How does a person know when he or she reaches the point of no return, when it’s “just no good anymore,” as the song goes, when putting a marriage back on the tracks is simply too much of a stretch? In the end, of course, the answer is personal. Younger people with shorter marriages often reach this juncture early on. They marry young and discover early that the trip down the aisle was a mistake from the first step. Sometimes, the decision to divorce is mutual, and often they walk away from marriage and each other, particularly if they don’t have any children. They both just throw up their hands, shrug their shoulders, and say, “This marriage is a mistake.”
For marriages of a longer duration, however – for example, two or more years, when the couple have had children, acquired a house and amassed wealth – the decision to end becomes much more complicated and often emotional and financially painful.
Usually couples are in two totally different places when it comes to divorce. One is ready to leave; the other is still in love. Very often the announcement of a divorce blindsides one spouse who never sees it coming.
When the answers to the following questions are irrefutably yes, one of the spouses typically has his or her eye on the door:
> Does every situation, no matter how trivial, end in a fight?
> Do the spouses continually exhume hurtful episodes in the past?
> Is all the respect gone from the marriage?
> Does one spouse believe it is impossible to recapture respect?
> Have one or the other’s goals and dreams moved and migrated?
> Is one partner no longer fostering the other’s individual growth?
> Have one or the other changed so much that the other no longer shares moral, ethical, or lifestyle values?
> Have the spouses lost the art of compromise?
> When they disagree, are the partners unable to map a path together that is acceptable to both?
> Do the spouses have a basic sexual incompatibility?
> Have they become unattractive to each other?
> Have they stopped making love?
The answers, for many, might be straightforward: The emotional relationship with a spouse is largely negative, for one or more of the reasons listed previously.
The decision to divorce should never be made in the aftermath of a fight. No bridges should be burned in a moment of anger. Divorce is final and should be considered carefully, not just for its impact on spouses who want to end the marriage but also for its impact on the children. The ramifications of a divorce reverberate through the lives of everyone involved.
Unless there is violence or abuse, ending a marriage should be a course of last resort. A person who moves forward heedlessly might lose more than he or she needs to, or more than he or he can bear.