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Everybody knows that the divorce process is stressful, but making the decision to divorce carries its own challenges. Saying, “I want a divorce,” to your spouse is like letting a genie out of a bottle. Once you've done it, things will never be quite the same—which could be a good thing or a bad one. How do you know when it's truly time to make this life-altering decision?
Some couples are able to survive tremendous problems, such as substance abuse or infidelity. Others that appeared happy end up splitting. Every marriage is unique, and it's impossible for a blog post to be able to tell you that it's time to end your marriage, but here are some indicators that your marriage may not be able to be saved.
Marriages can overcome all kinds of difficulties, but when the difficulty comes from within, it's often much harder to salvage the relationship. If you find that you've lost respect for your spouse, or feel contemptuous of him or her, you won't be motivated to do the work necessary to maintain your marriage. Of course, the opposite is also true. If your spouse treats you with contempt and without respect, he or she has likely already checked out of the marriage, with no desire to make it work. In this case, ask yourself what you're getting from the marriage, and whether it's really worth the constant blows to your self-respect.
People stay together for all kinds of reasons. If the only reason you're still with your spouse comes from outside the two of you, you might be better off divorcing. Are you staying together because you think it's better for the kids? Because you're worried about what your families or friends will think? Because it makes financial sense? Because you fear being lonely or having to date again? All of these motivators may work to keep your marriage (technically) together, but without an innate desire to be connected to your spouse, they won't make your marriage happy. Yes, ending your marriage will involve risks and losses. Your kids may be upset, your parents may be angry. You might lose some friends, and you will probably experience some financial stress. However, you may also be surprised at how empowering it feels to free yourself from an unhappy marriage, and open yourself to the possibility of real joy and connection.
There's an old expression: "Fish or cut bait." If you're going to be in your marriage, be committed to it—something you can't do if you're being physically or emotionally unfaithful with someone else. When you allow someone else to usurp a role that belongs to your spouse, the marriage will not work. Ask yourself why you are being unfaithful, and be ruthlessly honest. It may be that there's something you need from your spouse that it's too difficult or painful to ask for, and turning to someone else is just easier. It may be that you've checked out of the marriage, but you're happy to maintain the status quo until your infidelity is discovered or runs its course. No matter the reason for your infidelity, decide whether you want to work for your marriage, or work for your freedom, because you can't have both.
If your marriage is in trouble, for whatever reason, you may have tried counseling. Often, the mere act of going to counseling together shows that you and your spouse are committed to making the marriage work, which is a good sign. Sometimes, counseling gives you the insight or communication skills you need to make a go of your marriage.
Sometimes, however, it doesn't. It may be that the first counselor you worked with wasn't right for your needs, and it can be helpful to try working with someone different. In other cases, counseling doesn't work because one or both of you really doesn't want it to—someone wants out of the marriage. If this is the case, then it's time to divorce. Even if one of you really wants to preserve the marriage, it's not going to truly work if you're both not committed to it.
If you're coming close to a decision that your marriage is over, it may help to talk to an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney. An ethical attorney will let you know what to expect from the divorce process, and will never push you to make a decision you're not ready for. As someone who's dealt with many divorces, a divorce attorney may be able to offer you the insight you need to make your own decision.
To learn more about the divorce process in Minnesota, check out these articles: