How do you know whether it’s time to stay or leave? There are situations where it’s very clear that it’s time for a divorce. In others, the decision is made for one spouse by the other. But what about when you feel that your marriage isn’t awful, but it’s also not great. So how do you know then?
This week divorce coach and recovering divorce attorney Karen Covey joins Mandy to discuss the good-enough marriage.
In This Episode
How do you decide if your marriage is good enough to stay or bad enough to leave?
Many people have a checklist in their minds of things that indicate their marriage is bad and once all or some boxes have been checked, they’re out.
Karen points out that these situations change from day to day, one day everything will be going badly and the next day everything is OK. It’s inconsistent.
Whether your marriage is good enough or bad enough is a personal decision but you must have a clear vision for yourself of what your marriage looks like and what can make you happy.
You can’t use another couple as a comparison for whether your marriage is good enough or not.
Karen says that her almost 30 years of experience as a divorce coach has shown her that absolutely no one knows what’s happening in a marriage besides the two people involved. You cannot compare yourself to another couple. It’s a recipe for failure.
If you aren’t happy with your marriage, you need to look at it from the inside rather than looking for an outside comparison.
The stock market analogy – You have an investment that’s underperforming but you’ve held it for a long time. If you sell it now, you’ll realize a loss whereas if you stay invested, it might get better.
Karen: Yes, it might get better but that won’t happen on its own. In order for the marriage to improve, you need to look at it and see where it needs work. Otherwise, it will remain the same.
A long marriage doesn’t equal a good marriage.
Aversion to Loss – this concept means that people are more likely to work harder to hold on to something that they have than they would work to get something that they don’t have.
Karen: this is the brain’s way of keeping itself safe. A person will hold on to a marriage, even if they are unhappy, for fear of ending the marriage and facing the unknown. The only way to break this is to be willing to leave safety to pursue happiness.
“Everything you want is on the other side of your fear”
This doesn’t mean that you need to get a divorce but it does mean that at some point you need to say to yourself (and probably your spouse) “This isn’t what I want. Can we work to make this better?”
What’s Karen’s favorite strategy for overcoming the fear of ending a marriage?
Karen: Gathering knowledge. The fear is the fear of the unknown so gaining as much knowledge as you can will help you prepare yourself for when your marriage ends.
Mandy: When a client schedules a consultation, that is them overcoming the biggest hurdle.
Gathering knowledge and speaking with a divorce professional does not mean you are definitively getting a divorce. Rather, you’re looking at the option to decide if that’s what’s going to work for you.
Is it bad to stay in a marriage for financial reasons?
Karen: We need to remove the judgement from this question. Marriage hasn’t always been about love, in fact for a long time it was actually a financial agreement. When making a decision about your marriage, you must take your finances into account – if you are going to end up living on the street eating cat food 10 years down the line because your financial situation at the time of your divorce wasn’t great, it’s probably not the right choice.
What do you recommend your clients do when there is an issue of timing? Such as having your last kid at home before they finish high school.
Karen: This comes down to a question of capacity. Do you have enough capacity with everything else going on in your life to take on a divorce? It’s a massive undertaking, equal to a second full-time job, so if your kids or your job or a family member needs you for something, maybe now is not the right time to divorce.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean you need to be a victim to your own unhappiness. You can try to carve out some time for yourself to consider what would make you happy and try to achieve that. You can also do some forward planning and take actions that will help you when you have less on your plate and can take on a divorce.
The most important thing is to not judge yourself harshly when it comes to deciding whether or not your marriage is “good enough”. Be kind to yourself.
Karen Covey is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Arbitrator, and Collaborative Divorce Professional. She provides divorce and decision coaching to busy professionals and business owners who want to make clear, confident decisions during one of the toughest yet most sensitive times in their life. For those clients who decide to divorce, Karen helps them navigate through the divorce process with less conflict, expense, and damage to themselves and their children. Karen is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally. She is also the creator of the online divorce program, The Divorce Road Map 2.0.
The Worthy Blog is a place for inspiration, insight, and advice for all things surrounding life's greatest transitions - divorce, losing a loved one, retirement, and so much more. You can find us on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook.