As someone in the know, who is going through the painful process of dissolving a 20 year marriage, I found myself in the unenviable position of having to finally answer that question this year. It is a question that needs to be answered correctly, for the consequences are long term. I fully believe that divorce is never something that should be entered into lightly, and it should never be the first option. To the contrary, it should always be the absolute last, regrettable option.
A successful marriage takes a lot of work, and both parties involved need to be willing to step up and give more than their all to make it happen. With perseverance, dedication, commitment, and a willingness to not only apologize but make the wrongs right, not to mention the ability to swallow your pride and do what is best for your marriage and your children, it is more than possible to have a good, strong, productive, and satisfying marriage relationship.
I was married for 20 years, which is about 17 years longer than I should have been. I stuck it out for several (I thought) very good reasons, chief among them were my three children, who I had no desire to put through the nightmare of a tumultuous separation (as if keeping them locked in the middle of a tumultuous relationship was somehow more noble). I also believed in the commitment I had made to my wife and before God, believing that what God has joined, let no man put asunder. Of course it would take several years and a lot of heartache before I realized that perhaps it wasn’t God that had joined us as much as it was good old ripe 20 something hormones.
Statistically, half of all marriages end in divorce, and that trend appears to be continuing to rise. While some may be for questionable reasons, there are times when separating from one’s spouse does indeed become the last regrettable option.
So how are you to know? How can you be certain that you have done everything you can do to save your marriage, turned over every possible stone, and made every effort you can to stick it out? When do you decide that you have had enough?
Basically, you need to ask yourself some hard questions, even if you don’t like the answers you get. Do you live in constant fear of abuse, be it physical, verbal, or emotional? Does your spouse constantly criticize cut down, and second guess as opposed to being the encouragement and cheerleader they are supposed to be? Do you find yourself making excuses to others for your spouse’s behavior? Are you unable to get through a single day without conflict, not to mention the necessary and healthy resolution of that conflict?
The most you can do yourself, in any situation, is to work on you, and become the best possible you that you can be. There is no way for you to change the other person, and you are not responsible for doing so. I would heartily encourage anyone to stay in their marriage and make every attempt to work things out. Once you have exhausted your options, though, there leaves only the last regrettable option. Yes, there comes a time when you make the decision to walk away.
Some of the red flags to look for to determine if you have arrived at the end of your road include:
When the negative in the marriage outweighs the positive. No marriage is picture perfect, and every union will have their bumps in the road, but when the turbulence occurs more often than the quiet ride, you’ve got problems.
You never talk anymore. You are afraid to talk about things with your spouse because of how you believe they will react, either with violence or criticism of your feelings. Such lack of communication means that trust has either left the building or is packing its bags.
When you are the only one making the attempt to solve problems. My wife and I barely talked for the last few months before we separated. I had become weary of trying to talk problems out only to be turned away, belittled, and constantly told everything was my fault. She never even asked what was wrong when I moved out of our bedroom. It was at that point that I recognized that things were pretty much over.
Absence of intimacy. Of course sex isn’t the be all end all of marriage, but it is a very powerful building block. When one or both partners lose interest, it is almost a sure bet that you are either going to end up in divorce or staying in the marriage for convenience.
There comes a time when you have to make decisions based on what is best for you. You deserve a chance at a good life. You deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve the chance to find somebody who will treat you right and who is a big fan of all that makes you who you are.
Of course no single question or scenario above is THE defining moment to determine if your marriage is over. Ask yourself the hard questions. Don’t be afraid to face some harsh answers.
Now go therefore and do what is in your best interests…..