Over the years, I’ve had several spouses say to me “I can’t believe s/he’s thinking of divorcing. I would never do that. S/he should be in this marriage no matter what.” When people take their wedding vows, they are often in the honeymoon stage of their relationship. In this stage, couples are enthralled with each other, treat each other lovingly and love spending time with one another. At this stage it’s easy to think you will love someone forever—you’re both kind to each other more days than not. The trouble begins though when that kindness wears off.
The moment you believe that your spouse owes it to you to stay in your marriage—or you owe it to them—is the moment that marriage is likely to be in trouble. No one owes it to anyone to stay “no matter what”. The love between two spouses— heterosexual or homosexual—is not unconditional. Staying in a marriage “until death do us part” is fine when two people continue to treat each other well; it is not okay if one or both partners are hell to live with. Spouses are meant to be supportive, kind, loving and safe to one another. When they treat each other lovingly over time, the happily ever after is the ideal end game. When they do not, however, then forever will be an almost unbearable life sentence: A life sentence, that no one should have to serve.
If your spouse is saying s/he wants to leave you and you are angry that they have the audacity to think that, wake up. Stop being angry at your spouse for daring to leave you and the children and instead begin to wonder how things went so off track that s/he would even want to go down that painful path in the first place. Ask yourself why your spouse would want to leave this marriage. Have you been taking the marriage for granted? Are you so caught up in your life/work/interests that you’ve failed to be home for your family—both emotionally and physically? Do you struggle with anger or reactivity that has eroded positive feelings over time? Are conversations difficult to have with you due to you becoming defensive, angry, righteous or shutdown? Take an honest, humble look at you and your marriage. Listen to your partner’s upsets and reasoning—from their lens, not yours—and see if you can understand where they are coming from. Be able to screen out the stuff that’s not about you (affairs, addiction or anger/violence by your spouse) while screening in the pieces that are.
In the end, know that happy marriages are made of two mutually supportive, respectful, loving partners who take the time to treat each other well. They have the strength to be accountable, the compassion to forgive and the determination to not take their relationship or their partner’s love for granted.
Challenge: Be the spouse you wish you married. Incorporate kindness, accountability, love and support into your marriage on a daily basis. Give your spouse an irrefutable reason to live happily ever after with you.