In an estimated eighty percent of cases, the decision to divorce is made unilaterally. I’m not sure how that is measured but it would mean that in the rest of divorces the spouses presumably come to a mutual agreement that ending their marriage is the best option. That agreement doesn’t necessarily mean that the decision is made quickly, lightly or without pain. Often times it can still entail lengthy discussions and negotiations.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Stacey. Stacey and her husband were married for over twenty years and their divorce was a long time in the works. Here’s Stacey:
It had been coming for a long time, and I didn’t know how to let go.
I had been really locked into not abandoning and not being happy. I never stopped loving my husband. I just wasn’t in love with him. I don’t know that I have it in me to not love people and I’m happy that way.
Our marriage was not fulfilling. We were very good with our son. We both really loved him and I really wanted to be a family. I really wanted to be a family. And we laughed and cooked together and that stuff was good.
I’m guessing, but I think it took me about five to seven years to really accept it was over. It just all goes so fast and I still didn’t get the clarity that it was over until my husband kind of sold me on it. I was like, “You’re going to sell me on this?”
He said, “We’re still both young and we should go and try to find people that make us happier.” It wasn’t that I thought that wasn’t logical. It was that he kept selling me on ideas that weren’t good for me.
I don’t know that he was wrong, but I just knew it was hard. It’s still scary, but I don’t live with somebody else’s anger now, although I had that in my son. I still am fearful, which I was in the marriage about money all the time, but I’m not walking on eggshells which I think I took with me everywhere I went.
Stacey has really got me thinking about when spouses might seek mutual agreement. I think some people may have more of a need to feel that the decision was consensual and that without their spouse’s “permission,” as Stacey puts it, it’s very hard, even impossible for them to take the definitive step and say, “I want a divorce.” I think having your spouse’s agreement helps with accepting the end of the marriage, and maybe reduces feelings of guilt.
Building consensus would certainly take time but I’m not sure that’s different from a unilateral decision – I was the one who really decided our marriage was over and it took me well over a year of my own introspection to come to that conclusion. There then followed many months of discussion with my spouse. At the end of all that he was still reluctant.
I think that some people make the decision unilaterally because they can’t face the pain and hurt that comes with discussing the end of their marriage with their spouse or because they feel that discussing whether divorce is right for you with your spouse would be unproductive. That’s how I felt. I felt it would be more helpful to discuss the question with a therapist and to get clarity on what I felt was best for me and why.
So I think it has more to do with decision-making styles and handling conflict than the underlying causes of divorce. What do you think? How did you and your STBX handle the decision to divorce?
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