The Decision to Divorce

Maybe the hardest decision in one’s life – the Decision to Divorce.  In my experience it is never a decision taken lightly.  Here’s how it seems to work in most cases.   You feel disatisfied or increasingly discouraged with the relationship.   After many arguments over the same thing, or attempts to get your partner to hear what is so vitally important to you, without success, the thought of ending the relationship begins to dawn.  Imagine a bright line boundary – on one side is “Emotional Commitment to Marriage,” on the other, “Emotional Disengagement from Marriage.”  You seem to bounce up against the boundary continually, but your commitment to your relationship is stong enough to keep you from crossing over.  It looks a bit like this  ……………….

You can go on for months or years, just bouncing up against that boundary.  You believe you have let your partner know that you were feeling desparate about your disconnection.  You know that you have tried.  Then, one day, something happens inside you.  Maybe it was another fight over the same thing.  Maybe it was just waking up one morning and looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing something has changed inside of you.  Whatever the spur – you have crossed over the boundary…and this boundary that for a moment seemed open enough for you to pass through has closed up.  It has become an emotional, impenetrable wall.   Now your process looks something like this:

When I start the process of divorce mediation with a couple, one of the first things I want to determine is whether one of the partners has crossed over that line.  Almost always this has occurred.   On the infrequent occasions it hasn’t, a referral to a couples therapist is always made. 

A really important lesson I have learned over the years is that once a person has crossed over that boundary they have made a decision that is unchangeable.  If you are the partner who feels left, you may experience a wide range of wrenching emotions – grief, fury, confusion, a sense of betrayal.   My recommendation is to get help with those emotions.  Seek out counseling.  Read helpful books, like Bruce Fisher’s excellent, Rebuilding.  Your life has changed – and while you may need to process through the trauma  and the deep sense of injustice you may feel, once your partner has crossed over the line they will not cross back.  While you may be drawn to do whatever you can to try to get them to do this, those efforts will amost certainly be fruitless and (here’s the important part) they will cause you deep and lacerating pain and frustration.  My hope for those who have been left is that you find the resources you need to manage the pain and direct your energy to caring for yourself and slowly discovering your path to recovery.