Bang bang! Marriage over, divorce filed. Most of us are familiar with conventional wedding vows that include ‘til death do us part. What they don’t tell you is that you might have to pull the trigger (figuratively speaking of course – Carpe Kairos will not be part of your legal defense).
Divorce, for most of us, is not an easy decision. Nonetheless, we proceed for a variety of reasons.
Duty to Protect: Divorce should be a consideration if children are at risk. My first professional job as a social worker was in foster care. Many of the cases I had involved loving parents in relationships the court deemed harmful to the children. The parent who had not directly abused the child often had a hard time understanding why the court removed the children from them. Why do I have to go to parenting classes? The judicial answer remained consistent – you are guilty of failing to protect the child from the abusive parent. I tried! They beat me too! Then they apologized and promised it would never happen again. So you stayed, gave it another chance for the sake of the kids. Then it happened again. This time it was worse and someone else called the authorities.
Self-defense: An extension of reason one, divorce occurs in many instances for self-preservation. Staying in the marriage is placing you at risk – physically, mentally, emotionally and so on. Has the relationship become toxic? Issues of abuse and addiction are some examples that come to mind. You love your spouse so you don’t want to pull the trigger. What do you do? Seek help. You try everything – talking, pleading, counseling and yet the situation is not improving. It feels like you’re the only one working to improve the relationship. You find yourself slowly dying inside. Warning shots fired. You issue ultimatums, threaten to leave, set deadlines. If you don’t stop drinking by Thanksgiving, I’m outta here! No change.
Crime of Passion: Happy marriages don’t end in divorce. According to Farlex’s Free Dictionary, a crime of passion is “a defendant's excuse for committing a crime due to sudden anger or heartbreak”. To be clear I’m not suggesting in any way that divorce is crime but due to the consequences of the decision to divorce, people often struggle to justify it as the only viable option. In this category of reasons you’ll find your infidelities, broken promises and grown apart marital demises. The legal defense has “sudden” as criteria and while that may hold true for some divorce filings, like you suddenly found your spouse in bed with your best friend and in your foggy haze your feet led you to the courthouse steps, in many cases it only appears sudden to the blindsided spouse. We were happy and going along well for twenty-five years then suddenly one day out-of-the-blue she announces she’s not happy and wants a divorce. The only thing sudden in that case is that it’s news to you. Perhaps you missed or dismissed the subtle or not so subtle cues you were given.
People get divorced for many reasons and if you explore the explanations the filing spouse gives, chances are it will fall into one or possibly all of these categories. If you are considering divorce, here’s my advice to you:
If no one is in immediate danger, take the time to really consider your decision. I’m not an advocate of divorce. In my opinion it sucks great big monkey balls. If possible do everything to rediscover the reasons you fell in love with stupid in the first place. Start with you. Are you aware of the reasons for your dissatisfaction? Are you effectively communicating your needs? Do you have reasonable expectations? Put in the work before it comes down to reasons one, two or three.
Don’t use divorce as a bargaining tool. As the adage goes, don’t brandish a weapon unless you’re prepared to use it. Try this and your gun might just backfire. Just as you should handle a gun with caution, so should you care for your spouse’s feelings. It’s not fair to set unrealistic expectations to test your partner’s loyalty or to see if their actions might persuade you to stay. Many people do this under the guise of trying to save the marriage. If you could just be more romantic or spontaneous! You and you alone are responsible for your happiness. If you keep blaming your spouse and telling them their behaviors are the reasons you will leave, all you are doing is loading their weapon. Eventually they will get tired and perhaps be the one to pull the trigger with the loaded gun you have handed them.
If you’ve considered all options and decide that divorce is the only option for you, pull the damn trigger. Stringing someone along is tortuous. If you know all roads for you lead to divorce, then be upfront and consistent. You might think waiting to tell your spouse you want a divorce after the kid’s graduation, or after the holidays or after nana’s visit is sparing everyone else’s feelings when in reality it is really only self-serving. If you can’t seem to pull the trigger, go back to bullet one above and work on you.
You might be asking, well who the hell are you to be giving advice when clearly you failed at marriage? Noted. Truth be told I always hated guns. Having grown up in Brooklyn, New York I had seen enough of the carnage caused by people recklessly brandishing weapons. I stayed far away from guns. Then this year I had a sudden urge to shoot, went to the gun range for the first time my birthday weekend and checked shooting a gun off my bucket list.
Yes, I pulled the trigger of a gun my soon to be ex loaded and filed for divorce for reasons that fall into two of the three categories above. Pain and experience and great teachers and I’ve learned a lot. They say a smart person learns from their mistakes and an even smarter person learns from the mistakes of others. Am I marriage or divorce expert? No. I’m simply someone going through a divorce leaving breadcrumbs behind on the road to healing.