Many marital issues can be worked through, and many of them simply can’t. If you have two people who want the marriage to work, and two people who are really willing to do the work to heal the marriage, it is possible (although not a guarantee) that you can make this work.
And… it is still true that too much water may have gone under your marital bridge to be able to continue on with the marriage.
But how would you know? And more importantly, when will you know? Because if you’re anything like I was when I was at this stage, you’ve been pondering this for months, and maybe even years.
You’re waiting for this to be really fucking clear, and it’s still not.
Here are some of my thoughts on each of the most common reasons people leave:
Affairs generally don’t occur in vacuums. If you’ve been unfaithful, you know it’s because there was something missing in your marriage that you sought from outside of it. That’s likely true if your spouse has been unfaithful as well. Does that mean it’s your “fault”? No. But it means there’s something to look at besides the act of infidelity, and once you’ve identified and clearly communicated what these issues might be, you might have a road map for healing. Here’s a blog post I wrote about infidelity that might shine more light on the matter.
Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, shopping, you name it, addiction is a serious beast and the cause of the end of a lot of marriages. There are also numerous resources available for those who want to seek help. If you or your spouse are willing to get help for your/their addiction, there is hope for the marriage. Unfortunately, if the addiction is primary, all else around it might crumble. If you are in need of help dealing with someone with addiction, I strongly recommend checking out an Al-Anon meeting in
Lack of Support
When we get wrapped up in our own worlds, when kids and jobs start to be put in front of marital connection, we can feel alone and isolated in our marriages. Often we’re told that our kids have to come first, but the truth is that the foundation of happy and secure kids is a happy and secure marriage. If you can put your marriage first, you might find the connection and support that’s missing. Direct communication is key here. That being said, women feeling a lack of support in the household etc. is common in our culture. Read more about that here. If your husband simply refuses to support you and doesn’t give you the respect you deserve, this might be a good reason to end your marriage.
I have a very strong stance on communication. Firstly, I don’t believe you are entitled to anything you can’t directly ask for. Secondly, I believe we are all wholly responsible for how our communication lands. There is a popular saying that “the meaning of any piece of communication is the response that you get,” which means that if you get a response that doesn’t align with your intention, it’s your job as the communicator to shift your communication in a manner that is received by the person you’re communicating with. Just as, when you’re speaking with your children, you might get on your knees and speak slowly, it is our responsibility to encode our communication with our spouses in a way that they can best receive whatever it is we want to communicate. That being said, it is also the job of our spouse to hear the intent behind our communication and work to meet us halfway. If we are each fully responsible for our communication, we might get somewhere. If, however, your spouse is unwilling, you might be stuck.
Unless the issue is overspending, or gambling, the real issues around money are about the stress that accompanies money problems. We live in a society in which few people actually make enough to live comfortably to live within their means. We have student loan and/or credit card debt piling up, and we’re crumbling under the stress of it. How we manage that stress is the real issue. If you’re a stay-at-home-mom and you feel a lack of power or clarity around your household finances, I urge you to get involved, now. Here’s something I wrote about the real impact of being a SAHM in divorce. It’s not that uplifting, but you might be able to turn the table.
Lack of Individual Identity
If your lack of individual identity comes from having been a mom for the last xx number of years, welcome to the club. If you’ve begun to feel isolated and cut off from the world, start making more connections now. Take a class, join a book club, re-engage with the hobbies you had before motherhood. If your lack of identity has to do with a controlling spouse who is keeping you isolated, this is abuse and you need help now.
We live in a society that has created unreasonable expectations of our spouses. When we lived in tribes and raised children together, when men went out to hunt and we stayed home to raise children, tan hides, and grind corn, when women came together in ceremonies like the Red Tent, where women gathered in ceremony around our menstrual cycles, our needs were met by a multitude — an entire tribe, in fact. But now that we live in single family homes, we put all of these expectations on a single person, and often a person who is biologically incapable of giving us exactly what we need. In times of stress, women release oxytocin (the bonding hormone) which is why we feel our girlfriends “get us” when we’re stressed. By contrast, men release testosterone, which is why they get more aggressive and go into fix-it mode in times of stress. If your spouse isn’t meeting all of your needs, it could be that you have unreasonable expectations of them being able to do so. Here’s something I wrote that goes into this more.
Lack of Preparation or Marrying Too Young:
The idea that you can grow along parallel lines with someone for all eternity is pretty unreasonable, all things considered. Sometimes our paths diverge, and then come back together again, but sometimes we simply change too much. Our values might grow too disparate over time. We may have subscribed to a religion we no longer believe in. Or we simply may have changed our mind and feelings—and that is 100% ok. The fact of the matter is that your feelings are valid, and if the belief systems your marriage is based on are no longer true for you, you are allowed to move on from the marriage.
At the end of the day, there are good reasons to stay in a marriage, and good reasons to leave.
And sometimes it’s really hard to parse which is which.
Need help sorting through all of this? Should I Stay or Should I Go? will help you find all the answers you’re looking for. Promise.