Whether you’re the person leaving or the one being left, few of us are prepared for the challenge and you have to figure out how to deal with the end of your marriage.
Getting a legal assessment and figuring out the financial implications of a divorce are important and they can help you assess how your lifestyle will be impacted. Assessing your relationship however is much harder. You can’t put that on a spreadsheet and there are pluses that get cancelled out, things might change and things may not. On top of all that, your judgement may be clouded.
You want to be intentional and thoughtful and you don’t want to make a wrong decision but how do you that? How do you know when you need to be the one to make the decision? How do you know whether to fight for your marriage or to accept your spouse’s decision?
Joining me for this Conversation are Elaine and Joe Foster, co-authors of the divorce workbook, I Wish I Knew This Before My Divorce: Ending The Battle Between Holding On and Letting Go. Listen in below or keeping reading ….
The Difference Between Leaving And Being Left
Many times, the person being left is surprised by the decision whereas the person who’s leaving has had some time to think through the decision and to work through the grieving process that the person being left hasn’t even started.
“As far as the person who’s leaving, they are in some type of pain in this relationship and they just want out,” said Joe Foster. “The person who is being left, they want to keep trying, they want to hang in there and see where this would go.”
Even if the relationship is troubled, the person who is being left can still be surprised by the decision which is difficult for the person who is leaving to understand.
Elaine Foster stresses how important it is for the leaver not to make any snap decisions based on anger or resentment. “What you are doing is making an emotional decision instead of trying to climb up this mountain so you can get a better perspective on what you’re dealing with,” said Elaine Foster.
Conduct A Relationship Autopsy
Elaine Foster has developed a “marital autopsy.” She created it as a result of her work in the military where she did evaluations of people who had committed suicide to determine if the person really had taken their own life and if they did, why. Then when she was going through her own divorce she was trying to desperately figure out why it was happening. She thought she and her husband could work through anything and then suddenly the ground fell out from under her feet.
“Emotions are important and we need to listen to them. We need to respect them,” said Elaine Foster. “But at the same time if you are trying to make a decision as weighty as whether to leave or try to work through the problems that lead to divorce, then I think it’s important to get a sense of if these variables are going to change.”
It’s Rarely A Mutual Decision
The Fosters agree that the decision to end a marriage is rarely a mutual decision. In most cases, it is a unilateral decision. Chances are that the person who’s leaving has had a long time to think about their decision. They’ve run the scenario through their head many times. It’s not a rash decision.
“In an ideal world you should be open with your spouse and be talking to them about what you’re thinking but that’s not reality,” said Joe Foster. “People thinking about this, don’t share it with their spouse because they’re afraid how their spouse is going to react. ”
By the time the leaver communicates their decision, in Elaine Foster’s experience, they are rarely interested in therapy because they have made their decision. She would typically see the person being left.
“They’re left with their surprise, holding the bag and feeling very destitute and helpless to change the situation because no matter what arguments they come up with to try to convince their spouse to just give it one more try, it seems to always fall short or flat in some way,” said Elaine Foster.
What You Resist Persists
One of the messages in the Fosters’ book is, ‘ What you resist persists.”
Elaine Foster explains it using her own experience as an example. “I was a psychologist in the military and I thought I had it all together. My life, in my mind was perfect. I had two children, I had a career, I had a very good husband. So I thought I’m set for life. When my husband said, “No mas,” I was faced with a decision and I’ve always been a fighter.”
She saw her husband’s decision as her failure and as a psychologist who was supposed to be an expert she set out to figure out how to change her husband’s mind. She was going to fight for her marriage.
“I felt that the marriage had to be saved,” said Elaine Foster. “I felt my husband belonged to me. When we made our wedding vows he became mine and I became his and we became one. The idea that my husband could walk away from me, I couldn’t accept it.”
So Elaine responded by doing things with the expectation that he would turn around and play the role of husband again but what she ultimately found was that she made the end of the marriage more inevitable.
The resistance comes with not being able to accept what is happening and that, the Fosters believe leads to suffering.
“The suffering ends when you realize what is happening and you accept what is happening,” said Joe Foster. “You have control over certain parts of this marriage and this divorce and your spouse has control over certain parts.”
Central to this is recognizing that your spouse has a right to do whatever they want to do and you have the right to express your feelings and your emotions and to let them know that you don’t like what they are doing. But at some point, you have to accept that you’re not in complete control.
It’s The Relationship That’s Ending
The Fosters like to challenge people’s perspectives on divorce and one challenge they offer is to look at this as the person who is leaving is leaving the relationship rather than you. The relationship is its own entity. It’s the relationship that ties two people together. This offers a way to disconnect from what is happening and to make it less personal.
“Whatever happens from this moment forward even if you and your spouse do get back together, if you have a friendly relationship after divorce, it is a new relationship,” said Joe Foster. “The old relationship is dead.”
Is Your STBX Still Connected To You?
Elaine Foster looks for ways to cushion the blow of divorce for her clients and one of those ways is to help her clients identify that their STBX, even though they’ve announced their desire to end the marriage, is still connected to them.
She uses the quote from Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel to emphasize this: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
“The individual is hooked by their angry, hateful feeling toward their partner and because they are still hooked in that way, it means they are still connected,” said Elaine. “That really does make a difference because most of the time they’re being made to feel like there is no connection.”
If you’re interested in evaluating the dynamics in your marriage and assessing if they are likely to change, then talking with a licensed therapist or counselor, like the ones at BetterHelp may help.
My guests for this Conversation were Elaine and Joe Foster, co-authors of the divorce workbook, I Wish I Knew This Before My Divorce: Ending The Battle Between Holding On and Letting Go. The workbook includes a “marital autopsy” designed to help evaluate the status of a marriage and to be used as a tool in deciding whether to end the relationship. Follow them on Twitter as @bAnxietyFree and on Facebook.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of BetterHelp which means that if you decide to use their service I may receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to yourself.