"Friends don't let friends get divorced." -- Diane Sollee, smartmarriages.com
"One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with each other, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in love again." -- Judith Viorst
A troubled marriage does not always lead to divorce nor does a No-Fault divorce require that there had been anything wrong with the marriage. But if one spouse is openly unhappy with the marriage, or has threatened divorce, or even has already filed for divorce or moved out -- then action is needed.
Is your marriage troubled?
Very commonly, one partner might think that the marriage is happy and successful, and has no idea whatsoever that their partner is unhappy. Also very commonly, the partner who is leaving the marriage – or especially a partner who is having an affair – will alter his or her memories of the marriage and remember unhappy times during the marriage more than the happy times. It is all a matter of perception.
This section is for you if you are seeing warning signs, or perhaps your spouse has already filed for divorce, but reconciliation is still possible and you still have some choice in whether or not to divorce. My next section deals with the situation that your spouse is fully committed to a unilateral No-Fault divorce and your only choice is how to defend your children and property.
To Divorce or not to Divorce
First, you need to decide if the marriage should be saved, or if you want to agree to the divorce.
This should depend a great deal on whether or not children are involved – remember that children will almost always suffer greatly from their parents divorcing. Despite what family courts and lawyers say, children are not "fine" as long as the parents don't fight. This is what researcher Elizabeth Marquardt referred to as "Divorce Happy Talk". Parents should go to great lengths and make sacrifices to stay together for sake of their kids.
Domestic violence is another big consideration. Although false or exaggerated claims of domestic violence are very common, still it is a real problem. No marriage should continue which involves true domestic violence – to the wife, the husband, or the kids. This might or might not involve alcoholism. Alcoholism without violence can be treated though, with enough patience.
If you are "on the fence", please read Diane Sollee's article Considering Divorce?. If you gone this far into my website, probably this is "preaching to the choir", but it might help to show to your spouse.
But if the marriage is worth continuing, at least for the sake of the kids, then Michelle Weiner-Davis is the expert on "Divorce Busting". She has a very worthwhile book which can help save many marriages which are on the brink of divorce; and a great website. Her article "Walk-away Wife Syndrome" is a very common situation of a marriage which can be saved.
The Smartmarriages.com website also has a section with some ideas and links for Fighting an unwanted divorce. This includes Michelle Wiener Davis, mentioned above, which I think is the best for people in this situation. Unfortunately, though these kinds of approaches all require a certain amount of cooperation and communication with the divorcing spouse.
If your spouse had an affair, but now has ended it and wants to stay in the marriage, in most cases you should count your blessings, offer forgiveness, and take this opportunity to improve your marriage. There are many websites which discuss infidelity; see this index on www.smartmarriages.com. Unfortunately, most of these resources are a bit dated and don't consider No-Fault divorce, which changes everything. Today many spouses who cheat don't want forgiveness and don't want to stay in the marriage, they want No-Fault divorces so that they can marry their new partner. My next section deals with that case.
Marriage-Friendly Marriage Counseling
Marriage counseling can be a big help – if you have a good one who believes in the value of marriage and is not pro-divorce. This is a very big "if" – many if not most marriage counselors will advise divorce if they sense that one of the partners is the least bit unhappy. Also, remember that children don't pay the bills of the marriage counselors and aren't in the room usually, so kids are seldom considered by the therapist. If you and your spouse agree to marriage counseling, be sure to find a good one. If you are unhappy with your marriage and your spouse doesn't want to attend the counseling, a threat of divorce might be necessary to make it happen. It will be worth it.
Help with selection of marriage-friendly marriage counseling:
www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com , directory of experienced professionals committed to family values.
www.theravive.com, another directory of professional counselors who claim commitment to family values
Here are some other recommended books and websites for rescuing troubled marriage:
- Divorce Busting, by Michelle Weiner-Davis. Click here for my review of it
- www.iceeft.com by Sue Johnson
This website has links to lots of other resources as well.