With the glimpse of daylight creeping into my office, I was starting my day as a Family Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist, sipping my coffee, reading through emails, and reviewing my calendar of scheduled appointments. To center my thoughts, I couldn't help but think of a potential client I spoke with in consultation the other day.
This timid but clearly bright 40-something-year-old reached out to me for help. She was feeling stuck and genuinely conflicted about whether she should end her 12-year marriage. After years of trying to show up as the wife she always wanted to be, the wife she envisioned when she was a young child watching fairytales grounded in Disney dreams, she felt deflated. She shared that she "loved" her husband, but that wasn't enough. She was unhappy and perplexed.
For some, this may sound like a familiar story. When we choose to get married, we are awash with feelings of hope, excitement, and love.
Love for this person we are marrying.
Love for the idea of being married and committing to one another till death do us part.
But what if love isn't enough? Can you possibly love someone but no longer want to be married to them?
In my experience as a Family Mediator and Certified Divorce Coach,
my answer is yes. In fact, it is a HELL YES! Lack of love is not a prerequisite for divorce. You do not need to hate your spouse to justify wanting to move on from your marriage. I actually believe ending a marriage when both partners still have some love for one another is the ideal way to divorce. But, this leaves people often feeling like my potential client… lost, confused, and stuck.
So what do you do?
The first and most crucial step in the process is understanding what you want, not necessarily what you don't want.
Getting a divorce is a big decision, especially when children are involved. If what you wish for can no longer be provided in your marriage with your spouse, the next most natural step would be to end the marriage.
In marriage, we choose someone else.
In divorce, we often choose ourselves.
Now, what does that mean?
Often in unhappy marriages, people share feelings of losing themselves. They have given everything they have to those that they love, their spouse and children. But when we give so much of ourselves away for other people's needs and wants, we are consistently emptying our own bucket to fill theirs. At some point, you may find your bucket completely empty. And when this happens, you may feel depleted of those shared goals, dreams, adventures, and interests that existed at the beginning of your marriage.
Recognizing that you need and want more is OK.
Acknowledging that the marriage is no longer fulfilling or meeting your needs is OK.
Recognizing the need to change something that is no longer working is OK.
Realizing that you and your spouse may no longer be suitable for each other… is OK.
Choosing yourself is not an act of selfishness; it is an act of honoring both yourself and your spouse. And if, in your process of choosing yourself, you decide to end your marriage, proceeding with a divorce from a loving place is the best way to be.