Maybe it’s because I’m a family mediator, but I’m often asked how to know when to get a divorce or some variation of that theme. If you’re reading this, you have probably asked yourself that question at least once and maybe countless times. It’s so disorienting, that people turn to Google for the answer. Type in “how to know when to get” in your search bar and the rest of the sentence pops up at top of the list. From personal experience I know that even asking it in the quiet of our own minds shakes our most fundamental beliefs about our sense of self. I felt deep shame when the Big D encroached in my thinking; shame stemming from how others might see me and how I might hurt people, followed closely by anticipated guilt about how it would impact my children if I followed that whisper of an idea to its natural conclusion.
So I took no action for a painfully long time. I talked myself into making my marriage work to avoid the shame and guilt. I denied, hid, numbed myself and worked extra hard to be the type of woman who could make it work. In the end, I gave up and told my husband I wanted a divorce. Once I did I felt immense and immediate relief, but the guilt persisted for some time. For several months, I routinely flogged myself with a psychological cat-o-nine-tails for damaging my precious children. I figured I screwed up on the one duty in life I owned: to raise healthy, strong children.
Suffice to say, a lot went down from that point until this: separation, divorce, decrease of flogging, dating, amazing clients and friends teaching me lessons, new partner, new home, new family. I’ve seen my children flourish, stumble, and flourish more strongly. I’ve let go of the idea that I screwed them up and along with it the notion that I had much control in the first place.
When people ask me whether they should get divorced, or how to know when it’s time, I have no answer. There’s nothing in my personal makeup or professional background that allows me to comfortably tell another person what to do or what is “right”. I’ve watched friends revive what appeared to be DOA marriages go on to deepen their love and others blossom after the release of divorce.
The only thing I can offer with some certainty is that we never know the full outcome of our actions. When we think something is going to be great, it probably comes with an unintended and unwelcome element, and when we think something is awful, it likely comes with a monumental silver lining. I find it helpful to assume that my logical brain can only anticipate about 5% of any future outcome. What’s more, change keeps happening so don’t get too attached to this reality as it will change again soon.
Credit for this post goes to my teen-aged step-daughter who gave thanks this holiday for the hard times in her past that provided her this moment in which she has two families to love and two families that love her.