making decision

Making the Decision

Making the final decision to get divorced is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. How can you really be sure it’s time to throw in the towel? Sure the marriage has been bad for a long time-the communication is gone, the sex is practically non-existent (or totally nonexistent), you argue frequently, and the predominate feeling is emotional pain. But is this bad enough? Is there a chance that things will improve? That you’ll begin to see things differently, that your partner will finally change? After all, you took a vow-“till death do us part”. The marriage surely feels dead now but you and your partners are still living-or are you?

People want a guarantee that they’re making the right decision or permission from someone, somewhere that it’s o.k. to do this, to leave the spouse, and when there are children involved, to risk hurting the children. It would be nice if someone could tell you, in black and white, that yes, getting divorced is the right decision. But there is no black and white and you are often stuck in a perpetual state of gray. Even if someone else were to tell you what to do, it isn’t his or her decision to make anyway; it’s only yours and your partner’s. When you got married, you thought you had the guarantee that you were no longer alone, that you wouldn’t have to face these very tough decisions alone. But deciding to divorce can be one of the loneliest decisions ever. The person that you’ve turned to to discuss the most important things in your life in the past, your spouse, is not someone who can help you with this. For some it’s a time of feeling really grown up for the first time, totally on your own, totally responsible for your own decisions. While I am not familiar with any research on this, my guess is that the decision to divorce is a lot harder to make for most people than the decision to marry in the first place!

So how does one make the decision? Some people, rather than face the pain of ending a marriage alone, find someone else to love, or think they love. “I’ve fallen in love with someone else, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did.” Most of these transitional relationships last long enough to fill the void of emptiness that an unhappy marriage and a subsequent divorce create, they create additional pain and suffering for the spouses, and very few last in the long run. For those who believe in ending one relationship before beginning another, things do not appear as clear-cut and the fear of going it alone and/or the fear that there will never be anyone else, often enter in. People turn to books (or articles like this) for guidance. Some books offer a set of questions to answer regarding your relationship and suggest that if you answer the questions in a particular way, then your marriage either still has hope or that it’s time to move on. A member of a divorce support group I ran, said, “I wish there were a set of questions I could answer that would then tell me what to do.” Ever prepared, I then asked her (and the other group members) some questions from one such book. While the questions were thought provoking, the answers to the questions brought her no closer to knowing what to do. While individual therapy and support groups are, in my opinion, almost necessary to help you gain the support and guidance you need to deal with this very painful period, ultimately your therapist or the members of your support group can not make the decision for you either.
The way I see it, there are a few different ways a decision ultimately gets made.
1. Not to Decide is to Decide-
When I was in college, my roommate had a poster in our room that said, “Not to decide is to decide”. (I don’t remember who the author of this quote was.) When you feel as if you are putting off a decision, recognize that in actuality, you have decided for now. You’ve decided not to take action, to remain where you are for now. Some people, not wanting to be identified as the one ending the marriage (even though in reality the marriage is already over), may actually be consciously or unconsciously hoping their spouse will make the decision for them. If you can tolerate this, if the rewards of remaining in your current situation are greater than the risks of leaving it or doing something to change it, then accept that you have decided to keep things, at least for now, as they are.
2. Stop Blaming Yourself
Some people try the above but have a very difficult time accepting the way things are. They may berate themselves for being stuck in the gray, for not being able to move forward, asking themselves “ What’s wrong with me, why is it taking so long?” This is not a place you want to stay stuck in, as letting yourself get tangled up blaming yourself for not deciding will only make it harder to decide and you’ll lose further confidence in yourself. In situations like this, consider setting a time limit for yourself. Identify what questions you need to have answered before making the decision and then make a determined effort to get the answers to these questions by your self-imposed deadline. When the deadline comes, act (even if it’s just to grant yourself more time).
3. Trust that the Defining Moment will come.
When you can allow yourself to live with the indecision and trust that you’ll know what to do when you’re ready, the best course of action is likely to be to wait until you are ready. Trust that with time, something will happen, you’ll know. Often referred to as a defining moment, this event may be seemingly minor such as one more unkind remark made, or major, such as one more shot at reconciliation. Whatever it is however, if divorce is in the cards, you’ll suddenly know what you need to do. The doubt you’ve had will be overshadowed by the clear knowledge that you can now make the decision with the information you have. If you decide to divorce, you’ll face the painful reality that the marriage is over, but you’ll also experience the relief that the doubt is gone, that you’ll take the next step, and move on knowing you’ve done your very best. No one can ask you or expect you to do more than that.

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