When the fire of love feels dead or the threat of divorce is put on the table what is really happening? Too often professionals hear those words and assume the marriage is over and they start putting the divorce puzzle together. But what about the higher level conversation…the relationship puzzle.
We take our role as mediators with a different tact than most. We start with the assumption that there is hurt that seeks to be healed. How that happens is the subject of the process, whether that is divorce or something else. In any case, this is a fear-filled time for those in the middle and they are seeking a way to resolve that fear and to move forward in life.
We turn to the writings of Bruce Derman and Wendy Gregson who sum this up with three possible dilemmas a couple may face if they reach this crossroad:
First is that someone wants the divorce but is not sure it is the best choice. It is understood that divorce will impact all aspects of life including the lives of the children (including adult children), extended family and friends. Sadly the thinking tends to be that there is the “perfect” or “correct” choice. But there are no guarantees of an outcome regardless how a couple proceeds. The route that might be taken involves something that is very difficult at this juncture – a dispassionate look at the situation. It is at least a temporary effort to set aside the emotions of the situation.
Second, and very common, is that one spouse wants the divorce but the other does not. It is easy to feel lost, out of control and a victim. As Derman and Gregson put it, “You will experience intense emotional devastation, as your life will be changing before your eyes without you having any say in the outcome.” The real dilemma here is the notion of living inside an illusion; living in a relationship that may not exist. It is better to confront the problem than to hide from it. That way information is uncovered and a path can emerge. Whether you like that path or not, at least it is something you can start to understand and address.
Third, if the marriage is dysfunctional you may want out. Derman and Gregson note that this leads to seeking a way to blame the other person and avoid responsibility. However, it is almost universal that both have something to do with the marriage and its condition.
In all cases taking time to look at your life together and how each person views that life is a most important step towards finding a path forward. And that path may be something other than divorce, in spite of how you might feel at the moment.
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