I wanted to write this because of my own personal experience in a long-term marriage (more than 30 years) and how, at a certain point, I decided I had to leave. To this day, I am so grateful to have found another solution.
In marriage -- in any relationship -- we experience difficult times. I offer these insights because I believe we will inevitably pay the piper, early on or further down the road. You can address issues at the early signs of trouble -- do something about it when they arise --, or wait until those issues are ingrained. I'm telling you, don't wait. What makes a viable marriage? I know when things got really tough, my reaction was to get out of Dodge. I never realized how many things -- from my upbringing to my beliefs -- had such a huge influence on my behavior and reactions.
About commitment and what it means to different people.
We cannot accomplish what we want unless we commit. Making a commitment involves dedicating yourself to something -- a person or a cause, for example. Before you make a commitment, think carefully, because a commitment obligates you to do something. A commitment is a choice. Some commitments are large, like marriage. Most of us, when we enter into a committed relationship, intend to be together for life. This was definitely my intent when I said, I do.
How easy should breaking that commitment be? What would it take to break that commitment? How do we decide whether to stick it out or not? Unhappiness is not a valid reason to break a commitment, it is an indication that there is work to be done.
While there is no way to really know the prognosis of an unhappy relationship, the following questions may help.
It is usually related to unmet expectations, requirements and needs.
Sometimes, and unrealistically, we expect our relationship to meet all of our needs. Happiness is really an inside job. What could be questioned at this point?
Are you really taking full responsibility? If you are feeling resentful or blaming your partner for how you feel, then you're not. Are you giving your power away by being reactive to what your partner says and does? If you knew that odds are that it will work out if you stick it out long enough, could you hang in there and take personal responsibility for your outcomes? This is what happened to me over many years, without my even realizing it.
Are you getting the support you need? Are you really using that support?
Are you and the children safe emotionally and physically? Commitment is NOT a reason to stay in an abusive relationship. EVER!
What is your true underlying commitment? If you're prepared to leave because you're unhappy, your commitment is to your happiness, and not to the relationship. There is a way to stay and be happy.
Be honest with yourself about the differences between your commitment and your attitude -- the difference between what you're saying and what you're doing.
Here are some research results on commitment and happiness:
2/3 of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later.
Unhappy spouses who divorced and remarried were no happier on average that those who stayed married.
Many happily married spouses have extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for some quite serious reasons including alcoholism, infidelity, emotional neglect, depression, illness and work reversal.
I am saying this to show you that, yes you can leave, you can get a divorce, but the same conflicts will eventually arise because when the honeymoon is over, you're still the same person whose issues were never resolved.
I would never advise anyone to stay in a horrible relationship. My question is, have you figured out what the problem is? To avoid divorce, many couples assume that their marriage must become happier, but it is equally as true that in order to get happier, unhappy couples must first avoid divorce. Finding the true cause of the unhappiness is critical in moving forward. This is also true for couples who truly want to build a solid relationship -- both parties must make a decision, in or out! Best to clarify that first!
I truly believed that I was unhappy because of my marriage, because my husband didn't know how to connect with me. He did so many things that triggered me, that upset me. This mostly started after the children were born. Things were good until they weren't. I had to learn why I was triggered so much, what was really the underlying issues of my anger; there was a lot to uncover, which blew my mind.
I learned that I had given up my power, my voice. I didn't know how to set boundaries, and I suffered from something I like to call a disease to please -- it was more important for me to make sure everyone else was happy. I took the back seat.
I was dealing with limiting beliefs (See my blog INSERT HOT LINK):
respecting your elders (Don't talk back.)
subjugating emotions (In a bad mood? Rejoin us when you can put a smile on your face.)
following the rules (There's no debate.)
These limiting beliefs prevented me from standing up for myself. Once I learned how to set boundaries and started taking 100% responsibility for my actions, I began to feel different -- I sometimes even felt good. I liked it.
You see, I didn't know how to communicate what I needed. I felt guilty about suggesting we do what I wanted, if what I wanted conflicted with what my husband wanted. Instead of figuring out a solution that worked for both of us, I caved and stayed home. Over many years, I became very unhappy, but didn't understand why. I had a great life, I just didn't know how to be happy. I didn't need or want for anything. I just couldn't deal with the unhappiness. I felt the solution was to leave. We actually decided it would be best to split up. We made one last promise to each other: we would do everything we could to make sure it was the right decision.
Even though I was sad, disconnected and depressed, I knew I still loved my husband. I didn't always like him, and felt a lot of anger and resentment, but in my heart I knew he truly was my soulmate. I was stuck. Trying to decide what to do for yourself is one thing, but what about the kids? What is best for them?
Well, it took practice and patience, a lot of both, but I can honestly say it was so worth the effort and the commitment, on both our sides. Even though I had to undertake this personal growth journey on my own, I trusted the process. Every time I shifted and learned a new and better way to express myself, my husband shifted. It wasn't easy by any stretch, but with practice and time, it got easier. I feel like a totally different person. I am honestly happy with who I am as a person, a woman, a mom and a wife. I sometimes find myself going back to my old ways but, fortunately, I have and use the skills, techniques and strategies I learned to change the old behavior patterns that caused me so much grief.
I became an Empowerment Life Coach so that I could help women reach a level of happiness that I know exists. I personally feel pure joy on most days. I also feel sadness and frustration and, very rarely, anger. If and when it does happen, I know how to deal with it.
My hope is that if you are going through a difficult time in your relationship, you will seek out a life coach, a counselor, someone with the expertise and the experience to guide you through a life-altering journey of discovery.
Your life your way. Take back control. If you are meant to be and stay together, that will be the outcome. No one should ever suffer in a silence of unhappiness because they are afraid to speak up.
From my heart to yours.