You have been married for many years. You begin to recognize that you are not as happy as you used to be. You start examining the pros and cons of the relationship. Your partner has many pluses and a few chunky negatives. You are unsure of what to do. Follow this advice for some good ideas about your next steps.
Do seek counseling
You need a sounding board to air out your thoughts and feelings. As you go through this process, you may also change your mind on a regular basis. A good therapist will help you with both your feelings and with your decision making process. If your partner is willing to attend counseling, then both of you can go through this change process together. If he or she is unwilling, go to counseling by yourself. It can only help.
Do work on identifying your goals
Most people get married and stop identifying what they want. Some people become very partner driven and forget about their own needs and wants. It’s important to identify what you want and what’s most important to you. Do you want security, independence, happiness, partnership, a friend? Can you be OK by yourself?
Identify what’s a need versus what’s a preference.
Do keep yourself in good shape
Your decision making process is largely a mental and emotional event. Make sure you keep up your physical part since mental and emotional stress will drain your physical self. It’s not uncommon to lose weight or feel tired and dragging during this process. Make sure that you exercise, eat healthy, get sleep, and minimize your use of caffeine and alcohol in order to have the energy you need to make a good healthy decision.
Do connect with others
If you are going to go through this major process, you are going to need support. Who are your support people? Consider talking to friends, relatives, etc. Find your go to people and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Ideally, find people who have stayed and those that have left. Seek out a support group. There are some amazing message boards where you can be totally anonymous and hear and learn from others’ experiences.
Do consult with an attorney
Find an attorney who specializes in family law. Since knowledge is power, get empowered. Find out the rules of the game. How does alimony and child support work? Learn about the business of divorce while you are sorting out your emotions. Sometimes knowing that it is possible to get a divorce opens what was thought to be a closed door. By contrast, knowing what a divorce might do to you and the family might get you closer to working on the marriage.
Do not get into another relationship
When people are in the decision process, they are most vulnerable. It’s easy to share pain with another person who has similar pain. The misery loves company approach seems to work to find the fix to the problem. Due to their newness, these extra relationships just seeks to cause more confusion and ultimately more pain.
Do not nag, scold, or complain to your partner
When a person is unhappy in their marriage, the person they want to tell is their partner. However, how many times does the partner need to hear about the unhappiness? I’m guessing that unless that person is hearing impaired, lacking mental capacity, or suffering from neurological damages, that number is not a high one. Why add to your own frustration by being a broken record?
Do not try to fix your partner
It’s been said many times, “If only he would stop drinking…”, “If only he would get a job…”, or “If only she wasn’t so depressed things would be so much better.” When you love someone, you want them to get better. But you can’t fix them. Encourage them to find solutions to their own problems.
Do not medicate your pain
When confusion, fear, sadness, and anger are the feelings that predominate, who wants to feel these? No one. The easiest way to get rid of these is to use quick fix band aids like drinking, drugging, shopping, spending, eating, sex, relationships and work. They all work, kind of, but ultimately cause other and bigger problems. Short term pleasure usually leads to long term pain.
Do not isolate
Sometimes you see that many other people have their lives together. They are either happily married or successfully divorced. As a result, you think that you are the only one in this state of limbo. This constant stay or go makes you want to tell no one, and keep all of your pain inside. If you do this, your pain will only grow bigger and develop into a bigger problem. You really don’t need more problems, do you?
Making a decision about changing a relationship is one of the hardest things that people do. When there are kids involved, that decision making process is even harder. Give yourself the time that you need to identify your goals, identify your actions, and ultimately make yourself happy. Although there will be some tough days, you will make the right decision. Remember change is possible.