If you are at the point of asking this question, you have some distinctions to consider. If you have children, you want to be able to have an answer for them when they ask you “why did you and Dad/Mom break up our family?” If you can answer this question (without blaming of course), you may be ready to move on. If not, you have work to do. It is time to really look at your marriage and see what is going on. Never threaten your partner with divorce to get his/her attention. Never make the divorce decision during a fight. No exit doors allowed in your fighting. Divorce is a serious life lesson for everyone and should be decided upon only after a lot of serious conversations. I have seen the consequences of people using the divorce word when they only wanted to get the other persons attention. Don’t threaten divorce when you don’t mean it!!

Deal Breakers vs. We grew apart

My assessment of Deal Breakers in a marriage is untreated relapsing addictions, Borderline/Narcissistic/Psychopathic personality disorders, physical/emotional abuse, infidelity and betrayal, lying, unwilling to get help, for openers. If one partner has what is called a Deal Breaker for the other partner, this may be an easier decision. If after getting therapeutic help to get tools to cope, the partner feels he/she is done, it is time to move on. Some people will stay when deal breakers are present and some will leave. It is a very personal decision and I urge you to make it with a professional/therapist/counselor, not your friends or family. Remember if you unload all of your complaints about your partner onto your friends and family AND you decide to stay with your partner, they have to find a way to be objective with only one side of the story. If you have a trusted family member or friend whose opinion you value, have the conversation from the viewpoint of “you know me and my strengths and weaknesses, do you think I have changed and if so is it for the better or worse?” If you hear “we are all worried about you for the following reasons” best you listen and discuss with your therapist.

My assessment “we grew apart” covers what isn’t a deal breaker. When you have poor communication, nagging, fighting without resolution, resentment and bitterness, money issues, sex issues, passion issues, parenting issues, negative moods in the home etc. it is extremely important to find some good help. Divorce cost money and dividing up the pie often leaves both struggling financially, so spend the money for therapy, seminars, courses, workshops etc. to help save your family. If after a lot of hard work you both decide divorce is the best option, at least you will be able to say to your children, “We apologize for breaking up our family. We worked really hard to keep it together.” They still may be angry you broke up their family and you will have done the best you thought you could.

If one of you decides divorce is the only option and the other wants to stay married, “Houston we have a problem”. Often with time, loving and focusing on the family unit, not the couple, bringing respect back into the home, things may resolve themselves. If you want to stay married swallow your pride and do nothing to initiate the divorce. Let the person who wants the divorce do the work to get it going. I am not recommending you be mean or unreasonable just take a stand for what you want, the family together, so don’t take out papers to divorce. If nothing happens your family unit may be saved. If the other person initiates the divorce by filing, you will need to grieve the loss of your marriage, get divorced and move on to create the best family possible with you and your children or you and your next partner, if no children are involved.

Children are impotent and vulnerable during a divorce. They don’t have a vote. Honor them by fighting for your marriage and if you decide to divorce, do it with dignity!

Dr. Anne Brown Ph.D., RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying NoNo. Anne’s approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no-nonsense self-help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short-term, and long-term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, Ph.D. in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: www.BackbonePower.com.