If you are contemplating divorce, the new year is a very good time to do some self-examination about your motivations for staying or leaving. Shame and guilt cause us to cling onto toxic, unhappy, ugly, or ill serving marriages for a variety of self-flagellatory reasons. Perhaps we want our kids to grow up with an intact family- we don’t want to be the one pitied divorced family in our children’s fancy preschool. Or perhaps our religion frowns on divorce. Or maybe there is something about our spouse that keeps us tethered, even though deep down we are so unhappy.
Whatever the reasons, many couples are tempted or compelled to keep trying a little longer. One more round of therapy. Maybe a couple’s sex workshop or two. Possibly a flirtation with ecstasy, in a last bid attempt to keep it together.
But, the underlying foundational issues that drive couples apart remain after the ecstasy attempt (fun as it may have been) has worn off, or the glow from that getaway fades. And the longer a couple remains in an unhappy relationship, the more pernicious the marriage becomes.
Unhappy spouses may turn to drugs, affairs, heavy drinking, lying, gambling, or other harmful, destructive behaviors. These behaviors serve as a kind of self-medication, to distract from pain and unhappiness. They also act as a subtle bid to end things, without actually making the hard decision. People use them as a crutch because it is easier than admitting what may be so terrifying, but true. It is time to quit the marriage.
It takes tremendous courage to decide to leave while things are still functional- in many cases, far more courage than is required to stay in a lackluster or unhappy marriage, holding on as it spirals downward. But, it may be wise to end things, graciously and thoughtfully, before the relationship devolves into an emotional bloodletting.
Here are 4 reasons to divorce while you still like your spouse.
1) Your Kids Deserve Happy Parents
Don’t hold onto a lackluster, tension-filled marriage for the sake of the kids. You deserve to be happy, and your kids deserve happy parents. Far better to live separately, but peacefully and lovingly, than force yourselves to remain in a leaden relationship. Get it while you and your spouse still have a cooperative, functional alliance.
2) Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Imagine your ideal future scenario- maybe your vision is a sweet family dinner with your ex and your children- enjoying a tranquil and pleasant meal together at a favorite restaurant. Or maybe your goals are loftier- perhaps a post-divorce family vacation to Disneyland (with separate bedrooms, of course). These are much easier to achieve if you separate before the relationship declines entirely.
3) Protect your Future Relationships
Bitterness and anger will follow you like a ghost into your future relationship, haunting them with an unhealthy pallor. End things with your ex calmly and with grace before irreparable anger and bitterness are allowed to fester, transferring themselves, unbidden into your next relationship.
4) Protect Yourself
Don’t hold onto the marriage until one or both of you have said or done things that will permanently damage your ability to co-exist. Even if you stay single, anger and hostility will eat you from the inside, creating a festering, unhealthy emotional stew. If your ex is the one who decided to end things, try to be compassionate, learn from the experience, and let it go. Forgive and move on.
When not processing her divorce through writing, the San Francisco based author behind Backpack Cavalcade runs a real estate investment fund for women. Sometimes she rock climbs. Mostly, she holds it all together with duct tape and coffee. Further musings on investing, divorce, sex, parenting, and travel live at Backpackcavalcade.blog.