How will I know if it’s time to move on from my marriage, or any significant relationship?
The conventional wisdom is when one or both people have stopped trying. But how do you know if you are the one who is done trying?
1) Do a self check-in. If we are questioning our relationship and whether we should stay or we should go, chances are that the a big part of the struggle we are having with the other person’s behaviors and beliefs are actually a mirror of our own inner conflict.
Before making any decisions or moving too quickly into divorce proceedings, we need to pause and do the inner work necessary to know ourselves; our pain, our core wounds and beliefs, and our own lack of self-love. Whether or not we decide to move on, this self-awareness will serve us in this, or any other relationship that comes after.
Take time to understand past conditioning and why you chose the partner you did. What are the family dynamics and core beliefs about your lovability that were passed down from your family? What are the “shoulds” you have about being a good partner? What behavior is your spouse reflecting that a seasoned Therapist or Coach can support you in finding the answers inside of you, helping you get clear about what you are bringing to the table in your marriage.
And most importantly, learn tools to support yourself and get to the heart of what you truly want. Practices like yoga, meditation, journaling and self-reflection can help you get to the heart of the matter. Take at least 10 minutes each day to get quiet. By applying these tools, soon you will be able to see through the clouds of fear and old conditioning, and know which actions to take next.
2) Slow down and take good look at the relationship. Once you begin to understand your part in the conflict, how does that contribute to the dynamics of the relationship? Are there negotiable patterns that can be reprogrammed through processes like couples therapy or relationship training? In other words, are the dynamics open to change or growth or are one or both of you creating blocks that are standing in the way?
I recently listened to an Oprah interview with Glennon Doyle Melton the other day that pretty much summed it up. She said “If you have to choose between saving your marriage or saving your soul, choose your soul”.
Figure out if and how the relationship can be restructured to serve your highest desires and intentions for fulfillment and happiness. If there’s a will, there’s often a way. But if love has truly left the table, and there are non-negotiable blocks, it may be time to take the next step into the divorce process.
3) Get the facts and know what to expect. It’s vital to have an understanding about what the divorce will mean for you not only emotionally but logistically. As you navigate the stormy waters of the emotions and fears that arise once you know the end is inevitable, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and how you will start over as a single person.
I always encourage people to consult with an expert, most often an attorney (make sure to choose one who is realistic and impartial...not one who is ready to wage war against your spouse and rack up their hourly charges), who will clearly outline the state laws about how property and finances will be split, what parenting schedules might look like, and how long the actual process might take. Having this information will give you an idea of what the next steps are, and keep a worry and “what ifs?” at bay.
Ask important questions like: Can and will we continue to live in the same home going through the process? Is my spouse open to working amicably through mediation or will I need to secure an attorney to protect my rights? What is the best situation for the children and how can we support them through their own grieving process?
So much fear can creep into this process, causing us to doubt ourselves and our decisions and create unnecessary worry about the future and the well-being of the kids. When we can arm ourselves with information and facts about divorce laws in our state, acknowledge that millions of women and children have been through this and not only survived but thrived after divorce, we can have more clarity confidence in our decisions.
4) Prepare for the journey ahead. Pulling apart emotionally from your spouse can be one of the most difficult parts of dissolving the relationship.
For years, maybe decades, they have been your emotional “rock”...the one person that you share all of your hopes and dreams and fears with. Suddenly, this role is shifting. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to go to our partner for emotional support. This is the time where this role, and your role of parents making joint decisions, can and will change dramatically….the difficult truth is that they are no longer your “person”.
The divorce process can be a rocky road, with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, many can feel difficult and heartbreaking as you start to restructure all of the systems that you created as a couple. Now’s the time to emotionally prepare for the next 1 ½- 5 years, which is the typical timeframe to “get over” a divorce.
Call on your team of experts and non judgemental friends and family. Tell them what you need during this time. Seek outlets for your emotional energy to move, rather than to get stuck in the pain. Read books about divorce, get online and read blogs and articles and realize that you are not alone. Cry when you need to. Rest a lot. Learn to become your own best friend and biggest cheerleader. Eventually, you will find less and less loneliness as you become the “person” that you can turn to in the difficult times.
5) Begin to create your vision for your future. Train your mind to dwell in the space of what is possible, rather than what will no longer be. What is it that you want as a single person going forward in your life? What hobbies, activities, travels have you always wanted to do? What is your vision for your new home and your new life with your children? What qualities would you like to have in a partnership when it’s time to put yourself out there again? Most importantly, who do you want to BE now that you are committed to moving on from your marriage?
Re-discover, or discover for the first time, your passions and your purpose. Each day, commit to taking one step towards your vision. It is impossible to feel stuck while you are moving forward. Some days it may be baby steps, other days, huge leaps. Work with the end in mind, and please, believe in yourself. Even though divorce may be the outcome of this relationship, it is not the end of our lives, but a beginning of the next chapter.