When we get married, the intention is that the person across from us is the one we want to be with for the rest of our lives. Plans for the future lie out before you - holidays you'll take, houses you'll live in, possibly a family you'll start. We only decide to get married when we feel we have found the person we want to be with forever. As the vow goes (in some cases, anyway), forsaking all others.
Of course, that is the intention. For many couples it is also the reality. You certainly see many elderly couples together, who have been married for decades. Some of them are as loved up as they were on the big day. Others have settled into a comfortable routine and would fight and die for one another, but might not be as outwardly affectionate as they used to be. Different couples have different ways of being a couple.
Then again, there are marriages that don't work. These can fall into any number of categories. Sometimes once married, one part of the couple changes so much as to become almost another person. This can take the form of infidelity, substance abuse and in some cases violence. Other times, the stress of being together and being expected to live as a joined entity exposes tensions. These tensions, over time, can become irrevocable.
Most of us know at least one couple who got married, it all seemed great, and then for one reason or another it didn't work. If you know more than one or two, you probably know at least one couple who are now friends. You probably know one ex-couple who now never speak to or about one another. This may not even be through dislike, but simply that it is painful or stressful for them to think about it.
When a marriage has run its course, there are different ways that it can go. It is best for all concerned if both parties can recognize that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. A lot of people cast around for reasons to stay together. Sometimes this works; there is a difference between a struggling marriage and a failing marriage. Telling the difference can be hard, of course.
The reasons people look for can vary. If there are children involved, the idea of "staying together for the kids" is raised. But if the marriage is failing, this can be a bad reason. Two people who have very clearly grown apart will not be happy if they stay together for other people. The likely outcome is that two people, plus the younger people they share a house with, will be terribly unhappy.
It benefits everyone involved if all parties can keep a cool head and look at what their choices are. If a marriage isn't going to work, then the soundest approach is to find a way to bring it to an end in a way which is civil and allows everyone to move on. The things you need to consider include the following:
Yes, Your Children
Not all marriages have children as a part of them, but many do. How old those children are will play a part in the way a marriage ending affects them. The older they are, the easier it is to explain why it is happening. This of course doesn't mean it will be easy for them to deal with it. Something they have come to see as a stable and reliable part of their life is disappearing, and this is not easy to live with.
The alternative, however, is staying together and attempting to suppress unhappiness. If staying in the same house but ceasing to live as a married couple, then this may be an option, but will still be strange for the kids. If, on the other hand, you live together with an undeniable tension, that's even worse.
Kids can recover from a divorce, if the break is clean and both parents work to ensure they aren't forgotten. Recovering from an unhappy, slowly dissolving household is much harder. People who "stay together for the kids" often don't realise just how damaging that can be.
A Drawn-Out Divorce Is Not A Happy Divorce
For the well-being of everyone involved in a divorce - the couple and their family - it needs to avoid recrimination. The more a divorce is hedged around with claim and counter-claim, the less likely that is. Part of a divorce is the division of assets, and the more this is contested the more bitter a divorce will be. Agreement on what the arrangements will be for children (and indeed any pets involved) needs to be reached swiftly.
For a speedy process, if you are both in total agreement on what the divorce will entail, then you can proceed without delay. However, you may be best advised to consider your divorce options with the help of a lawyer. A lot of people talk about not wanting to get lawyers involved, for understandable reasons. However, you as a couple may not have thought of things that may go on to become points of tension.
Divorce lawyers, for their part, have been over this ground before and know how to get things tied up properly. An experienced divorce lawyer will allow you to make sure you're both on the same page before separating. As long as everyone is honest with each other, this will minimise future discord.
Being Absolutely Sure You Want This
It is true that when a marriage has dissolved beyond repair, divorce is the right thing for both parties. In the best of these situations, both parties are sure that they want to separate and just want to get it right. In other cases, one party may want to divorce and the other feel there is something to save. As sad as it is for the latter party, this is an example of an irreconcilable difference and a divorce is still right.
What should be said is that, if both parties are in doubt over whether a divorce is right, they need to be honest with one another. If points of agreement can be found, and a way forward to save the marriage, that should be explored. As right as it may be, divorce rarely happens without some upheaval and it should not be an instrument to wave away problems.
Particularly in cases where children are involved, it can be very confusing to have a divorce but then get back together. If you divorced for the right reasons, you need to be sure that what split you up once won't do the same. If you're divorcing for the wrong reasons, let yourself recognize that before it happens.
Be Honest With One Another
It's been seen time and again that divorces happen and one party moves on. If not happily, they get back to normal sooner. The other party, meanwhile, sinks into themselves and sees it as an ending that there's no bouncing back from. In this scenario all kinds of promises can be made, such as "Maybe in future we can try again" or "we'll still see each other".
When a divorce is finalised, that means that legally it is no longer there. But human beings are not just guided by that which is legally codified. Our emotions and morals are what guide us in the main. Leaving hazy promises out there that you may not mean can stop the recovery process from moving along.
Recognizing that there will be pain and that one party will hurt more than the other might be the best thing you can do in a divorce. Two people getting divorced are largely unlikely to have completely stopped loving each other on some level. It's natural you'll want to stop the pain of someone you love; but a clean break is the best way to do that, not a vague promise. That doesn't mean you DON'T see one another ever again, but recognize the need to move on.
The idea of a happy divorce is not an impossible dream. Both parties need to want to work together, and of course this isn't going to be a cakewalk. After all, you've developed differences that have led to the end of a marriage. Two mature, clear heads are required - more than that, once you include the lawyers - in order to guard the peace. Remembering that recrimination hurts both parties is essential.
Of course, there are cases where all of the above takes a back seat. If one spouse becomes abusive and the marriage has become unsafe, it is more important to prevent a situation where violence can develop. Still, whenever a relationship is in terminal decline, consulting a lawyer will allow you to protect yourself better.
Your marriage may be at an end, and that is never cause for celebration. However, the way in which we bring it to an end is important in making sure that - together or apart - you can move on with life and be better off emotionally.