Divorce….How to Decide

This is a common issue presented in my office.

Our society has misled us into believing good marriages… just happen.  They don’t.  They are created…by the people in them. Marriage is about negotiation and cooperation.  Young people don’t understand this and consequently, are set up for failure.

So when working with a couple, I explore the nature of their differences, their beliefs and childhood models for being married and making decisions.  Frequently, differences are about control in the relationship; direct control, indirect control and more importantly, if/how the coordinate such.

I explore their history of problems and ability to work through these problems in their relationship.  If the couple lacks basic conflict resolution skills and has no history of peaceful existence together, the odds are against them.

I look at what each thinks they and their partner should do in the relationship and if they are actually willing to do this. Going back to my original comment…marriage is about negotiation and cooperation.  Most people entering therapy expect their partner to do all the changing. This is unrealistic.

I talk….and encourage them to talk, to each other, about the problems they are having and their individual perspectives on these problems.  THIS IS DIFFICULT TO DO…especially while trying to remain calm, listening to your partner, understanding their perspective and yet asserting your position/needs and working toward a compromise.

There are other divorce specific exercises that I will suggest when necessary, i.e., The Divorce Pro/Con List. These are completed individually and the discussed, individually and as a couple.

In more extreme cases, I will discuss a “structured separation”; the couple living apart but evaluating one or more aspects of relationship together as they continue in therapy, talk on a regular basis and together meet all their responsibilities.