When Is It Time To Throw In The Towel In A Bad Marriage?
FAQ 8. When is it time to throw in the towel
and get a divorce? We have come close so many times. There have been
so many threats. I’m sick of the roller coaster. When is enough,
Frequently Asked Questions
From Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
This material is presented for educational and informational
purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health
care professional for specific personal care recommendations.
Look, I have to level with you. I have a strong bias
toward maintaining a marriage. I’m not stupid, however. There
does come a time when enough is enough. A sex problem can escalate
into complete emotional apathy.
Physical or emotional abuse can result in apathy,
and maybe even enough real threat to cross the line. There are real
reasons for ending a marriage. But, my bias is for working it through,
and out. Let me unpack my opinion on this some more.
The statistics speak of themselves. 47% of first marriages
end in divorce, and 57% of second marriages. These numbers are staggering.
The divorce rate seems to have level off over recent years.
What is noticeable is that young people today are
waiting longer to get married and they are more inclined to be cautious
about that first marriage.
Many have gone through their own parent’s divorce,
and they don’t want to repeat the situation in their own lives.
This is a trend that, frankly, I think is rather healthy.
Most people who divorce wish they had worked harder
at reconciling differences. That is “most” but not all.
There are plenty of people out there who got out of a bad marriage
and are eternally grateful for it.
But the reality is that most people find out that
the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, that
second marriages come packed with a lot of their own problems, and
that no one gets to have a life that is any richer than the life they
work to build for themselves.
“It ain’t over ‘till it’s
over.” Yogi said that. No one, not anyone else, can tell you
when enough is enough. But when it is over, you will know it because
something inside you will shift and you will feel the difference.
It may take a while to get there, but it will be a noticeable shift
in your emotional well-being. A certain kind of clarity will arrive
and you will be certain about the next step. I’ve seen this
happen time and time again. Someone walks into my office and say,
“I’ve given up.” Then we aren’t doing marriage
counseling anymore, but divorce adjustment therapy.
There have been some books written lately designed
to help you to get to your decision. Each has its logical approach.
However, people divorce for emotional reasons, not logical reasons.
Did you marry because it was the logical thing to
do? Probably not. If you did, you never had an emotional commitment
to the relationship and you are in trouble today. Maybe you have grown
to love each other, maybe not. Divorce isn’t logical, it is
Divorce is emotional, and physical. I have worked
with individuals who are emotional divorce, but yet remain married.
I have also worked with individuals who are legally and physically
divorced, but are still emotionally married.
In fact, in the later case, our office has an arrangement
with the local Friend of the Court to work with those cantankerous
couples that are fighting in the Courts because they are divorced,
but yet emotionally married.
The kids are always suffering in that sort of extended
emotional enmeshment. Rule of thumb: you aren’t divorced until
you are emotionally divorced, and you shouldn’t get a legal
divorce until you are emotionally divorced.
If you are a Ready Adventurer you might jump ship
a lot earlier than you spouse because you can shift your emotions
rather quickly. You may have become bored with the state of affairs;
maybe even had an affair, and you want to get on with the next adventure.
Look out! You might be too ready for change.
If you are a Loyal Caretaker you might hang on for
dear life. Your loyalty will keep you in the game longer than your
heart and mind would advise. Be honest with yourself, of course.
If you are an Authentic Idealist you might have lost
the idealism you had at the start of your marriage. Maybe you have
idealized another relationship with another person. That can be troublesome,
of course. “The truth will set you free.” While such a
conviction works for all individuals and couples, it is particularly
applicable to the Authentic Idealist. But, when it is over, it will
If you are a Careful Thinker you will have to get
your head, as much as your heart, well around the reality you are
facing. Sorting it out can take some time, but once you have reached
the conclusion that it is over, it will be over.
I have a chapter in my eBook, You
Can Save Your Marriage, titled How close to death is your Marriage?
In that chapter I walk the reader through a process for examining
different levels of exhaustion. Some marriages die a little at a time,
while others die in one fell swoop.
Frankly, I think that chapter is worth the price of
the whole eBook if it can help you to get clarity around a very critical
issue. In it I look at your marriage, Body-Mind-Soul-Spirit, and outline
some decisive issues.
Of course, if you are in a relationship where there
is domestic violence (more than one hit) then you should separate
immediately. Period. Got that!
There is nothing to work on but your own safety and
that of your family. Separate, get you act together personally, and
then see where you go from there. Nothing to negotiate if there is
But remember Yogi’s advice!
To which I would add, “If the horse is dead,
You will know when death has arrived. Like death after
a long illness, it will bring some relief, clarity, grief, and a conviction
Hopeful Solutions for Your Sexless Marriage is the BIG, 173 page eBook
written by Dr. Atwood. The companion volume is You Can Save Your Marriage.
You can find both, and more, at www.HopefulSolutions.net.
Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI
49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email DrAtwood@HopefulSolutions.net.
©2002-2004 Save Your Marriage, PLC. All rights reserved.
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medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical
situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health
problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider
in person. Please consult your health care provider in person if you
have any questions or concerns. Always use common sense and research
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