Some of that pressure is good, it keeps people from taking marriage too lightly. (Except for Kim Kardashian. )
However, there are those on the other end of the spectrum who need to get divorced but don’t, because they are too scared. I understand that side too.
Divorce is stressful. Facing the unknown and facing fears head-on is tough. However, there are upsides to divorce.
As a relationship therapist with 20+ years experience, I have gone through this with many clients and friends. Here are some benefits and upsides to divorce that I have seen and learned:
1. Divorce pain is temporary. It will pass. Staying married in an unhealthy relationship will last longer than the temporary pain of a divorce. Sometimes it is good to pull the old bandage off so that you can heal and move on with your life.
2. Just because society tells you that something is “bad” doesn’t mean it is. After all, caffeine was considered dangerous at one time. Now they are saying if you drink enough of it, you won’t get cancer. Slaves used to be considered okay. The list of societally endorsed mistakes is long.
3. The same people judging you negatively for getting a divorce are probably part of the Miserable & Married crowd. There are plenty of those. Happy, contented and healthy people don’t go around judging and condemning other people.
4. Forever is a long freaking time. The people who made these marriage rules only lived into their twenties. Then they conveniently died of the Black Plague or something worse. Remember this.
BTW: I love the scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry is supposed to renew his vows. He stands up there and starts coughing and wigging out when he has to say “into eternity.” His argument is “Eternity???!” Isn’t a lifetime enough? LOL.
5. People change and grow, they want different things. That is the reality of life. This is normal, okay and expected.
6. If you squash yourself, squash your needs, and keep down who you really are, you will suffer from depression, stress and anxiety or develop stress related medical problems. Staying miserable due to fear will allow fear to grow in you. This fear will make you feel more dependent and more scared about leaving. If your relationship is severely unhealthy, you will be even more afraid to leave. A total mind f***!
7. What about the kids? Kids will suffer more if you stay miserable in your marriage. This can lead to them feeling fearful of leaving their own marriages if they are unhealthy or dysfunctional. Do you want that for them? Use your love for their care as motivation.
8. No matter how difficult a divorce gets, you always have choices. It is easy to forget this. No matter how miserable your ex tries to make you, you will have choices. In addition, you will have supportive friends, wine, your therapist, girlfriends, various 12-step programs, and your Higher Power.
9. It takes courage to face the unknown. Get support and rely on your Higher Power to see you through. This is good practice of learning where and how to let go.
10. What about the kids again? It is very difficult to maintain integrity when things get nasty. As long as you are doing that, and holding your kids’ needs first, it will be okay. Read the Good Karma Divorce by M. Lowrance and get them as much support as possible. They will get through it.
11. Some fathers actually show up and provide active interaction with kids after a divorce. I have had a ton of friends with spouses who never interacted with the kids or participated in the kids’ lives until they got divorced. Post divorce, the parent has to actually drive to the house, pick up the kids, and talk to them. This can be a wonderful shift for children who are used to dad just slinking off to his man cave.
12. After they say it out loud and put the divorce into play, most people are relieved to be done with that constant fighting and tension they had felt. They they can finally B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Ahhh …. Let your lawyer fight it out instead of you. It is a huge relief for many after the hardest parts are finalized.
13. If you are the unlucky winner of a spouse that has left you, I am so sorry. You will need to grieve. Know that the world has something so much better waiting for you. Please try to trust this and carry hope. I have seen it happen over and over so if you don’t believe me, trust that I may be right.
14. If you guys change your mind, you can always get married again. I have a client whose parents got divorced and then remarried 20 years later. This time, they are happy. Everything happens in the time and manner it is supposed to.
15. Last but not least, now you can be like a kid in a candy store in the sex department. Tinder, Match.com, Farmers Only. There is a lot of hot sex going on out there with people who are newly divorced. Wahoo!
I am certainly not endorsing divorce. It is best if a couple gets professional treatment before taking this step. It is important to take the time to consider the impact of such a decision long term.
In addition, as a couples counselor, I am proud to say that there have been many couples who have walked through my door thinking they may have to get divorced but then they didn’t. However, staying together isn’t always the best option for every couple and family. We don’t always have all the information we need to make good decisions when we walk down that aisle.
“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” really isn’t the best philosophy for joy and richness. Don’t ever let fear be your primary motivation. Let joy, hope, faith, and courage carry you along…
Image from the new show Girfriend’s Guide To Divorce on Bravo.