Nothing is worse than being stuck in an unhappy marriage. You don’t know whether you should hang in there and keep trying to make things work, or whether it’s time to give up the ghost and get a divorce.
The truth is, you really don’t want a divorce.
But you don’t want to live the way you are living now either. You have gone over and over this a thousand times in your head, but still, you can’t decide.
You are stuck.
Being Stuck Sucks
Being stuck in an unhappy marriage is a lousy place to be. One minute you are completely convinced you want a divorce. You are done! You want out! Your marriage is killing you and you know it.
But then you think about what getting a divorce will mean. You think about your kids. You’re worried about trying to make it on your own financially. You think about maybe having to spend the rest of your life alone. (After all, who would want you? You’re damaged goods!) Suddenly, leaving your spouse doesn’t seem like such a fabulous idea.
So you stay. You’re not happy. But you stay. You want to leave. But you don’t. You want a divorce, but the price of getting a divorce seems way too high. Yet, the price of staying married and miserable … How much is that costing you?
Why People Get Stuck in an Unhappy Marriage
People become unhappy in their marriages for a lot of different reasons. But people get stuck in unhappy marriages for one reason: their beliefs. They want to do one thing (leave) but their beliefs tell them they have to stay.
For example, here are the most common beliefs that will keep you stuck in an unhappy marriage:
1. Marriage is supposed to be forever.
Leaving my marriage would make me a liar, a quitter, a failure and a fraud.
2. No marriage is perfect.
So what if my spouse is an alcoholic, a gambler, a drug addict, or abusive? I should just “tough it out.”
3. Staying married is best for the kids.
It’s better to fight like cats and dogs in front of the kids, than to make them come from a “broken” family.
4. I made a vow years ago and I can’t go back on my word.
Even if I was naive and made a mistake, or if things have changed and my marriage is toxic, I can’t leave. Ever.
5. Divorce is against my religion.
No matter how miserable, unhealthy, or dangerous my marriage may have become, I have to stay married because God said so. (And, by the way, God loves me.)
6. If I just work at this harder, everything will be okay.
Even though I may have been working on my marriage for years (or decades!) if I just try a little bit harder, or do a little bit more, maybe things will change.
7. If I get divorced, what will people think?
Everyone thinks we are the perfect couple. How can I disappoint them?
8. I don’t know if I can survive on my own.
We are not millionaires! If we get divorced I’m going to have to get a better job, or live on even less. I don’t know if I can do that.
9. If we get divorced, I won’t be able to see my kids every day any more.
Sure, my kids are in school, and have activities. Of course, I work, too. So I am not focused on my kids 100% of the time right now. But, I still don’t want to give up my time with them!
10. I can make this work!
So what if my spouse checked out of the marriage years ago? It doesn’t matter if my spouse refuses to work on (or admit) we have problems. I have superhuman powers! If I just don’t give up, I can fix this!
How to Get Unstuck
If you believe any of the things written above, getting divorced is not going to seem possible for you. That’s why you feel so stuck. Violating your beliefs just doesn’t seem like an option. The truth is – it’s not.
If you firmly believe that marriage should last forever under any and all circumstances, then no matter how miserable you are, you are going to have a hard time wrapping your head around the idea of getting a divorce. Getting divorced would make you “bad” and “wrong” in your own eyes. You just can’t do it.
They real key to getting unstuck lies not in trying to do something you feel is fundamentally wrong, or in trying to be something you are not. The real key to freeing yourself from a seemingly impossible marital situation is to change the way you are thinking about it. In other words, you have to change your beliefs.
Now, you may be thinking, “Whoa! Wait a minute! I can’t just change my beliefs. They are the truth!” But stop for a moment and ask yourself, are they? Are they really “The Truth?” Really? How do you know?
The Truth About Your Beliefs
The “truth” is that you were not born with a set of “beliefs” that were imprinted in your head like the ten commandments. Someone (most likely your parents and your family) told you what to believe. They said, “this is what is right.” When they did, you believed them without question.
For awhile, probably most of your life, believing what your family taught you made sense. It served you. It gave you standards to live by, and bonded you with your family. Your family all believed the same things. But, then you grew up. Life changed. Society changed. You changed. Yet, your beliefs have stayed exactly the same.
As revolutionary as it may sound, now may be the time to open your mind. If your old beliefs are keeping you stuck in an unhappy marriage, it may be time to question your beliefs.
How do you do that? Start by asking yourself, “Is this belief true? Is it always, absolutely true in every circumstance? Or, can it be true in some situations, and not true in others?”
If questioning your beliefs seems unthinkable, ask yourself why you feel that way. After all, if what you believe is “True” with a capital “T,” then questioning it shouldn’t be a problem. The “Truth” will be true whether you question it or not.
On the other hand, if what you believed to be “True” is only true sometimes, if at all, then maybe it’s not as true as you thought.
The other question you might also want to ask when you are examining your beliefs is: “Is this belief helping me, or is it hurting me?” If it is hurting you, why are you hanging on to it? Unless you enjoy suffering, it may be time to re-examine your old beliefs.
How to Decide if You Want a Divorce
Deciding whether you truly want a divorce or not is a huge decision. Examining a belief system that is keeping you stuck in an unhappy marriage is an important first step in making that decision.
Of course, examining your belief system is just the first step in your decision-making process. You will need to examine much more than just your beliefs before you are ready to finally decide whether to stay in your marriage or leave it. But, if you start by examining your beliefs, you may give yourself the ability to look at other parts of your life, too. If nothing else, seeing your beliefs in a new way may give you the power to wiggle a little bit out of the mud, and get yourself unstuck.
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