Whose lie – yours or your spouse’s – crushes your dream of happily ever after? With the exception of abuse, I encourage you not to walk away from a relationship with someone that’s 95 percent of everything you could want – because it can, and sometimes does, get a whole lot worse. Don’t get me wrong — sometimes divorce is a matter of safety. If you’re a man or a woman in a dangerous relationship, then I am not addressing this blog to you. If you are in a dangerous relationship, then run — don’t walk!
For those of you who are not in a dangerous relationship, I do want to give you the benefit of the experience of one of my clients. Some years ago I worked with a 68-year-old woman that I’ll call Kim. Kim had been emotionally and physically abused and abandoned. She struggled with a debilitating, chronic disease that hospitalized her numerous times during 40 years. She felt alone.
One day while reviewing some of the issues in her case, Kim said, “The worst decision I ever made in my life was divorcing my first husband, the father of my children.” Knowing all that she had been through in two subsequent marriages, I stopped for a moment. The importance of her statement started like the outgoing tide before a tsunami and then quickly reversed its flow to engulf me. All I could say was, “Tell me more.”
Kim explained that her first husband actually treated her very well. He was a good provider and a faithful husband. She said, “I just had strong ideas and sometimes I felt like he didn’t listen to me.” She continued, “I was young, and I just didn’t think marriage was supposed to be that hard.” In the 40+ years since that divorce, no one loved her as much, listened to her as well, valued her input or treated her as well as her first husband.
As I walk through divorce with clients, I occasionally see cases that look like Kim’s in the making. We are all human, and none of us are perfect. Close relationships are difficult — period. But just because our society encourages us to trade in our spouses like refrigerators or old cars does not mean that divorce is the answer. Particularly if you have children — you owe it to yourself, your parents, your children, your spouse and your (real) friends to work very, very hard on your marriage.
Remember this: When your marriage ends, you take yourself and your faith with you. If either of those is the real problem or a big part of the problem, then nothing is going to change until you do. It’ll just be – same stuff different day (and maybe different place). Your current relationship may be the vehicle that helps you change for the better.
If you are in a truly toxic relationship, ignore what I have just said because it is not the right advice for you. But I encourage the rest of you to get some therapy before making the decision to get a divorce. As human beings, we often cannot see the forest for the trees. We need some help to get any real perspective on our lives. Prayer and therapy can help.
Guys, this story applies equally to you. I’m not trying to talk myself out of a job, but I believe in the sanctity of marriage, and I have walked with some clients through repeated train wrecks.