1. If the relationship is not working for both of you, it’s not working. That’s true for marriage or any other relationship. Women tend to put their needs on the back burner and do what it takes to make their husbands happy, especially once children come along. But marriage is relationship, which means it needs to work for both of you. If it’s not, it’s time to do something different. This might mean divorce, but don’t jump there immediately. The first step is getting honest with yourself (and then your spouse) about what you want. Becoming more authentic and voicing your needs might change things for the better. It’s worth a try.
2. Confusion can be a gift. If you’re not sure, don’t try to force a decision. Clarity will come more easily if you relax. Get the book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mona Kirshenbaum. Read it, and answer the questions. It’s an objective assessment that can help you gain clarity.
3. If you find yourself wishing he would die on a business trip, or if you’re planning a murder and hoping not to get caught, it’s a strong sign you need a change. Don’t do anything irreversible (like go through with the murder), but don’t spend your life wishing fate would change it for you. Take action to change what you can.
4. Try everything you can before divorcing. It’s better to try now than to subject yourself to “what ifs” down the road. What have you got to lose? (Caveat: if you or your children are in physical danger, don’t keep trying –- safety first!) If you’ve tried everything and nothing’s changed, you have your answer.
5. Choose life and health -- for yourself and your children. Sometimes divorce is a selfish and short-sighted choice. But sometimes it’s a choice for life and health. Your inner guidance will know the difference if you take a little time to get quiet and honest with yourself. If you know you need to leave, see it as a life-affirming choice, not a mean action or a sin.
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to set someone free -– whether that’s you, your spouse, or your family dynamics. Reframing the decision in this way -- “What’s the most loving choice I can make in this situation?” -- can often bring clarity. Just don’t confuse love with guilt or self-sacrifice. Real love is often painful, but feels light and open, not heavy and burdensome.
6. Pay attention to your body’s signals. Sometimes physical symptoms or signals can send messages that our rational minds can’t hear. I recently heard Dr. Lissa Rankin talk about how she would break out in hives whenever she kissed her former husband. That’s a pretty obvious symptom. You might not have anything that obvious, but you can still use your body as a compass.
See what happens in your body when you think about being married until your children graduate from high school or until death do you part. Does your body contract, feel tight, close in? Does your head hurt, or your stomach? Those reactions may be signs that marriage as it currently is, isn’t working. If your body feels open, expansive, like you have room to breathe, then your marriage may have a lot going for it that you can build on.
7. Ask yourself if you would want one of your children to be in a marriage like yours. If the answer is “no,” that might be a sign that staying together for the sake of the kids is a bad idea. If you don’t respect yourself enough to take action on your own behalf, your children may provide stronger motivation. If you want them to have a different kind of relationship, you need to model it for them. Otherwise they’ll repeat what they have learned from watching you and your spouse.