When Considering Divorce
When Considering Divorce
Stan Katz (Clinical and forensic psychologist) gives expert video advice on: How do I tell my spouse I want a divorce?; What do I do if my partner asks for a divorce and I don't want one?; Can exploring the possibility of divorce improve our marriage? and more...
What should I do if I'm considering a divorce?
If you are considering a divorce, the first thing to do is to really think about why you want a divorce and how you think that will make you feel. Will you feel free? Will you feel liberated? Will you actually feel as if you are going to be more successful in your life in a variety of areas? Or, are you doing this because you're so frustrated that you don't know what to do. Often people who are in marriages that are difficult think about divorce as a way out because they think their marriage should be perfect, they have unrealistic expectations of marriage, and when it doesn't work out perfectly or in a fairytale, then what happens is "I might as well get divorced and look for the fairytale to happen to me again, or at least the real fairytale to happen again". So, I think the people sometimes have a delusion that marriage is supposed to be more than it is. Marriage isn't a centrepiece of someone's life; it's a part of someone's life and when things go wrong in your life, it's easy to blame your marriage because that's the thing that is most prominent in your life, but in truth you probably have to look internally to see what's going on with you before you even contemplate splitting up from your spouse.
Who should I talk to if I'm considering a divorce?
If you are considering divorce, once you have really thought about it yourself and have become clear on why you think you want to split up, the best thing to do is talk to an objective third party. That doesn't mean your parents or siblings because they're not going to be objective. The problem with talking to a friend or relative is, if you decide to reconcile, once you have portrayed the other person demoniacally as people often do, it's very hard to go back and say, "No, no, I've decided to stay with Joe, Frank or Sue and they're great!" You've convinced someone else, because you want to convince yourself that they're really bad and you need to get out of the relationship and get a dicorve. So it's a good idea to talk to a third party who's objective. This can be a professional, like a psychotherapist, your family doctor or your clergy person that you see on a regular basis. Anybody who's going to have an objective, non-biased view and really help you figure out what you need and what you want when considering divorce.
What should I expect out of a new marriage?
If you're recently married and you think you want a divorce, you have to look at what your expectations were for this marriage. I think at that point, it's really important to get into some good marital counseling to look at whether your needs are realistic and reasonable. Find out whether or not you are, on some level, telling your wife that you made this mistake, that you really don't want to be in a marriage contract or partnership. It's important to sort it out. "Did marriage not meet my expectations, or do I just not want to be in a marriage at all? I don't want anyone to control me." All marriage has a certain amount of control in it and interdependence, and often people do not expect that and are not prepared for it.
What do I do if my partner asks for a divorce and I don't want one?
If your partner asks you for a divorce and you don't want a divorce, you have to think about why you don't want that divorce. First and foremost, why do you want to be married to someone who doesn't want to be married to you? That's a self esteem deal breaker. You're going to find your self esteem plummeting if you beg someone to stay married to you when they clearly want a divorce. Also what's going to happen is, if that person acquiesces, you're going to find yourself very angry at them because you're going to know that they don't want to be there but you forced them to be there. Then you're going to be angry at yourself. So what's going to happen is the marital issue is still going to remain unresolved. It's going to be in conflict, but you're going to cycle in and out, in and out of the guilt and anger. So first and foremost, you have to acknowledge that the person is unhappy. You have to ask them what is going on with them - What's happening? What is it? Is it me? Is it you? Is it us? And try to really determine where that person is coming from. Unfortunately, people get very defensive. They don't want to listen, they want to defend themselves because they feel that their territory, their personal territory, their emotional territory is being obliterated at that moment and so they're going to protect themselves. They're either going to attack or defend. You need to listen. Listen to exactly what that person says. Why they're in conflict, what's going on. And then suggest some remedies. The first remedy may be marital counseling or maybe individual counseling for the person who's unhappy. But to go right to divorce from a moment of saying I'm unhappy, would be very, very premature and destructive to the family. Because even if the divorce is warranted, there's a natural process that has to take place in order for the divorce to be succeful, or even rendered unnecessary.
What do we do if we're not sure we should divorce?
If you are confused about whether or not you want a divorce you need to do the personal work. You need to sit down with a third party - usually a professional therapist - and talk about what's going on with you and why you are feeling the need to break up your marriage. When you break up your marriage, you often break up the family, or extended families. There are major economical consequences. A divorce often affects your job, because it's very hard for people to work during a divorce. There are social consequences; people lose social affiliations. Divorce also affects people emotionally and physically because of stress involved. There are threats of money, threats of isolation; divorce is a huge decision that should never be taken lightly. You need to think about why you are confused about marriage and divorce. What you are ambivalent about? If you are staying in the marriage just because of money, or just because of children, and you don't like the spouse, it's never going to feel good. You are going to be constantly frustrated and always be thinking about the sacrifice you made and why you made it.
Can exploring the possibility of divorce improve our marriage?
There's no question that by you exploring your feelings about marriage and divorce - working on your marriage and doing a deconstructive analysis of it - can be very, very helpful. I think you have to do that in a framework of: "I don't want my marriage to end, I want to make my marriage better." From this, there is the option that if you can't make your marriage better, there is the option to separate or divorce.
Should we stay married for the sake of our kids?
Many people have the same question you have about staying married for the sake of your kids, and many people stay married for the sake of their children. Unfortunately, children don't usually thrive in that situation where you feel resentful, where your needs aren't getting met, and where you're constantly thinking about how this is not the life I want. If children grow up in homes where there's high conflict, or they grow up in homes where they don't see affection and warmth and love, they're going to choose partners in a similar way, and they're going to replicate the misery that you have in your marriage. If you can't improve your marriage, you should seriously think about ending your marriage - despite the kids - because it truly doesn't benefit the children in the ways that you think it would.
What if I'm afraid to divorce?
Everybody's afraid to divorce. It's overwhelming and it is all-encompassing. There are fears of rejection by family. There are fears of failure. There are fears that you will be chastised by a social group, that people will look down upon you, that you have failed, even if it's not your fault. It's very scary to think about ending a marriage, because usually what happens is you will concentrate more about what other people think than what you actually think about it. You will sacrifice your own needs for what other people may perceive about you, when in truth, they do not care as much as you think they do.
What are some valid reasons for getting divorced?
The good reasons to end a marriage include domestic violence: If you are being abused verbally, if you are being abused physically, sexually, you need to end your relationship at least temporarily. No one should go on and be a victim of a marriage. If you feel that you have nothing in common with your spouse, you don't like your spouse, they're treating you poorly even though they're not abusing you, that there's no needs you're getting met. You have no children, you have no money that's being commingled, there's not much reason to stay in that marriage when your needs are not getting met and you have none of those connections. Finally, when you find yourself unable to take care of yourself and your spouse because you're so debilitated, so depressed because you're with a spouse that doesn't seem right for you and you've worked on yourself over and over again and you've worked on your marriage and you've been to marriage counseling and it doesn't get better and the patterns don't change; it may be time to end your marriage.
What are some bad reasons for getting divorced?
The worst reason to get divorced is because you're bored. Many people get bored and they want something exciting, and that's why they have affairs, and that's why they decide that the way they're going to repair their marriage is to hire an amateur therapist. An amateur therapist is another man or other woman to have an affair with. That person is going to make them feel temporarily better. That is absolutely one of the worst things that someone can do, because it gives you no good information about what's really wrong with your marriage, but rather just shifts your focus to something else and distracts you from working on your marriage, or working with that partner to get your needs met. You start splitting your needs off between your partner and this other person and so you don't give anybody a fair chance to actually meet those basic needs.