Yep, you can marry the wrong person.
There are countless ways and reasons to restore your marriage, but sometimes the problem goes beyond trust, or communication, or intimacy. Sometimes even couples counselling with a team of relationship experts won’t help.
Usually in these cases, the question being asked is not, “How do I fix my relationship?” Instead it’s, “Should I stay or should I leave?”
It may sound strange for a team of relationship therapists to admit it, but not every marriage should be saved. Of course, if both partners want to make the relationship work, even through the most turbulent times, then yes — absolutely — all should be endeavoured to bring them closer together. Shared motivation alone can be a remarkable foundation for restoring a relationship. Go devoted couples!
This post is not for these couples. This post is for you, sitting there reading these words while your heart beats a little faster, thinking Could it be? Someone who understands that maybe it’s OK to think about leaving, to think about doing something that feels unfathomable, risky, wrong, overwhelming, impossible? And yet something that may be the very thing you need to do, for yourself, your health, your sanity, your future?
We’re not talking only about abusive relationships, although they are the more obvious ones. We’re not even talking about infidelity or betrayal.
We’re looking at the kind of relationship that makes the question “Should I leave?” feel much more difficult, especially if there are children. There may not be that glaring thing you can point to and say, “This is why I absolutely must leave.” It may be more unclear — at least at first.
We’ve seen many clients in this situation, including those with children, who are facing this question and all the doubts, complexities, and emotions that come with it. They come in and say they’re unhappy in their marriage, or feel trapped, or alone, or don’t recognize who they’ve become, or find themselves attracted to somebody else. It may seem that none of these reasons on its own are enough to call it quits. But each one can be a revealing sign of something deeper.
For you out there reading these words, your heart beating a little faster and maybe aching too, you may have woken up one day to realize you don’t recognize yourself anymore. You’ve tried really, really hard with your relationship, and you care about your spouse, and you’ve made changes to your job, or home, or other activities, and still you feel alone, or anxious, or angry, or unfulfilled and unhappy, which affects your relationship with your children as well. And you may feel guilty, especially if your spouse is a good person… but maybe, just maybe, not the one for you. And then that question arises, the one that won’t leave your head.
“Should I stay or should I leave?”
This question is daunting. But it forces you to really look at yourself. So first, we recommend putting aside self-judgment and accepting that your needs are valid. Your emotions are an expression of unmet need. So what is it that’s missing, or doesn’t feel right? From there you can look at your options in the context of these needs, and also your values. What is most important to you? And for everyone this is different. For those of you with children, it is not always straightforward that staying together is best, especially if there is ongoing tension or hostility in the home, or you are finding it hard to function. Finally, you will want to ask yourself what is holding you back from pursuing these needs or enforcing these values, whatever they may be.
Marriage affects every aspect of your life. In turn, it affects your sense of self, your confidence, your emotional well-being, and the way you engage with the world.
So it’s OK to ask that difficult question. At the very least it will take you on a process of self-discovery that can help connect you with who you really are, where you want to go, and with whom (if anyone) you want to take that journey… ’til death do you part, or maybe not.