Sometimes I meet with couples where one spouse is ready to separate and move on while the other is still hoping for reconciliation. Here are some of the comments that often come up when they enter my office and are not yet in agreement about commencing a separation conversation.
Spouse # 1
“My spouse wants to call it quits, but I feel that we have not given ourselves enough of a chance to work things out. I am not ready for a divorce.”
Comments made by spouse #1 to justify his/her position:
- My spouse made occasional comments about a divorce, but I never believed he/she meant it.
- We went to marriage counseling together, but the counselor was not good. No wonder it didn’t help.
- We do not plan all our activities together because we have different interests, but that is okay, because I think differences enrich a marriage.
- We are just going through a phase where we are somewhat more distant from one another, but don’t all couples go through that?
Spouse # 2
“I am convinced that the best thing for our family is that we get a divorce, but my spouse keeps ignoring my request and snapping at me.”
Comments made by spouse #2 to justify his/her position:
- I kept saying that things were not good, and I could not go on living like strangers under the same roof, but I was not heard.
- I felt rejected over and over, hearing nothing but sarcasm, criticism and put-downs.
- We bicker about anything and everything, and never seem to find common ground.
- We tried counseling because my spouse asked me to, but it didn’t work.
If one person is truly determined to move on, how can the other person continue the marriage “alone?” As we see in the situation above, each one of them sees it through their own lens, and no progress can be made while they each hang on to their view of the marriage. It is not unusual that a couple will come to my office driven by the spouse who initiates the separation. Talking it out with a neutral third party can help each spouse hear the other one’s position and come to the realization that it takes two to tango! Unless they are both willing to work together to get the marriage back on its feet, a separation or divorce may be inevitable. Otherwise, they will just continue to live in this limbo of misunderstanding.
I invite you to read my blog The Emotional Side of Divorce which talks about trying to understand each other under these circumstances and cope with the fact that both people are not on the same page.
If you are struggling with a similar situation, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below. If you know someone else who is struggling with a similar situation, please feel free to share this blog with them.
Comments & Replies from Social Media
Tricky one. I have not done matrimonial work since the early ’80s, but when faced with the spouse who wanted the marriage to continue, I had a standard mantra. “It takes two to make a marriage, and one to make a divorce”. Trite, I know, but still true. And we still tried for reconciliation where there was a chance (it was a statutory obligation on English lawyers – we had to certify personally, in writing, that we had tried before the judge would grant decree). We even succeeded a couple of times (lost fee income more than compensated for by happy clients and a warm glow on the way home).
By Peter Foreman (via Linkedin)
Your examples of each spouse’s position are accurate. The spouse who “didn’t think she/he meant it” have waited too late – the other party is burned out, the decision was made months earlier and there is no way to reconcile at that point. I see this a lot. I encourage the party who “didn’t know” to work with a therapist – it will help in future relationships if not the one that is dissolving!!
By Kathleen Robbins (via Linkedin)
I love how you’ve succinctly captured the essence of the disparities toward ending a marriage. If one person is truly determined to leave there is nothing anyone can do to change it. Unfortunately it takes two to fix a relationship but only one to end a relationship. I highly recommend relationship systems coaching over therapy. Traditional marital therapy continues (from what I hear from my clients) to do more harm than good in most cases.
As a relationship systems coach myself I am able to offer an exploratory process to determine what is wanting to happen in the relationship. It allows for exploration without any expected outcome, which is often a relief to the party with one foot out the door.
My take is that marriages end because one or (usually) both partners have an important growth step to make. Because it is out of their comfort zone it is easier to leave than to change. If we as professionals can get to them early enough we can help through gently out of that comfort zone for the sake of a better future.
By Jeannine Lee (via Linkedin)
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on