The One Question to Ask if You’re Considering Divorce

One of my Facebook friends recently posted an article that essentially said if your partner/spouse isn’t looking deeply into your eyes while painting your toenails and declaring that you’re his soulmate, then you need to move on. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was all I could do not to comment, “And we wonder why the divorce rate in the United States is 50%.”

Sadly, too many people believe this pile of crap. They don’t want to acknowledge that marriage can be hard, hard work. That sometimes your partner will disappoint you or aggravate you or do something really bad or dumb, but you stay anyway. You stay not because you’re a sucker or an enabler or have low self-esteem. You stay because this relationship isn’t just about you. It’s about both of you and, more importantly if you have children together, it’s about them. The family unit trumps your individual needs almost every time.

This is not to say you should remain in a physically and/or emotionally abusive situation or tolerate chronic infidelity. If this is happening, please get help, stat. Let me just be clear that your spouse not saying “I love you” daily or asking about your work day or cleaning the bathroom doesn’t constitute abuse.

If you read my blog, you know that I sometimes disclose personal details about my marriage, especially as it relates to my husband’s job issues. I do this not to throw him under the bus, but because, well, this blog is about the truth, and the truth is that he’s having a midlife career crisis – big time. Sometimes his shenanigans make me feel so crazy and hopeless that I want to leave. I tell myself that life would be easier and more peaceful without him.

My life, that is. Not his necessarily, or our sons’.

I’ve been threatening the “D” word on and off for a while now. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there you have it, the truth on the table. As in, “If you don’t find a better paying job and stick with it, I’m leaving” or “If you use the charge card one more time I’m leaving” and “If you don’t start seeing a therapist I’m leaving.” I think you get the drift. By now he knows I’m the girl who cries wolf. During the most stressful times, divorce seems like it could be a fairly easy escape, if you don’t count my children being torn in two, our cozy home sold, and the remains of our family scattered around like dried up leaves in autumn.

It finally occurred to me recently that I had a decision to make – stay or go. Simple as that. No more idle threats; they are pointless and immature. As I imagined what it would be like to leave my husband of nearly 22 years, uproot my children, decide who gets the sectional sofa, a question popped into my mind like an epiphany.

What if leaving wasn’t an option? What if I had no choice but to adhere to my marital vows? How would I approach this frustrating situation then?

The answer came to me immediately. I would love him, support him, and do my best to build him up, knowing that he’s in crisis and doesn’t have the skills to cope alone. I am his life partner, his helpmate, and it’s my role to support him through the tough times. What kind of wife, woman, would I be if I just walked away and discarded him like an old sock in his hour of need? He would never treat me in such a shabby way.

What if leaving wasn’t an option? How would you go about resolving the issue if the status quo also weren’t an option? What creative approaches might you try?

We can’t change anyone. We can only change ourselves. The notion is truly empowering, especially when it places us in a position to have a positive and even soul-saving impact on those we love. There is almost always someone stronger in the marriage at any given time. If that person is you, try not to view it as a burden, but rather recognize it as a great gift you’ve been given, one of strength, compassion, and the ability to problem solve.

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When Slipping Into Something More Comfortable Means Flannel Pajamas

Each Christmas for the past 20 years, my husband has given me a gift from Victoria’s Secret. Typically, it’s an assortment of practical underclothes, plus something a little sexy. I always look forward to this gift. To me, it affirms that in his eyes, I’ve still got it.

That’s why I was surprised, and a little dismayed, when this year instead of a lacy bra or negligee, I pulled a pair of flannel pajamas out of the VS bag.

“Is this what it’s come to?” I asked my husband.

“I thought they were kinda cute,” he said.

He meant it. He was truly tickled that the pajamas had tiny champagne glasses scattered all over them.

VictoriaSecretPajamas

I thanked him, but inwardly I was concerned. It seemed we were crossing a new threshold in our marriage, one in which comfort and coziness and cuteness was superseding passion. I envisioned hot nights ahead in our bedroom; as in me sweating under the covers in my flannel pajamas while he snored beside me.

If only this were the worst of the story.

The next day, while balancing our checkbook, I saw the carbon copy of the check he used to pay for the flannels. Written on the memo line was Mom.

Mom! This was how he thought of me?

For a moment, I considered that maybe he’d intended to buy the pajamas for his mother, but decided at the last minute to give them to me. She and I were roughly the same size. Then I remembered he’d also gotten me the usual practical items, so the “mom” in the memo had to be me.

I reasoned that perhaps because he’d been shopping with our teenaged son that day, he was too embarrassed to buy something racy. That could also explain why he was thinking of me as “mom”.

That night, emboldened by a glass of wine, I asked, “Did you mean to buy the pajamas you gave me for your mother?”

He looked confused. I explained about the memo.

“No,” he said. “It was crazy in the store that day. I don’t even remember writing that.”

This I could accept. Once I had referred to him as “daddy” to my mother instead of by his name. Probably it was because I was so used to referring to him as “daddy” to the kids. At the time, I was horrified by the slip. Now I’m glad for it because it’s helping me understand the memo.

But there was still the matter of the flannels.

“I wanted you to be warm,” he said. “You’re always complaining how cold you are.”

Not wanting to sound like a complete ingrate, I didn’t point out that I’ve been complaining about being cold in winter for 20 years, yet only now is he buying me flannels. Perhaps he was growing more thoughtful with age. That or he’s tired of me cranking up the heat at night.

I found a quote that’s helping me see this episode in a more positive light:

“The most romantic story isn’t Romeo and Juliet who died together, but Grandma and Grandpa who grew old together.” ~Unknown

Probably it was a man who came up with this quote. Some Nicholas Sparks type who buys his wife flannel pajamas for Christmas.