I’m sorry I can’t tell you more than that and give credit where credit is due. When people are considering divorce they often say arrogant things like “The kids will be fine.” This is insulting to the children on the one hand and total self-absorbed on the part of the person saying it. Children go from the security of one home to being totally insecure with nowhere to call home. They no sooner get settled and then they have to move again. This gets old very quickly. Look at it through her eyes….
Careful. Divorce seems like the easy solution, but it creates a whole new set of problems on top of the ones we’ve got and no one’s learned anything. You say, to justify divorce, “I don’t want my kids thinking fighting like this is normal” and then you divorce and teach your kids there’s no way you can work things out and to run from your problems. Then you marry someone else and you still hadn’t learned to work through your problems and the communication issues start up again. Oh, and your new spouse can’t stand your kids. And you only see your kids half the time. And they don’t want to come home (What’s home? Your house or your X’s? Neither.). Great. Either way we’ve got a bunch of people losing.
Most of us didn’t grow up learning how to handle negative emotion. Either mom and dad fought all the time, or they never discussed anything of substance or one person dominated and the other shut down. Those are the three major patterns that don’t work and all of them lead to hurt in the home and often to eventual divorce. Maybe it’d be better to figure out the one way, the only way that really leads to marital contentment and that would be for both parties to be able to say what they need to say without animosity and where both parties feel like they are being heard.
‘Cuz here’s the deal: Neither of you are dumb! If one of you was dumb, you wouldn’t have gotten married. The whole advantage of marriage (well one of them at least) is two heads are better than one. We’ve got a built in checks and balance system here. You don’t know everything. Your spouse doesn’t know everything. So you compare notes. Then you make a decision based on your collective wisdom.
You say you can’t do that? That’s where we come in.
But hang on a second here: Sometimes it’s not just a question of technique or personality or style or gender difference. Sometimes there’s an elephant in the room. Sometimes there’s unresolved hurt or ongoing hurt lurking in the corner driving the anger. Sometimes there’s hurt from the past before the two of you got together that keeps rising to the surface. Sometimes the couple doesn’t spend any time together so when they do they have a chip on their shoulder because they are lonely and resentful they are on the back burner. Sometimes the couple isn’t connecting sexually and the indifference that creates is driving sour moods. Sometimes a person is too committed to work or their children or a hobby or another friend or the church or a cause or exercising or video games or that stupid phone or Facebook or ? leaves the other spouse feeling they are in last place and you know what? They’re sick of playing second fiddle. Sometimes both of them are just flat out selfish! Sometimes both of them think or one of them does, at least, that we can’t disagree and if we disagree we have to talk until we agree or we wear each other out, and then, of course, one of them will have to give up their position to make peace and then we have a loser and if one of us loses we both lose because we are in this together. Sometimes a really bad habit like porn or alcohol or drugs or gambling or ? is driving the anger. Sometimes fighting is just a stupid bad habit and neither of them know any better! Sometimes the issue we’re fighting about isn’t even the issue and there’s something else entirely going on! YIKES!
These are all things we can work on. You can’t fight in my office! The calmness and respect actually changes people! If we can be calm in Bing’s office, maybe we could do this at home?! This is what we do. Fighting isn’t the way to go. Divorce only adds to your problems and freezes any hope of rising above your problems and learning from your mistakes and becoming better people.
Finding a way to resolve your differences without bodies in the ditch would be a better route.
Some folk come to see me too late to save things. It’s a pretty crazy time. You have no say. Your spouse is going to do what your spouse is going to do. Her mind is made up. He won’t listen to reason. You plead. You cry. You get angry. You yell. You stomp around. You quietly acquiesce. You give up. You withdraw. You try with resolve. You want to tell everyone. You may even try to get your family members, kids, parents, friends, on your side. You try being angry. You try being nice. You try to do those things your spouse complained you’d never do.
You feel like you are going crazy. You feel alone. You feel guilty for the failure. The failure of it all haunts you. Your mind becomes a put-down machine, nagging you for your ineptitude, your short-sightedness, your selfishness, your inability to do anything. You feel guilty for feeling guilty.
You panic. You could easily do something stupid. You may even do something stupid. You may do a lot of stupid things. Maybe that’s why your spouse is leaving you. Old habits die hard. You quit doing stupid things. It doesn’t matter. You spouse says it’s too little too late. It’s seems fake.
And the pain. The pain doesn’t seem to go away. Most couples hurt each other more during the divorce process itself than they ever did while they were married. You can’t split children. You can’t split a dream. You can’t split a future. You can’t split a life together. So everything hurts. Everything. Everything said or not said. Ill-will is assumed and imputed. Whatever you do is wrong. Whatever you do or say is used against you to beat you up.
And then there’s those moments when your spouse is nice to you and you start to be hopeful again. Back and forth. On and off. Up and down. And then, BOOM! Cold as ice. You get more papers from your spouse’s attorney. The cold stare. The indifference. The selfishness. How could anyone be so cold? How could I not have seen this coming? How did I end up with a person who would rip out my heart so willingly, even gleefully?
