Should We Stay Married?

The idea of a separation and/or divorce crosses the minds of many who’ve lost the hopeful, dreamy visual of growing old watching the sunset together to the day-to-day mundane and, at times, resentful life of adulting and divide. These waters are murky and confusing and often keep you in a place of holding. If you’re finding yourself stuck here, you may get some clarity and direction thinking about the following:

Respect is a major issue in the relationship. One of the most common underlying reasons couples seek marriage counseling is because one or both of the partners no longer feel respected by the other. While money, sex or parenting might be what gets them in the door, most often the lack of respect is what shows up weekly.

Feeling disrespected in a relationship is a common reason for ending one, but can also be the breaking point that gets the two of you talking. Respect hinges on a lot of other emotions such as love, admiration, and a willingness to learn and be influenced by the other. It’s an umbrella term or catchall for feeling like you’re liked, wanted to be around and in general like-able. While this may sound like I’m talking to a group of teenagers about self-esteem, the fact is that we all (as old as we may be) want to feel loved and belong. What often happens instead is small seeds of resentment grow into giant houseplants of contempt, another name for disgust. If contempt is present, not only can love simply not grow, but it damages the way you start to see yourself as well, impacting self-esteem, confidence and well-being.

While contempt is something that can be remedied it takes a tremendous amount of willingness and work to reframe it. If this is something that’s saturating your relationship and you or your partner are unwilling to or cannot change, it might be time to have an honest conversation about the state of the union and the direction you’re leaning toward.

You find yourself excited about the prospect of being alone. “I can just picture myself in a small house with my own little garden. Just me, doing what I want to do, decorating the way I want to decorate,” described one of my clients as she enchantingly illustrated what life alone would look like. It can be so easy and enticing to romanticize life alone when the world you and your partner live in is so difficult. It’s like a breath of fresh air when you’re in a relationship that feels so heavy. While this can be the visual that gets you through the day, spending time plotting your escape isn’t a good sign for the marriage.

If you’re doing this, chances are you’ve passed the hurt and grief stage of your relationship’s demise. You’ve spent a lot of time thinking you’ve tried fixing things and have come to terms with you or your partner never changing. Before you make a move though, consider that your husband or wife truly might not have any idea that this is where you’re at. Stones left unturned can show up as doubt and regret later on.

While difficult, opening up about your desire for independence, peace, sense of calm, and feelings of wanting to leave may help pivot your relationship into a better direction, or at least offer that direction you’re looking for. Often when we’re honest, we open the door for others’ honesty as well. You may be surprised at what you’re met with here, and get the response that gives you clarity.

The majority of your friends are divorced. I often tell a story to my clients about how I hated capri pants for the first two years they’d hit the market. Hated. Them. Yet everywhere I went there were capri pants, on models, on tv, in magazines. I hated them until one day I didn’t. The marketing worked and what I constantly saw I started to want. This is how the human brain works. We’re deeply influenced by what’s around us and what comes into our world has a big impact on the lens we look through.

If you’ve been thinking about ending your marriage, take a look at the people you’ve been hanging around. If the majority of them are divorced you might want to change up your social circle for a bit to get some new perspective. Being single when you’re married or in a relationship that’s in a bad place can look so sparkly, fun and free. Remember there’s struggle on both sides of the fence and what you don’t finish in one relationship often gets brought with us into the next one.

You already feel like you’re by yourself. Loneliness is no joke and we’ve become all too accustomed to detaching ourselves through our screens but your marriage should be the one place where you feel a healthy sense of attachment and belonging with your partner. I’m not talking about codependency here nor am I rooting for epic independence either, but if you’re in a relationship where you feel alone, change is necessary for your mental wellness.

Loneliness is one of the most impactful elements when it comes to depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Did you think I was exaggerating on that sense of belonging we all have? I promise, I was not. Outside of doing things together like creating what John Gottman calls “rituals of connection,” meal times, holidays, the rhythm of the home, feeling known by your partner is a big indicator of a healthy relationship. This feeling known is so important in fact, that many couples reach out for therapy because this is missing from their marriage.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of transactions in a relationship you’ve been in for a long time. “How was work?” “What are the plans for the weekend?” “Did you make that doctor’s appointment for so-and-so?” That’s not the work. The work is letting your partner see inside yourself by sharing something near to you, something that truly only you would know. A feeling, a thought, an experience from your perspective. The growth is in the share.

Before you decide whether separating or divorce is a viable option for you, and if it’s safe to do so meaning there’s no physical, mental or verbal abuse present in the relationship, make it a goal for you both to become more vulnerable with one another.

You have children together. The research has wavered a bit on this topic over the years as have people’s general thoughts on this issue. This is a deeply personal decision and many factors go into a divorce or separation when it comes to kids. Know this, often times the issues you had with your partner’s parenting style do not go away in a divorce. On the contrary, they can actually grow in intensity and in most cases there might not be much you can do about it.

Do we owe it to our children to stay married? I don’t know, but here’s one thing I do. We owe it to our children to be healthy adults handling conflict respectfully, pragmatically and lovingly. No matter what. We also owe it to our children to show them what loving relationships look like because we are the models. Again, no matter what. Having children does not necessarily prevent you from separating or divorce, it does give you the ultimate responsibility however to model humanism.

