It's easy to give up on marriage. Divorce is everywhere in our culture. I was raised in a divorced home. My wife was raised in a divorced home. Maybe you were raised in a divorced home. Maybe you've been divorced or you have family that's been divorced. It's everywhere. Therefore, when we get upset, hopeless, and discouraged it's easy to start thinking about divorce because it's everywhere. We think about divorce much more than our grandparents did. Since no one got divorced back then, when they went through hard times they had to learn how to make things better. They had to learn how to work through challenges because getting divorced was socially unacceptable so it encouraged people to work harder and dig deeper.
While I'm a believer in long-term marriages, sometimes you need to get a divorce. For example, you need to get a divorce if you're in an abusive relationship. If your partner is abusive, get a separation and a restraining order. If your partner has cheated and refuses to cease contact with their lover, get a separation. After the separation if they still refuse to cease contact with their lover, get a divorce. If you're in a relationship and your partner is indifferent toward your needs, and you've worked with a couple's counselor or coach for 3-6 months and they still refuse to meet your needs, get a separation. If they still won't change after the separation, get a divorce. Being committed to a long-term, covenant marriage doesn't mean you're supposed to tolerate mistreatment or be miserable the rest of your life. Therefore, divorce is OK at times but it's not always the best answer. If you're wondering "should I get a divorce?" below are three reasons not to get one.
Should I Get A Divorce? 3 Reasons Not To
1-They are open to receiving support.
If your partner is open to receiving support, there's hope. There are many avenues of support; such as podcasts, apps, books, conferences, and coaches. I have developed several resources on this website to help couples save their marriage. It's helpful to have a variety of resources because every partner is different with what they are comfortable with. Some people feel more comfortable reading a book, others prefer listening to a podcast, others want to attend a conference, others want to work with a coach, and others want to use an app. The variety provides choices. My personal recommendation is to use all of them to supercharge your relationship. Listen to my marriage podcast, get the couples app, read the marriage book, attend the marriage retreat, and work with a relationship coach. Accessing all the resources will maximize your relationship the most. So, if you're wondering "should I get a divorce?" the answer is no if your partner is open to receiving support because that shows they are willing to work on the marriage. Also, remember how difficult it is to reach out for help. I know firsthand because when my wife and I went through winter in our relationship, I had a really hard time reaching out for help because I thought I could fix our marriage. For us it was sexual brokenness, where my wife had trauma from her upbringing, which made her avoid all sexual contact in our relationship. I responded poorly to that rejection with anger and then we had a vicious cycle. The more she avoided sexual contact, the more I responded with anger, the more I responded with anger, the more she avoided sexual contact. To make matters worst, I was resistant to reaching out for help because I was a therapist in training so I thought I could fix us. Big mistake. I eventually realized I couldn't be our own therapist because I wasn't objective and my wife doesn't view me as a therapist, understandably. Thankfully, I finally swallowed my pride and reached out for help, which started a multi-year journey of us reading books, listening to podcasts, going to conferences, and working with several therapists. All that support eventually moved us out of winter and into spring, which is where you fall back in love because your needs start being met and resentments start getting healed.
2-Change takes time.
The second reason not to give up on your marriage is because change takes time. Your partner may need more time to improve and learn how to meet your needs. Change takes time. Every behavior we have creates a neural pathway in our brain. Therefore, changing behavior is hard because it requires creating new neural pathways in our brain. Think of it as a hiking trail. I live in Colorado and I love to hike. A hiking trail is a well-worn path and similar to the default behavior in your marriage. If you want your partner to create new behavior, you're asking them to create a new hiking trail. Creating a new hiking trail requires lots of intentionality and repeated practice before the trail is well worn. It takes time. Similarly, it takes time for your partner to create new behaviors in your marriage. So if you're wondering "should I get a divorce" remind yourself that change takes time. If you see your partner trying and if you zoom out and see overall progress, don't give up.
3-You're not perfect either.
The third reason not to give up on your relationship is because you are not perfect either. No one is perfect in their marriage. The goal is to figure out what your part is. How are you contributing to the problems and vicious cycles in your marriage? How are you making things worse? What do you say and do that contributes to the negative dynamics in your relationship? You can't blame your partner for your marital problems until you master your side that's making things worse. Most of us over-focus on our partner's problems and under-focus on our own. How do you need to get better? How do you need to improve? There's no reason to give up on your partner until you are doing an amazing job as a partner yourself. Only then do you have the freedom to critique your partner, when you're free of critique yourself. I'm guilty of this. In the winter season I referenced above, I was so over-focused on my wife's rejection of sex that I failed to see how my angry reaction was making everything worse. I was contributing to the vicious cycle yet I only blamed her. Once I started owning and working on my part, things started to progress because my wife began seeing me as an ally rather than an enemy, which opened her up toward me sexually too. Therefore, if you're wondering "should I get a divorce?" ask your partner how you could become a better partner. Ask them what your growth areas are and master them. Doing so could transform your marriage.
In summary, don't get a divorce if your partner is open to receiving support. Also, remember change takes time and you're not perfect either.
For further reading, check out my articles below.
Sign up for Dr. Wyatt's newsletter here and receive a FREE PDF on 15 Questions to Incredible Intimacy!
What else would you recommend for those wondering "should I get a divorce?"