I wanting to divorce?
Self Audit: What don’t I bring to this Marriage?
Who is truly helped by my decision?
Have I created an irresistible invitation to get both of us involved with a professional coach or counselor?
Can I find a path back to my own deep loving of this partner?
1. Who am I wanting to divorce?
The decision to divorce is often the result of mounting frustration together with a real sense of incompetence. People tell me “I really just do not know what to do. I’ve tried everything. We even went to counseling. Nothing helped.”
A trip to an attorney’s office usually seals the deal. Once you’ve committed money and time to dissolving a marriage the distance between you simply increases. In fact, studies show that after 6 weeks of living separately the likelihood of divorce increases dramatically.
I would challenge you to ask this simple question: ‘who (or what) am I wanting to divorce?’ Am I divorcing my loneliness? Am I thinking that by leaving this person I am leaving a life stuck in anger? Do I imagine that my partner is the sum total of all my unhappiness and that if I can simply ‘start over’ everything will be fine? Most studies don’t confirm this.
Usually we take ourselves with us. While our partner may be one of the most difficult people we have ever had to deal with, there’s a high probability that we choose them because they were challenging in the very way they’ve turned out to be challenging. Perhaps you’re trying to divorce yourself.
2. What don’t I bring to Marriage?
I know it’s an awkward way to ask the question I’m trying to pose. I ask myself daily: ‘what am I bringing to this relationship that makes it difficult for my honey to relax and love me?’ Here are a few things I know I bring: I am somewhat of a control freak so I bring anxiety around things not getting done in the way I want them done (for the record I have a Swiss/German heritage and we are addicted to being in control). I bring some personal wounds from my own childhood which show up as pouting, self pity and sometimes coldness.
What I don’t bring can look like this: I am challenged to bring the full loving heart, the deep appreciation and the tenderness that I actually have for her. I often do not bring true empathy either. And I can see where the leadership skills I apply in other settings somehow gets lost in a relational challenge.
I am not saying I’m a 100% dope. I am saying that auditing my own contributions to the quality of our relationship gives me leverage on myself and helps me withdraw my analysis and diagnosis of her.
3. Who is helped by my decision?
Will my partner be better off without me? Looked at closely the answer is no. I bring my shortcomings but I also bring a man who loves her and is willing to embrace the challenges we together create. Will I better off without her? I can’t see that as even being close. No.
Will our children, grown and living their own lives as well as the one still at home – be better off with a two household parent situation? I’ve been there, done that, even got the t-shirt. Answer – by divorcing I increase the complexity and difficulty of their lives.
So, who is helped? Perhaps my fear gets a boost. My self righteousness becomes a bit more entrenched. My ‘desperado’ number is strengthened. But helped? Certainly not me. Certainly not my partner. And clearly, not my children.
4. Have I created an irresistible invitation to a new pathway for our marriage?
Most of us do not think in terms of creating an invitation. We think rather in terms of convincing our partners or explaining to our partners that we need help. The trouble with convincing and explaining is that your partner may hear you saying (whether you’re saying it or not) that they are the problem and they are to blame.
An irresistible invitation would begin with true humility, like this: “I am clearly not giving you all I want to give you in this relationship. I really don’t know how to get my hands around my own incompetency. I do know I love and cherish you and I do know I’m willing to work so that my love for you flows more cleanly and freely. I believe I need help to do that. Will you consider joining me in getting some coaching or counseling so that I can do that?
Scenario: “we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.” Invitation: “true but there are many coaches/ counselors out there. I am so determined to find a pathway for our mutual loving that I will try as many helpers as necessary until we find one that fits our needs.
5. Finding a path back to my own deep loving of this partner.
Fundamental to all success in life is a simple principle the ignorance of which causes much pain and frustration. It is this: “if it is to be it’s up to me.”
A long time ago in a land far away I discovered a garden of eden of love. I found in my love a partner who delighted and comforted me. Our loving seemed like it would last till eternity. As time went by, however, the world offered its distractions and challenges. Jobs came and went, finances threatened, children came, age came and the rich hormonal cocktail that fueled so much desire, slackened.
Today the temptation to locate the loss of that garden in my partner is great. It’s easy to see all the ways she lets me down. Easy to see her failures. She’s tired too. Her garden isn’t so close as it once was either.
Finding a path back to your own loving will take work. There are weeds to be cleared. The ground might need fresh cultivation. You’ll probably want to plant some new flowers. It’s doable. And finding a path and reinvigorating your own garden will be essential to the task of reclaiming your marriage. And the added benefit is this: your life will be far richer than you ever dreamed possible.
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