You’re financially dependent. Fair or unfair, finances do play a role in making this decision and can inhibit your options if you’re in a position where you cannot support yourself without your partner’s income. For many people, this is the final barrier that prevents a divorce or separation. Lifestyle, career and taking care of children as a stay-at-home parent all come into play. If you’re financially dependent on your spouse, educate yourself about your family’s finances, be in the know about expenses and start getting a really good idea of how much your lifestyle costs whether or not you’re considering leaving.

This is also a good time to think about what you could live without and what your absolute necessities would consist of. I also advise meeting with other professionals who can contribute to knowledge surrounding this idea. Financial planners, lawyers and career and life coaches can be incredibly helpful here to shed some light on how to get on your feet through a separation or divorce.

“Should we stay married?” It’s a common question yet so deeply personal in terms of your reasons for asking and the direction you might take. If you find yourself thinking about this, remember that you own the story you’ve created about your relationship. While there are many barriers to a separation or divorce, sharing your draft with your partner isn’t one of them. Regardless of the end result being able to be truthful is a move toward growth and wellness.

How to Have Beautiful Relationships Even With Technology

Tech is getting a really bad rep these days. There is so much judgement to be had when it comes to tech and kids, tech and social media, social media and relationships, tech in schools, tech for downtime. The list does not end. As a parent, it can be so hard to know if you’re doing anything right when it comes to the world of technology and how and when we let our kids use it. If you’re single, tech and dating apps can be great and exhausting, and interesting and oh so offensive (sometimes all of that at the same time). For those of us that remember a time without tech, this world we now live in can be scary and overwhelming, mostly because we don’t know what rules to follow only to feel bad if we follow the wrong ones. 

Give your kid a phone. Don’t give your kid a phone. Life would be easier if my kid had a phone. My kid will find porn if they get a phone. Let your kid have downtime on the iPad. iPads are bad for kids. iPads have educational games. My kid will find porn if they’re on the iPad. Maybe I’ll try a dating app? Dating apps are desperate. But that’s how people meet. Someone’s gonna send me an x-rated pic for sure. Follow on FB. FB sucks. I suck. Life sucks. (why can’t I unlike this like 1,000 times). (like).

I believe we’ve now created a culture of anxiety and fear-mongering when it comes to technology. With new studies coming out daily, community programs and news stories on cyber bullying, tech addiction, even headlines of what could really be a positive story about technology, turn our fears into a fast frenzy internally. So what’s the best thing to do if living in a yurt off the land somewhere in the middle of not-telling-anyone-where-you’re-going isn’t right for you?

First, remember that you can handle this. No we didn’t have these problems as kids and our parents never had to deal with all the bad stuff that comes from the tech era but we did have other stuff that for our time was just as big. Bullies were there, monsters were there, bad news was there, the threat of us being kidnapped was there, finding porn in a friend’s garage was there. Bad stuff was everywhere, it still is. For our time, because I don’t believe in comparative suffering, our parents were freaked out too, just as much. Does it matter if they were more freaked out or less freaked out? I don’t know. Being a parent is still being a parent right? Not getting invited to a party didn’t hurt less because it wasn’t online. 

Second, try to remember the good things that tech has brought to our lives and use them in the ways you love them. I can find my friends and my kids all with the same device. I can see where my kids are, they know where I am, I can literally reach out and phone a friend whenever I want to or need to. (Although more on people not picking up phone calls anymore later) I can be resourceful and I can share beautiful moments with people I love. I can connect with friends visually as well as emotionally and I can freaking not get lost when I’m going somewhere! I don’t have to spend time on apps that make me sad or feel left out and I can create time and space boundaries so I don’t work when it’s family time and I can step away from my tech when I want to or need to. I get to make that decision and it’s empowering to know that I can make that decision from anywhere at anytime. I can also help other people make those decisions as well as we all are learning how to fit our devices into our lives and not the other way around.

Next, use your tech as a topic of conversation, not a way to communicate. One of the coolest things I think social media, new sites and blogs can do, if we allow it, is bridge a gap between people. So maybe we’re not “real” friends in “real” life, but it’s your birthday. That’s one more birthday wish you’re gonna get from me - not just online - but in person too. I saw your kid had surgery? How’s he doing - in person. You took a beautiful photo - that was gorgeous - live. Believe it or not, liking someone's news online but not bringing it up in person, not the best form and definitely won't bring you closer to anyone.  Bring up the things you saw, the news someone posted, a birthday, a new app, a top story, a meme into your real world too, it’s all way too good to keep it in the electronic one! 

Finally, use your tech to learn a new skill and share it with the world (online and off). Have a new hobby or interest? Find one! Top sites like CreativeLive and ClicknMoms offer creative classes on anything from photography to editing to writing to jewelry-making and so much more. Learn something new that inspires you and let the people hear it! Online and on deck - we all learn from one another and there’s nothing that inspires us more than people being inspired to do something different or learn something new. Envy is the best way to get your butt moving and change your life. Look at what others are doing as a means to create something yourself, not something to get jealous or intimidated over. And when in doubt, ask your friends and family for support online and in person on your new hobby, skill, talent or technique. There are so many good reasons to involve other people on your new journey and one of those reasons is that it’s contagious…and inspiring…and keeps us accountable (okay that’s more than one but I couldn’t help it they were just coming).