Questions from a Married Man Thinking of Separating by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press
Deciding whether or not to stay in a marriage is not only daunting, but the tormenting dilemma can feel hopeless, since both options – leaving or staying might seem depressing or wrong.
A time of complete uncertainty, confusion and second-guessing oneself, those thinking of separating have countless questions running through their minds, and often times no one to turn to for answers, mostly because the matter is so private. That’s why they sometimes turn to me – a divorced, single mom, and a dating and relationship columnist.
Here are four questions I received from a married man with two teenagers regarding his contemplation of divorce, followed by my answers:
Q: Is there ever a “right” time to do this (i.e. kids’ ages) or are all times bad? Every time I think I have a window to have “the conversation,” some issue crops up that would seem best addressed while a married couple. Or, am I simply afraid and making excuses?
A: First, here are what I’d consider the “wrong” times to ask for a divorce: the start of school, holidays, birthdays, graduations, or your anniversary. It is also wrong to ask for a divorce after a traumatic event that has affected you or your family, such as an illness, loss of a job or the death of a relative or close friend. These times will just magnify what could be a shocking, devastating conversation.
The best answer I can provide about the “right time” is that you will know in your heart that this conversation needs to take place. Bringing it up is brutal. It is scary and sad and almost surreal. Divorced people often say asking for the divorce was the most difficult part of the whole divorce process. There could be a sense of guilt involved, and the stress of not knowing how the spouse is going to react is beyond unnerving. Just remember that there is always going to be something happening in the household, whether you just found out your child drinks or your kid is applying to colleges or your nephew is getting married and you don’t want to spring your divorce on your family during the happy occasion. Life keeps going and it doesn’t really slow down. Furthermore, when the conversation takes place, things won’t be good, no matter what is going on.
The last thing I want to say in answer to this question is that issues with kids can still be addressed by a divorced couple in the same way they can as a married couple. How? The divorced couple must be willing to act in a selfless way by putting their personal feelings about their ex-spouse aside and co-parenting with that person as a team. It’s not easy, but staying on the same page when it comes to the kids, along with the willingness to communicate about the children, is the key to raising strong, healthy kids through a divorce.
Q: How does one balance the desire to do what’s best for yourself while maintaining the needs of and minimizing the pain caused to those you love (or at least still care about) by this decision?
A: This sounds like pure guilt, which I think is normal for those considering divorce. The answer is, you can let yourself be happy and take care of your family at the same time. In my opinion, the first step in achieving this is to look into mediation and collaborative divorce. Both are divorce processes that help foster a friendly, non-combative divorce settlement with a post-divorce plan that works for both parties and ultimately achieves the best results for the children.
Q: How does a concerned parent convince him or herself that every failure the kids will face in the future isn’t the direct result of the divorce?
A: This feels like you are punishing yourself for wanting a divorce. It is unproductive and unhealthy. News flash: your kids – like every kid – is going to have failures in life, from which they will hopefully learn and grow. Even kids with lifelong happily married parents will have failures. Additionally, the kids could have failures that are the result of you and your wife staying in an unhealthy and/or unhappy marriage. Kids pick up on everything. Just as you know you are unhappy, your kids know, too.
Q: Why should I assume I will find love again?
You should not assume that. All you can do is hope, have faith and engage in behaviors that attractive healthy, loving romantic relationships in your direction. People ask me all the time if I think they should get divorced. My answer is always the same. If you are getting divorced because you feel you can do better, you should not be getting divorced. If you want a divorce because you absolutely do not want to be in the relationship with your spouse any longer – even if it means you will be alone forever, then you are doing the right thing. I’m not saying you will be alone forever, but finding love after divorce should be thought of not as something expected, but rather as a gift, a bonus…(Click here to read the rest of the article, published today in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press editions.)
Like this article? Check out my blog post, “11 Things People Say To Justify Staying in an Unhappy Marriage.”