Here’s the deal: When you go through a divorce you enter the land of craziness, loneliness and failure. You can’t really complain to anyone: family, friends, you children. You don’t want to drive them away, but you need to talk things through so you keep your bearings and make wise decisions going forward. We’re not lawyers, but we’ve seen these kinds of things numerous times and can help you through the process emotionally. We can be a sounding board. We can be someone objective. Nonjudgmental. Encouraging. Supportive. A little reality check. A little reassurance.
And, you never know. There might be an advantage having someone give you a different perspective, a different way of doing or thinking things. You can use this as an opportunity to grow and change and become a better person. Sometimes things even turn around. Not everyone who files or threatens divorce actually ends up divorcing. And if both end up wanting to work things out we know the things that have to take place in order to reconcile: to rebuild commitment and trust. To reduce fighting and increase meaningful communication. To reconnect. To heal and forgive.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to help many of these folks regain their trust and actually discover a wonderful marriage. It ain’t easy, but it can be done. The road to healing is littered with minefields, though, and things can easily blow up if we aren’t careful. It’s hard to explain in a few paragraphs, but take my word for it, that most couples cannot survive trust issues without a little outside guidance. Look at all the possibilities:
Both Spouse A and B are trustable and both trust each other.
Both Spouse A and B are trustable, but A doesn’t trust B or B doesn’t trust A.
Spouse B is not trustable and Spouse A is trustable and A doesn’t trust B or B doesn’t trust A.
Spouse A is not trustable and Spouse B is trustable and A doesn’t trust B or B doesn’t trust A.
Either Spouse A or B are not trustable, but both trust each other.
Either Spouse A or B are not trustable, but one trusts the other and one doesn’t.
Either Spouse A or B are not trustable and neither trusts the other.
Both Spouse A or Spouse B are not trustable and neither trusts each other.
Both Spouse A or B are not trustable and both trust each other.
Both Spouse A or B are not trustable, but one trusts the other and the other doesn’t.
So, ahhh, which option above means we should divorce? That’s a rhetorical question to illustrate that trust is very tender, it is easy to lose and it is difficult to gain back. I hope you can also see, the only option that works above is #1: if both are trustable and both trust each other. Every other scenario is fraught with difficulty and fear and anxiety and worry and doubt (the one who doesn’t trust) and feelings of being controlled and attacked (the person who wasn’t trustable or isn’t trustable or is trustable and is attacked for being untrustable) or my spouse is a crazy person or I’m being taken for a fool (either the non-trusting or the untrustable spouse).
Consider: A couple might not trust each other for a lot of reasons: One of A or B’s parents or both A and B’s parents might have cheated and either divorced the other or they stayed married with a lot of pain. A or B or A and B might have had a boy or girlfriend cheat on A or B or A and B in high school or college or in a previous cohabiting situation or marriage. A or B or A and B might have done the cheating and now A or B or A and B have a difficult time believing anyone is trustable and now A or B or A and B see ghosts in the night when there are none there.
Or to say it another way: it is difficult to trust anyone if anyone else in your past has cheated on you or if you have cheated on anyone.
I wrote it’s difficult. I didn’t write it’s impossible. Basically, you shouldn’t trust someone if they are not trustable. The burden is on the untrustable person to be trustable. Basically, you should trust someone if they are trustable and the burden is on the person who doesn’t trust to learn to trust the trustable person. I hope you can see usually both parties (the one who doesn’t trust and the one who isn’t trustable) have work to do to bring healing to the relationship (where both are trustable and both trust each other).
Or to say it another way: the waters of trust are difficult to navigate. Having a guide is helpful. That’s where we come in. Let us help you be a couple where both are trustable and both are trusting. It’s actually a wonderful way to live. We can’t undo the past, but we can heal and learn from the past and we can be trustable and have integrity going forward and learn again be trusting. As Proverbs 10:9 says, “He who walks in integrity, walks securely.” I highly recommend integrity for both parties as a lifestyle (see my series on Integrity).
And no, just because you don’t trust your spouse, it doesn’t mean you should divorce. It means you both are going to have some work to do and it’ll take some time. A little patience might be good. Love is patient, after all.
But if you divorce, you haven’t learned to be trusting or trustable and you bring your trust problem into your next relationship, only the next time it’ll all be multiplied in intensity. You may as well figure it out now instead of borrowing trouble. Usually divorce is borrowing trouble for the future. Divorce freezes your personal shortcomings and creates just one more problem of trust to be overcome
Shame on you if you fool me once. Shame on me if you fool me twice.
That’s a popular response to an affair. As she sings:
Where I’m at, is my life before me and this feeling that I can’t go back
Live goes on
In other words:
Once a cheater always a cheater (another pop cultural response to the pain of an affair) or, even if you repented and were sorry and never did it again I could never heal, I could never forgive, I could never forget, and even if I could do that, the affair destroyed the relationship, so the only way to deal with it is to dump your sorry butt and not look back.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think you should take advice from LeAnn Rimes on something so important. In her defense, she didn’t write the song and was only twenty when she recorded it. To her shame, she was the “other woman” only a few years later. Not surprising to me. If you are cavalier about your vows on either side of this debate you are ripe for an affair yourself. She’s quoted as saying in Wikipedia: “I take responsibility for everything I’ve done. I hate that people got hurt, but I don’t regret the outcome.” Hmm. Let’s see: I destroyed two families, but at least I’m happy? I don’t think “I take responsibility” and “I don’t regret the outcome” should be in the same sentence. Maybe not even in the same life! It certainly hasn’t helped her.
