Debating Whether to Divorce

Making a decision to get a divorce is a painful and difficult process. There are many factors to consider, such as ideals of home and family, concepts of commitment, shared finances, the cumulative investment of time and energy, the impact of mutual friends and family members, changes in living arrangements, and of course the impact on the children. All of these considerations should be weighed carefully against the reasons for leaving the marriage. There are instances where the marriage has become so toxic and emotionally or physically destructive that the best option might be to leave. While everyone must make their own choices about how much they wish to tolerate, here are 3 scenarios that are extremely damaging and it may be wise to consider terminating the relationship:

1. There is abuse in the relationship. Whether emotional or physical, the long term effects can be devastating. If you are being physically abused, this is extremely dangerous and you are advised to contact a domestic violence shelter, or counselor that specializes in this issue, for help and support. You will need help to construct a plan to assure your safety, based on your individual circumstances. Keep in mind that one of the most dangerous junctures with a physical abuser is during the time of leaving the relationship. If the problem is emotional abuse, criticism and controlling behavior that makes you feel inferior or crazy around your spouse, the effects can be devastating. You may feel worthless, depressed, and question yourself constantly. If you have children, the effects on them of witnessing abuse can be very serious.

2. Your spouse is addicted to drugs and alcohol, and refuses to get any help to address the problem. This can be painful to live with, as it is likely your spouse puts you and your needs aside regularly in pursuit of his or her next high or drink. It is difficult for your partner to be fully present in the relationship emotionally when self medicating to that extent. You may be tempted to put your own needs aside in order to focus your attention on managing the various drug or alcohol induced crises that arise. You may be caught up in legal or financial woes caused by your partner’s addiction (job losses, legal charges related to DUI’s, personal injury, or even a death resulting from drug or alcohol abuse). If children are involved, they are witnessing disfunction and may even be in danger themselves, arising from poor judgment or neglect at the hands of an addicted parent.

3. Your partner has a pattern of infidelity in your marriage. An affair can be a catalyst for a renewed commitment and better accountability and communication, but only if trust can be rebuilt over time. In a situation where infidelity continues, the story is different. Beyond being emotionally painful, you are risking your physical health and even your health if you continue to be intimate with someone who is intimate with others. A healthy relationship cannot be successfully built on mistrust and repeated betrayals. If you have children, know that they are observing your marriage as the prototype and example for their own.

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