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.
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?Giphy
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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