Her song and life reflect three common beliefs: After an affair there’s no such thing as 1) repentance or 2) forgiveness or 3) healing. It’s understandable people would think these things. Affairs are very painful all around.
But they are also very temporary. Nearly all. They are a buzz, a thrill, an adrenaline rush, like a heroin high you eventually will come down from like a crash. You also have to disobey God to do it and go against your own conscience and go against all common decency and feel the disparagement and anger and hurt and disbelief of your spouse and children and other loved ones and friends. In some cases you can get fired and even arrested. Yeah, you can find a few like-minded pervs out there who will pat you on the back and say you did the right thing and your spouse was a jerk or whatever, but you still have to look yourself in their mirror in the morning. And the morning after that and the morning after that for the rest of your life… and you will see ghosts everywhere and doubt everyone’s integrity and not be able to trust anyone because of what you did and you will think everyone is out to get everyone just like you. Did you remember LeAnne Rimes ended up checking in for treatment for anxiety and depression nearly three years after her little fling she didn’t regret? The ghosts are following her. No surprises there.
This stuff is no fun to deal with, granted. But don’t try going it alone. I’m here to tell you there is such a thing as repentance. People really do learn their lessons and don’t want to go back to cheating and will do whatever they can to not go down that horror street again. I’m here to tell you there is such a thing as forgiveness and you won’t obsess on your spouse’s cheating the rest of your life if you do the right things. I’m here to tell you both of you as a couple can heal from this, learn from this, rise above it, conquer it and reclaim your marriage. In fact, for many couples their marriages are better than ever before because they both learned they can’t take each other for granted, we live in a fragile world and we’d better tend to each other.
But knowing how to say no to temptation going forward, knowing how to heal together, knowing how to not obsess on the violation of it all…these are not easy rows to hoe. There’s some pain along the way. There’s some obstacles to climb over. There’s some rubbish to throw away. There’s some wounds to clean out.
That’s where we come in. We know the territory. We’ve been down this road with many, many other couples. You still have to go down life’s journey, but we can give you a road map. The road is fraught with danger and, granted, some therapists have no idea how to help you navigate those roads.
You want to be careful, though. Ignoring her advice, that maybe some guidance on making this marriage thing a little more enjoyable, could come to bite you in the butt. Here’s a curious phenomena: If she quits complaining, this isn’t necessarily a good sign. Sure, it’s nice she’s not complaining any more, but it very well may be she’s not just learned to go with the flow. She might have decided, instead, since you ignore any of her ideas, why say anything? You’d better be worried if that’s the case, because the research on this is suggesting once she does that, she starts harboring resentments and starts withdrawing from you emotionally and other ways and pretty soon, she’s as good as dead inside about you and divorce starts to look better than being with you. And then she threatens to file or actually files and you start to get it that maybe she wasn’t just blowing smoke and you are all repentant now and wanting to change and, sadly, you might even be telling the truth, and you are willing to go to therapy and even make the appointment, but we spend the sessions figuring out how not to kill each other in the divorce process, because she’s not changing her mind. To her, divorce is just calling a spade a spade and you are left wondering what happened. Or some other Romeo agreed with her that you were a jerk and you know where that goes.
It’s a pretty sad deal and we’d do our best to try to convey to her it’d be worth giving you a go, but chances are, if she’s decided she’s died inside, we just might end up being the undertaker. Look, we disagree with her she’s died inside. We’re optimists and believe people can change, her and you, otherwise we wouldn’t make very good therapists. Still, she may not be open to input that you are worth fighting for, even if you and I agree on that point.
Come see us BEFORE she puts her divorce lawyer on speed dial. In fact, way before: while both of you are still feeling there is something worth saving. We’re not afraid to give you a few pointers and help you heal from past hurts and learn new ways to approach things…ways that actually work, instead of getting everyone even madder.
It’s time to quit saying “we-don’t-need-anyone-else-looking-at-our-problems”. We don’t just sit around and look at your problems, anyway. We try to help the two of you respect each other enough to work together to solve your own problems. We make an assumption that neither or you are dumb! We try to work ourselves out of a job. We try to give each of you a voice so you can tap into your respective wisdom and insight. We also know what works and what doesn’t work and unlike most therapists coming out of grad school today, we aren’t afraid to share that information. A transmission guy should know how to fix transmissions. He does it all day. We should know how to help couples. This is what we do. We know what works. We know what doesn’t work. And no, we aren’t going to take either of your sides and help you beat each other up. We’re more interested in seeing you thrive.
But the first step to thriving? Realizing you could use a little help. Humility would be a sign, maybe things could be different. And humility for a husband? It just might be the encouragement your wife needs.