Contemplating Divorce at the Holidays

posted by Wendy Strgar Dec 22, 2009 7:01 am

filed under: Ask the Loveologist, Guidance, Health & Wellness, Love & Relationships, Relationships & Sexuality,
Ask the Loveologist: Contemplating Divorce at the Holidays

Q: I have been questioning whether I should stay in my marriage for months now and with the holidays coming and all of the family visits that we will be making, I am afraid that my doubts will be visible. Even though we don’t discuss it, I am sure that my husband has some idea that I am wandering away from our relationship. I don’t really know what I want or what to do or say. I know that keeping silent is helping either. Do I just put on a happy holiday face or risk talking about my feelings?

A: Your question about the viability of your marriage is one that is shared by millions of people and is felt acutely at this holiday time of year. The issues that bring them to the brink of doubt and the stories that they generate are as unique to the people involved as they are universal to most relationships. Although you don’t mention the source of your discontent, the majority of marriage dissatisfaction issues originate and revolve around money, sex, and family relationships–both extended family and parenting.

Regardless of the initial issue that damages the marriage bonds, the qualities and behaviors that define an unhealthy marriage are universal. As partners become alienated from one another they stop making an effort to listen or be heard. This dying communication instigates both a lack of empathy and a place where positions and beliefs harden. Fewer and fewer small concerns are resolved and stack up in the relationship and inevitably, the balance of power in the relationship can never quite find center. Aggressive and passive aggressive behaviors whether in sarcastic joking or outright paybacks make the day to day feel unsafe. The partnership becomes a battleground and proving the other wrong is as good as feeling right.

It is remarkable how quickly relationships can degenerate into this dynamic. Often it starts with a single issue or experience that neither person has the language or comfort to discuss. Things withheld and repressed take on a life of their own and issues not brought to light, get darker through neglect. Communication is the currency of relationships. What we don’t say often impacts our relationships more powerfully than what we say.

Most people don’t grow up with many good models or even learning much about the social or emotional intelligence that healthy relationships require. Often without even seeing it happen, couples fall into a win/lose model of relating, believing that being right is more important than being together. The truth is that marriages and relationships in general, are either win/win or lose/lose. If either person is made to lose, the entire relationship suffers and usually loses. Healthy marriages are different from unhealthy ones in this one essential way- in a satisfying marriage, the couple is united against adversity and they don’t go out of their way to create it between them. Happy unions, true friendships all share in that singular truth.

Although I don’t know if your wandering has brought you close to and confiding in “someone else,” which is another remarkably common reason sited in divorce statistics, I would urge you to give your marriage the respect and authenticity of true communication. Whether you conclude that you are just going through a hard patch or that the marriage is too unhealthy to redeem, you will not regret giving it the discussion and intention to figure it out.

A great resource for this work is a new book coming out shortly called How to Know if it’s Time to Go by Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman. Their topic knowledge, having first hand experience and thorough research offer a sound model to think through the complex and challenging decision of what to do with your relationship. While they don’t advocate for either side, they do dispel many of the myths about divorce and encourage an articulate inquiry to answer the questions for yourself.

Wendy Strgar, owner of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. Wendy helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.

Originally published at Care2 (Blog) (Dec. 22nd, 2009)—> http://www.care2.com/greenliving/divorce-at-the-holidays.html

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