In an estimated eighty percent of divorces, the decision to end the marriage is made unilaterally. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the decision is mutual in the remaining twenty percent of cases. Sometimes, who ultimately makes the decision just isn’t that clear.
My current guest, Donna F and her husband had talked about divorce during their first year of marriage when she wanted children and he decided they shouldn’t. They stayed together, had a child together but about six years into the marriage, divorce again became a question. Here’s Donna:
I was going to school to get a Special Ed degree and I ended up dropping out. When I had my daughter I was like, “Oh, I just want to be home with her,” and I was looking at my schedule, realizing that wasn’t going to happen. I started a business instead, a network marketing company, and the business was not successful but it allowed me to be home and have a lot more flexibility.
And during that business I did a lot of personal growth. One of the things I did was a month-long daily Tony Robbins program. One of the first questions was, “If you made a decision in your life today, if you actually took action, how would it change your life?”
It was about really not being in that marriage.
During the process of deciding if I was going to get divorced, I did my own therapy and made sure that I wasn’t getting divorced for the wrong reasons. I talked to other people. I didn’t just make the decision on my own. I really worked through, “Is this the right thing for me and my daughter,” and it was.
I knew that this was the right move; again, because of that 30-day program. It’s life changing, because you look at things that you want to change. You take actions. You look at the challenges you have when you try to make some big changes in your life. You look at what it’s going to bring you and what it’s going to cost you and you work through all of that. It was a pretty intense program. There were six of us doing it and we partnered up and then we met once a week on the phone, just to talk about what the process was like. Everyone’s issues and everyone’s life was going in different directions, so it wasn’t like this was a divorce group.
My ex blames the divorce on the people I was with but it really was that work I did, that month of taking a look at my life, what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be.
It was interesting, because I really wasn’t the one who ended it. He came home and wrote me a note one day and said we were done.
Not even a conversation.
It was a piece of paper.
I still have PTSD about getting this divorce information on the piece of yellow paper.
It’s interesting here that even though Donna had concluded that divorce would be the best decision, she was still shocked to get the note from her husband.
Aside from the finality of it, I think the lasting PTSD may come from differences in personal communication styles especially when it comes to conflict or disagreement situations. Some people prefer face-to-face, some prefer email, some prefer phone and I think when upsetting information is communicated to you in a style with which you’re not comfortable, or not in the way you would do it, then it’s shocking. It comes as a double-whammy.
Another of my interviewees, Lorraine came home one day to learn that her husband had left her via an eight-word note. She had loved being married and was devastated. Judy, who had been married for twenty-eight years came home to find her husband had moved out, no telling her, no note no nothing.
Conversely, I’ve also interviewed women who left a note because it was the only way they could find the courage to leave. IronSpine Sally knew if she tried to have a face-to-face conversation he would either talk her into staying or convince her it was all her, that there was nothing for him to work on.
I think there are a couple of takeaways from this …. first, if you have decided your marriage is over, then you have to figure out what way works for you to communicate that. It would be ideal if you could consider how to do it respectfully and considerately but, if you can’t do it face-to-face for whatever reason, then you have to figure out how you can do it.
Next, if you’re on the receiving end of the message, I think it might be helpful to separate the message from how it was delivered and to work at processing those two issues separately. Figuring out why your spouse chose to tell you in the way they did, may help you see a side of your spouse you hadn’t been conscious of before and that understanding may help you with your divorce negotiations and then with your own personal growth.
How about you? How did you tell your spouse you wanted a divorce or did they tell you? Do you think separating how the message is delivered from the message itself is helpful?
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