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6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage

Marriage

It's been forever since I've had a boyfriend. Whenever people ask me when I'll get another one, my running statement is "I'm too old for a BOY anything."


There's one thing that both experience and observation have taught me, it's the fact that when you're in the pattern of getting with someone, giving your all, breaking up and then getting with someone else—it can desensitize you to the sacredness of commitment on so many levels. Then, when you actually do decide to jump the broom, whether it's consciously or subconsciously, you tend to process your husband like you would a boyfriend. If things don't work out, no problem—I'll just break up with him too.

Legally, it's not that easy. If you have children, it complicates their present as well as their future (check out "Effects of Divorce on Children's Future Relationships"). According to statistics, while approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, 67 percent of second marriages and a whopping 73 percent of third ones do. Biblically? I'll just say check out I Corinthians 7:10-11; it tends to get overlooked quite a bit.

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For all of these reasons and more, once I chose to become a marriage life coach, I made sure that my emphasis was on reconciling divorced couples. It is indeed possible and, whenever it happens, it's so beautiful to see. I believe it's a lot like what Alec Baldwin's character said in the movie It's Complicated (paraphrased): "A lot of divorced people should get back together 10 years later. They were already committed and knew each other so well, but the time apart can help them to mature and grow, which will make the marriage so much better." Just something to think about.

Anyway, as a child of more-than-one-divorce and also as someone who works with divorced individuals, because I know that it can wreak havoc in ways that oftentimes aren't experienced until months or years up the pike, if you're currently married and contemplating getting a divorce yourself, I just want to encourage you to ask yourself the following six questions—first.

Have I Had Unrealistic Expectations All Along?

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Ask any marriage therapist or relationship counselor and they'll tell you that one of the leading causes of divorce isn't that two people don't love each other anymore, it's that they had unrealistic expectations for their marriage to begin with.

I'll give you an example. There's a married couple that I've been working with for years now. They got married, got divorced and married each other again. For the most part, they're doing well but what I've noticed is that there are certain problems that have never gone away. The wife wishes her husband communicated more like she did (she's super-engaging while he's very direct and to the point). Meanwhile, he wishes that she were as frugal with money as he tends to be.

I've heard these issues so much that I recently said to them, "So, basically you're mad because you want your spouse to be more like you and they're not. You're trying to change them rather than accepting the differences." They agreed.

You'd be amazed how many people wanted to marry a carbon copy of themselves. Not only is that super unrealistic, it's typically counterproductive too. How do you grow by being in a relationship with someone who is just like you? How do you get stretched without any challenges along the way?

So yeah, if you're currently contemplating divorce, please ask yourself if your expectations—whether it was wanting your spouse to be your Siamese twin, that marriage was gonna be like your favorite love story or something else—not being what you wanted is the real reason why you want to end your union.

Was I Ill-Prepared for the Different Seasons of Marriage?

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A book that I recommend every married couple have in their possession is The Four Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage (if you're already separated, Hope For the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed by the same author is also good). It's a reminder that like everything in life, there are seasons in marriage. It's not always gonna be sunny and it's not only gonna be rainy either. When a season approaches that's unpleasant, sometimes all we can do is prepare and wait it out.

For the record, I'm not saying this applies to abuse. I'm speaking to the folks who thought that marriage was supposed to be happy feelings times 10, all day, every day. And yes, there are people who are just like this. I can't tell you how many times a person has told me that they are leaving their marriage because it doesn't make them as happy as they want to be. Meanwhile, their job doesn't make them happy all of the time but they still go to work and their kids don't make them happy all of the time but no one is putting anyone up for adoption. When it comes to those things, somehow, they find a way to make it work.

When marriage has an uncomfortable season, why isn't it received with this same kind of commitment and tenacity?

What Could I Personally Stand to Improve?

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A wise man once said that if you really want to see yourself, look inside the mirror of marriage. There is some powerful wisdom within those words. That said, I know some of y'all aren't gonna wanna hear this but sometimes the hardest part about staying married is it reveals to you YOUR flaws. It's easier to live alone and have a biased perspective of yourself than to stick things out with your spouse and let them and your marriage refine and improve you in areas where you wouldn't have any other way.

To tell you the truth, I think this is part of the reason why divorce statistics only go up with each remarriage. Far too many people are thinking about what their ex needed to change about themselves rather than looking within to see what they could stand to improve, where they went wrong. As a result, they take their same selves into marriage 2, 4 and 10, which usually results in them having some of the same relational issues they've always had. Yeah, that's not good.

No joke, when I ask about 80 percent of the couples who are on the brink of divorce about what's wrong in their marriage, they always say what the other person needs to do differently. Very few are self-aware (and humble) enough to do some self-introspection. Be honest—what side of the fence are you standing on?

Am I Listening to the Right (or Wrong) People?

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I am a marriage life coach who's never been married before. We live in a world full of on-10-skepticism, so you already know there are folks who question whether or not I'm qualified. One, I'm a child of divorce; you'd be amazed the kind of insight we have. Two, the divorce rate is pretty high; I'm not so sure half of all married people are automatically insightful themselves. Three, I have heard some of the most toxic advice on marriage given by married people—everything from telling single people to never do it to advising their married friends to manipulate, lie, control…even cheat.

I recently read that Spike Lee, Michael B. Jordan and COACH are working together on a short film project about the power of our words. It's a reminder that words can make or break us. While positive ones trigger the hormone oxytocin and make us feel strong, safe and secure, negative ones encourage us to have a fight-or-flight response to situations.

As you're processing what to do about your relationship, what kinds of words are fueling you? Are you listening to people who support marriage (whether they are single, married, divorced or widowed)? Are you paying attention to couples who are willing to share how they made it through their own hard times? Or are you constantly on the phone with individuals who are gassing you up to believe that divorce is your best option?

Be careful. Words influence us. Very much so. This brings me to the next question.

Have We Tried Marriage Counseling?

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We get our oil changed every 3,000 miles. But for the life of me, I can't put together why people wait until they are 48 hours out from filing for divorce before they decide to see a marriage counselor. Marriage counseling isn't something you should do only when something is going horribly wrong; it should be a proactive measure that's taken to keep everything going right. If nothing else, choose to look at a counselor as an advocate for your marriage; someone who has the insight, tools and expertise to help you with things like communication, intimacy and getting through the rough times.

How effective is counseling? One study found that 48 percent of couples in trouble admitted that their marriage significantly improved, thanks to seeing a therapist or counselor on a regular basis (which is why engaged couples should go to premarital counseling; it decreases the chances of wanting to get a divorce). Those are some pretty good results, so if this counseling isn't an approach to your relationship that you've tried, try not to make any final decisions until you do.

What Will Divorce Actually Make Better?

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One more question—and please be really candid with yourself on this one. If you end your marriage, how will that make your life better? Not easier…better. If you're a parent, I've already touched on how it can affect your child in some not-so-great ways (you can read more about that here), but it can also cause problems for you emotionally, financially, physically—the list goes on and on.

Bottom line, divorce is it's not a quick fix for anything, really. So please, before doing it, really process what you're doing. All marriages have peaks and valleys. At the same time, all divorces have unforeseen challenges and consequences. Whatever you do, please choose wisely.

Featured image by Getty Images

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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