Ann often thought what it would be like not to be married (after 25 years) to Tom, that unusual and wonderful guy she’d fallen in love with just before they both graduated from college. Now, after 3 kids and the ups and downs of a more or less normal suburban life, she found herself looking around at other men. In her imagination she compared her impression of Mr. X with what Tom had turned into—a hard driving workaholic who seemed to prefer the hospital to coming home to family. She had tried to talk to him but he was always too busy, too tired or too irritable to really listen and hear her distress.
Had he changed so much over the years? Had she? Their shared values about what they wanted and how they wanted to live had bound them together for decades. What Tom said he wanted and how he was actually living had diverged over the last two years. She was left feeling isolated, lonely and unloved. At 50 with the kids leaving home what did she have to look forward to? Yet every time she thought about a divorce she shook and her hands got clammy.
Sound familiar? Many people go through similar meanderings and stay in a compromised situation, unable to move forward. If a relationship has so changed that neither party recognize and respond each other’s needs and desires, why stay?
Good question, with many good and not so good answers.
The most important element in making such a huge, life changing move is whether it will bring you a greater sense of your own purpose and worthiness and allow you to flourish in ways that were not possible in the marriage.
One way to start an assessment of what will be truly best for you is to:
- Write down your 5 most important values and what makes them important to you.
- Think about how your relationship either enhances a value or stifles it. If you find that 3 or more of your values are being stifled by the relationship, then that is serious reason to think about a change.
- Reflect about your own attitudes and behavior that might impact your relationship in a negative way. Make sure to be accountable to yourself and that you haven’t just blamed your spouse for something that you may have had a part in. For instance, if your spouse is very sensitive to criticism and you keep criticizing with a biting tone, being accountable means figuring out why you keep doing something you know will not end well.
- Write down 3 goals you have for the next year.
Can each goal be achieved within the marriage context? Is your partner an integral part of achieving your goal? If your partner isn’t a part of the goal and you can achieve it married,divorce may not be what you need to do.
After you have completed the assessment you will hopefully have a clearer idea of what you need to do for yourself. If you examine your values, assess your accountability and think about your upcoming goals, and you can’t see they are possible married, the process of divorce and the change it brings, painful as it is it may be worth the disruption.
If it is still unclear what you want to do, talk with your rabbi, minister or priest or seek help from a trained marriage counselor. Most of all be true to yourself!