Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Tear Your Family in Half
A recent report showed that since the recession, the divorce rate in America is the lowest it’s been in 30 years. Divorce is an expensive business and maintaining two households can get steep. So instead, couples are taking a closer look at their relationship flaws and asking themselves if their marriage is “good enough” to stay. If you are in that situation, here are five questions to ask yourself before you tear your family in half.
1. Am I leaving because of boredom or excitement about meeting someone new?
You should know your notions about marriage are up against a media that spins fantasies about youth, beauty, money and sex. If you believe in the family life created by TV and movies, all partners stay fit, youthful, happy and rich. Unfortunately in real life many partners grow chubby, bald, fall into depressions, and lose money in a recession. Sexual energy gets diverted to nesting energy and the excitement of your youthful love affair morphs into a the drudgery of married life. If you answered “yes” to this question, the answer isn’t a new partner, it’s a new system. And you have the power to charge your “good” relationship.
2. Am I leaving because it is finally time that I stop being an enabler of his/her substance abuse, alcoholism, or anger management problem?
If you answered “yes” to this question, then this is a good reason to leave. Families with violence and substance abuse do serious damage to children and spouses, so stop walking on egg shells and make a strong, safe exit plan.
3. Have we sought couples therapy and I have sought individual therapy and really tried everything possible to fix the relationship?
If your answer is “no” then you have to exhaust all possibilities before you bail. It’s only fair to your partner and kids. Even if your husband or wife won’t attend therapy, you can get some great insights into your role in the relationship system by going to individual therapy. For instance, if either of you is dismissive, withdraws, or stonewalls you better learn some conflict resolution skills before you take the dysfunction to a new relationship.
4. Am I putting my kids emotional needs first?
This is a trick question. Our current American culture focusses on individual rights and freedoms over “the group good,” so you will often hear people tell you that it is not right to stay in a marriage for the kids’ sake. I don’t always agree with this. If the kids have close relationships with both parents and there are no substance abuse problems or domestic violence issues, then you owe it to your kids to model a healthy, fulfilling relationship for them. Hopefully that means with their other parent. When people say to me that my kids happiness shouldn’t be more important than my happiness, I correct them and say, “My children’s happiness IS my happiness.”
5. Have I really researched and do I understand the financial, social, and family consequences of single parenthood?
Single parenthood is no cake walk. The financial stress alone can drive one to drink. Then there is the challenge of raising kids who are angry about their parent’s split, especially boys who can really use a man’s strength to help them control their physical impulses. The inconsistency of an EX-spouse who goes MIA just when you really need childcare. Add to that the loneliness where sometimes days go by without any adult contact except for the Mom’s at school drop off. Not to mention, the problem with romance and the tedious business of sifting through the MILF Hunters or Gold Diggers to find a good partner, all the while protecting your children from your heart breaks. Trust me, this life-style is not for the feint of heart.
So, think long and hard before you make the leap out of a salvageable relationship. The old adage that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence is particularly true here, yet a family with serious dangers is also not healthy for children.