When you finally open up and tell friends and family the truth about your marriage, one reaction you may get is people asking, “Why did you stay in your marriage?” They might also add, ” … for so long?” particularly if you say your marriage has been troubled from the start or for many years.
Even though Wendi had doubts about her marriage on her wedding day, her marriage lasted about 22 years. She stayed in part because she didn’t trust her own judgment. Here’s Wendi:
Our early marriage was more setting up the medical practice and setting up house and having a baby. A lot of things I didn’t notice because I was so preoccupied with life might’ve been happening.
Sometimes people talk to older family friends that are experienced and happily married and they give you really bad advice. Or you have an impression of what’s happening and they’re like, “No, no, you’re wrong.” To give an example, I had day surgery and this was before I had kids. I had been vomiting and I asked my husband to call my mother and stepmother to tell them how I was doing post-op. And he said, “What do you think I am, your slave?” and he refused to do that. I was pale and shaky and had to make two phone calls.
When I talked to an older friend, she’s happily married, she said, “Oh, it’s just like the Cobbler’s wife. She has no shoes.” She was seeing it as I’m a doctor’s wife and he didn’t want to make a call about surgery. That wasn’t it at all but because of what my friend said I doubted my own feelings.
I could’ve gotten divorced before we had kids. I’m not blaming people but when people are not validating your feelings and telling you you’re wrong, you think, “Oh, well maybe I am.”
Now with wisdom and you go through life and you know your feelings are valid and you know how you feel and you don’t let people explain them away like I did when I had just turned 30 and still was trusting like, “Oh, maybe you’re right.”
The Divorce Coach Says
It’s only natural to look back and try to understand why you stayed and it is an important part of your healing and recovery but not if it’s done with blame, judgment and recrimination. Couple this with an understanding of why you chose to be with your spouse and you’ll move towards an acceptance of your marriage and of your divorce and that will move you away from bitterness and regret.
So how do you understand why you stayed?
First look for all the practical reasons. Like Wendi, you may have been working full-time and juggling young children. Your physical and mental energies are directed to managing these logistics
Next, understand your ethical/moral reasons. This is often simply a case of not even considering divorce as an option. You’re looking to see how to make the marriage work not if you should stay in the marriage.
My third step is to assess your own inter-personal skills and level of self-confidence. Wendi didn’t have the confidence to trust her own judgment. You may have an aversion to conflict and not be well-equipped to handle disagreements.
The last step is consider your perception of what being divorced would be like. Assumptions such as insufficient financial resources or restricted parenting time can make divorce so unattractive that staying in a troubled marriage is seen as the best alternative.
What I’ve given you here is a very simple outline. Working through this is more complicated and if you’re interested in doing this I would encourage you to work with a professional who will challenge you with questions you maybe wouldn’t ask yourself. Please contact me if you’d like to find out about working with me and do take advantage of my free 30-minute consult.
Wendi Schuller is the author of The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce. Read more about Wendi’s book and follow her blog at her website.
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