Should I Leave My Marriage? — For Many, A Difficult Question
Should I leave my marriage? For many people, this is an agonizing question. In many cases, people may have struggled with it for years — or even decades.
Having been divorced, I know that facing the question of whether to end a marriage and, if so, when and how, can be extraordinarily difficult and painful.
In this post, I’ll be looking at this issue from the perspective of an individual seeking to make the decision of whether or not to stay in a marriage. Certainly, this is an issue that might get worked on in couples’ work, but it there is also a very important dimension of individual decision-making that is involved, and that is what we’ll be looking at here.
Someone who is struggling with staying in their marriage, or leaving it, may be doing so for any number of complex reasons. And actually, it’s a very natural and normal thing for married people to wonder at some point in their life journey whether they want to remain married. Actually, as Dr. Harville Hendrix stressed, it’s hard to be truly committed to another person and to mutual growth as a couple, if a person is not consciously aware that there’s an alternative to being married.
Yet, it can often happen that the question of “Should I leave my marriage?” becomes crucial and unavoidable. The sense of happiness or meaning in life, and even a person’s mental and physical health, can hang upon this question.
Often the answer to the question, “Should I leave my marriage?” will not immediately appear to be clear cut.
Not to Decide is to Decide
As mentioned above, individuals can sometimes be stuck in indecision about this question for a very long time. They may not even acknowledge that “Should I leave my marriage?” is a genuine question for them, effectively staying in a state of denial. However, as Paul Tillich once said, not to decide is to decide. If individuals don’t confront the question of whether to stay or go directly, when they are really feeling that their marriage is not fulfilling or affirming in its present form, it can often be a recipe for formidable levels of anxiety and depression.
If marriage is not bringing you the things you feel that you need from a relationship, it’s very important to bring this awareness into consciousness. Being honest with oneself is crucial! Pretending that “everything is OK” can be a recipe for spinning away the years and ending up with nothing to show for it but regret.
On the other hand, an impulsive or reactive approach to the relationship, whether staying in it, or leaving it, can also generate heartache. To make a knee jerk decision to either stay or leave without understanding both why one is reacting the way one is, and also what it is that you really want, can be a recipe for disaster.
Should I Leave My Marriage? — Answering the Question Consciously
A decision to stay or leave a marriage will affect many lives, and not least of all your own. It’s best to go into a major life transition like divorce — or like seriously re-committing to be in a marriage — with your eyes wide open, and knowing as much as you can possibly know about yourself and your deep motivations.
Depth case studies , where the individual explores all the aspects of his or her marriage, conscious and unconscious, and explores thoroughly the question of “what is it that I really want?” — can be of invaluable assistance to individuals as they wrestle with this weighty life question. Knowing and accepting oneself can be an invaluable gift to give oneself, at a time when it may feel like many things in life are up in the air.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst